I often think about genre biases. While I freely admit that they play a large part in my numerical ratings – which are highly subjective to begin with – I wonder how much of it is in play for people in general. It’s no secret that dramas tend to be held in higher regard than most types of film by many. Comedy, action, horror, and other genres can be well-liked too, of course, but it seems rarer for these types of films to reach the same levels of accolade as dramas often do. This of course begs the question: Shouldn’t all films be judged for what they are? Or are there some genres that are inherently “better” than others? If not, why haven’t there been any torture porn movies that have received rave critical reviews? Shouldn’t those too be “judged for what they are”? I don’t have any answers to these questions.
But let’s talk action, as well as the fascinating subject of review scores. How many action films have I given 5/5 to over the years? 10 or so, give or take a few depending on how generous you are with genre classifications. This is a far lower number than the corresponding one for dramas or comedies – though most comedies I love tend to be of the comedy-drama subset. So it’s rare-ish for an action film to well and truly win me over. Does this mean I’m biased against them?
Whether I am or not, I love it when a film like Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol comes along. It’s a helpful reminder that I can love a film even if it doesn’t have anything special to say, as long as it’s just really entertaining. And Ghost Protocol is nothing if not entertaining. Truly great action films may be rare in my book, but when they do come along, they become all the more remarkable.
So, the movie. For the fourth time, Tom Cruise steps into the role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt. He’s in a Russian prison as the film starts (for concealed reasons), but is soon broken out of there by co-workers Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg). Soon enough they’re presented with a mission to infiltrate Kremlin and get their hands on some data files. This is the start of a chain of events that will pit the team – along with analyst and newcomer Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – against a radical nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist of Millenium trilogy fame). The villain’s goal: to start a nuclear war that will force humanity to grow stronger. The crux is that Ethan and the others, after some plot developments, find themselves without support from the rest of their agency. The fate of the world rests solely on their shoulders.
Nobody sticks around in the director’s chair in the Mission: Impossible franchise; the previous three films were directed by Brian De Palma, John Woo, and J. J. Abrams respectively. For Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird has taken the helm, thereby making his live action debut after many years’ work with animation. His efforts as a director in that artform include The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Watching Ghost Protocol, the fact that the man has never made a live action movie before is hard to believe. There is an assuredness present throughout this film. The action is clear and thrilling, the scenery beautifully captured, and the camera work fresh and inspired.
Everything in this movie just works so seamlessly. The pacing is excellent throughout, moving swiftly from scene to scene with enough exposition to make the plot meaningful but not so much that the film runs the risk of losing steam. The set pieces are all spectacular, with the stand-out being the much-talked about sequence where Ethan has to scale the exterior of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. This part lives up to all the hype you may have heard, with plentiful gasps and jaw-dropping moments. I get the feeling that Bird’s past in animation worked to his favor when shooting this, as it’s something that could be taken straight from The Incredibles or some other Pixar film. Seeing it unfold in live action is all the more thrilling, though. Don’t hold off on this one for the DVD release; the Dubai part alone makes the film well worth seeing on the big screen.
Everyone on the acting-side deliver satisfactory performances. Cruise thrives in roles like these, as he has enough charm to make them fun even when the script doesn’t necessarily call for it. Nyqvist as the main antagonist feels intriguing, following in the footsteps of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mission: Impossible III as a villain who might not look all that imposing physically but who through his actions comes off as a formidable threat regardless. Patton and Renner are rookies to the franchise and manage to slide right in. The former’s character perhaps feels a bit underdeveloped and is at a point or two reduced to eye-candy, but the actress makes the most of what she’s given and more than holds her own with some fiery scenes. Renner seems to be groomed to eventually take over as leading man for the franchise. If Ghost Protocol is any indication, this will be a fine choice. But a special gold star goes out to Simon Pegg, whose role from the third movies has been expanded upon as Benji is now a full-fledged field agent. He serves as the comic relief for the most part and reminds us that this is no easy task, as rarely has this type of character worked so well before. There’s plenty of screen time for him here, and every time he’s shown there’s laughter to be had. Truly one of the most gifted comedians the world of film has to offer today.
Ghost Protocol is, simply put, a damn fine action film. There’s enough hi-tech gadgets and wise-cracking to evoke thoughts of James Bond at times, and the action scenes are as exciting as they come. Slick, stylish, and a little silly every now and then. It is perhaps not the most ground-breaking film out there – although that Dubai scene is one-of-a-kind – but every aspect of it is polished and honed to… not perfection, but something approximating it. I have nothing major to complain about. Hopefully, you won’t either. Go see this film now. You deserve it.