BRIEFLY: Brad Bird, the Pixar wunderkind behind The Incredibles and Ratatouille has crafted a near perfect Mission: Impossible film. This is easily the best in the franchise and Bird also does the unthinkable: make Tom Cruise bearable for the general public. Even more, with most of the film shot in IMAX 70mm film Bird also takes us literally to places we can only experience in real-life—until now. Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner add some laughs and muscle to freshen up the cast. While Bird does one hell of a job resurrecting the franchise, his biggest misstep here is a sandstorm in Dubai that just feels and looks quite cheesy (I think you can even see the pixels). We expect more from special effects, especially someone who’s worked at Pixar. Nonetheless, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol can’t be missed, especially if you see it in IMAX.
DETAILED REVIEW: If you ever wondered, “What would a real-life Pixar movie look like?” you may have finally got that answer with Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Though it’s a film extremely low on story (at least creatively speaking), it is high on plot. Indeed, every moment leads invariably to the next and so on. This is a flesh-and-blood manifestation of The Incredibles. After an incredibly white knuckle opening, I found myself half expecting the white-lamp Pixar logo to make an appearance (a comment far more complimentary than you might think).
Ghost Protocol follows the Mission Impossible formula once again as the IMF disavows its spies, blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, villains, blah, blah, blah, world to end, blah blah blah…. Really the plot is not groundbreaking here and recounting it would be like re-watching the entire season of Teen Mom 2—teen gets pregnant. Have kids. Drama ensues. MTV cashes in. Truly, Bird doesn’t mess with the plot too much as the formula is successful at least financially, but Bird does take into account every shot with his meticulous eye, developed over years at Pixar. A crumbling, exploding Kremlin is of particular note.
The biggest surprise here though is Bird making Mr. Cruise actually relevant. Somehow, someway, Cruise channels his mid-nineties moxie—the one that lit up screens with Jerry MaGuire and A Few Good Men and even the original Mission: Impossible. Nevertheless, whatever voodoo ceremony Bird cast on Cruise, it was worth it. Somehow, Tom Cruise is back and we’ll hopefully forget that Oprah couch jump like we forgot Y2K and Furbies.
Though the film follows it’s “paint-by-numbers” plot, its well-worth the watch. Near the end of the second act, Bird takes us to Dubai and places us atop the world’s tallest skyscraper. Cruise dangles from one window and clings to another. I can’t really even remember why Cruise is doing it, but it doesn’t matter. You feel while watching him that you’re actually going to fall off the gleaming building edges and into the desert abyss. This is aided by the larger IMAX format. In fact, don’t see this any other way, BUT in IMAX; seriously. To see it any other way would be a disservice, like watching a home video of Splash Mountain on YouTube instead of actually riding it.
Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and a breathtaking Paula Patton (where did she come from?) round out a pretty stellar cast that manages to rummage up laughs when needed, while also being serious enough as to not paint the film in a film swatch of tongue-in-cheek cheese. Renner and Patton are “stars-in-waiting.” I’m still not sure where Pegg is, but he certainly isn’t going down.
The biggest problem I had with Ghost Protocol involved an “all-too-convenient-looks-like-a-brendan-frazier-mummy-rip-off-sandstorm.” The sand clouds seriously look like they were rendered with software from the late 1990’s on a purple plastic covered iMac (you know the ones). I certainly expect more from a film in 2011 and expect exponentially more for the guy who handcrafts reality at Pixar all the time. The sandstorm was just too-farfetched. I felt like I was watching someone try to channel the Hitchcock “plane scene” ala North by Northwest. It just doesn’t work, not in 2011, nor in the last decade—ask Brendan Frasier and The Rock.
Regardless, Mission Impossible is like a Disneyland thrill ride you’ve ridden before—perhaps like the aforementioned Splash Mountain. You’ve ridden it before, maybe several times, but you can’t help but enjoy it again, and again. That, in a nutshell is Ghost Protocol—a thrill ride you won’t be disappointed with. Just don’t see it in on YouTube (the theatre) go to the park (IMAX) and take it for a spin.