PG-13 for actiony mayhem. I mean, if I said that The Incredibles was PG-13 for actiony-mayhem, you'd look at me like I was a crazy person. Brad Bird directed both movies and both are the same kind of actiony-mayhem. Okay, there's some innuendo, I think. People straight up die on camera in this one versus being sucked into a jet engine off-camera. I'm sure that Bird and company were shooting for a PG-13, so they threw some mild language in there.
DIRECTOR: Brad Bird
When I heard that Brad Bird was directing a Mission: Impossible movie, I nearly lost my mind. This was his first live-action film, guys. Bird crushes animated action better than anyone I know, so I wanted to see what he could do with live-action. When I first saw this back in 2011, I was really impressed. It was absolutely what I wanted with a Mission: Impossible movie. It was fun and complex. The story was pretty decent. The cast keeps on improving while carrying on with some old and new favorites. Okay, Luther is barely in the movie. But still, the movie works so well. There is one thing that does hold it up though since 2011. This movie was not meant to be binged.
I really think there was a discussion with J.J. Abrams and Skydance Entertainment to make Mission: Impossible with some mythology. Bond and Bourne were both doing it, so it is not surprising that there was probably some kind of edict saying that what Ethan Hunt does in one movie should be carried over into future films. There seems to be a plan forming with Ghost Protocol that I didn't notice with the other movies. I mean, Mission: Impossible III had Julia and that thread start there, but this movie actively begins a film trilogy that ultimately (I think!) concludes in Mission: Impossible -Fallout. I'm not saying that the plots for these three movies were planned out at this imaginary conference I think happened. We've seen how both Lost and Alias ended. We know that J.J. Abrams and crew are not fantastic planners. But Ghost Protocol is amazing by itself, but weirdly forgettable when binged. I watched Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation on the same day and I'm really having a hard time telling which movie was which at times. That doesn't sound crazy when binging something. But the thing is, I had no problem with the other movies I binged in the franchise. I could tell you exactly what happens in the first three movies and when. The reason is that they are tonally different. I loved that the Mission: Impossible movies had different directors who had remarkably different visions for how these movies should look and feel. They all have the core character involved, but they were more than just sequels. They almost became experiments with what someone could do with similar source material. It's kind of the reason that I don't completely rag on Quantum of Solace, because it feels different from the other Daniel Craig Bond movies. I mean, I'm going to rewatch that one someday and I might completely 180 on that, but as of right now, I have fond thoughts about that movie. The mission statement (pun kind of intended) changed for the franchise and I don't know if it works to make the movie timeless. When mythology gets that closely tied, it does feel just like an episode of a TV show rather than its own thing. It causes me to review the franchise as a whole rather than simply a movie that can stand on its own two feet. I'm not upset about that, but I do want to point it out. After all, I also love television and the benefit of binging a bunch of movies is that it takes me a while to write about them. It gives me time to catch up on some much neglected TV.
But that aside, the movie (as far as my shoddy memory about a movie I watched this week) works. Brad Bird likes action, but he likes his action fun. There's some really dark things that happen in Ghost Protocol. A lady gets kicked out a window at the top of the Burj Khalifa. I mean, that's not rainbows and sunshine, but Bird somehow makes stuff like this seem playful. I think Bird's goal is to make your jaw drop that a scene like what you saw, happened. I'm going to give it to Bird for inspiring Cruise to do insane things. I'm sure that he was doing insane things for a long time before this. But I think that this is the point in Cruise's career that he started pushing himself to do absolutely insane public stunts that would make news headlines. When people think of Ghost Protocol, they think of Dubai. I was exercising while watching Ghost Protocol. (Thank you! No, it's fine. It feels good.) As part of that, I was watching the clock for how long the Dubai scene was going on. I had about fifteen minutes left on the bike and I thought that I'll just finish the Dubai stuff before shutting it off. That sequence is a tank. I got off the bike and felt bad because I kept on watching. Like, it keeps going. We associate the Dubai scene with Tom Cruise Spider-Manning his way across the Burj Khalifa. That scene rocks. I like the reminder of the original movie with the "Red light, green light" / "Hasta lasagna, don't get any on ya" callback. The "Blue is glue; red is dead" element works so darned well. Like that scene is intense. I know that Ethan Hunt doesn't fall to his death. I've seen the movie more than once now. Also, that would be a heck of an ending of the franchise if Ethan just died by falling off a building. But that scene is suspenseful as getout. It is such a simple concept. He's on one of the tallest buildings in the world. The scenery should be what you are watching because it is this epic epic epic shot. But what are you looking for? Is the light on his hand blue or red? That's a great misdirect. And Benji teases it. You know that the glove is going to go red at one point because the movie pointed it out. When it does, it gets even more insane. Tom Cruise might be a crazy person in more than one way. (I still want to meet him. He seems very nice.) But that sequence is the action suspense version of the end of Safety Last. I know that Safety Last is a bit of a trick, but there's something about one of the world's most valuable action stars subjecting himself to a near death experience that is absolutely compelling.
I feel bad for Jeremy Renner. I heard on Harmontown that Renner was only in the movie to be set up to replace Ethan Hunt. I mean, it makes a bit of sense. While I don't think that Tom Cruise really ages that poorly, Fallout started having me look at him as an older man. I mean, that older man could wreck me at my best, but I don't know how many Mission: Impossible movies are possible. I like Jeremy Renner a lot. I think he's a talented actor who can pull off a solid action movie. I haven't seen The Bourne Legacy, but the impression that I got was that he was going to take over the franchise for Matt Damon. That didn't happen. He keeps getting the shaft (pun intended) in The Avengers movies, but he's always pretty good in these movies. I don't know what he's doing in Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation. He's just another Ethan Hunt who is pretending to not be Ethan Hunt. Like, Brandt is way too good at his job. Are all IMF agents as good as Ethan? Okay, that's not fair. Ethan is clearly the most impressive IMF agent because they go out of their way to get him to do jobs. In the last one, they pull him out of retirement. In this one, they break him out of a Russian prison. (I'm not sure I still understand the timeline and how that plays out with Julia. Why is he in prison? Is it so Julia can be free? Does he want to be there?) But Brandt does some crazy stuff really well. What I kind of like about Brandt over Ethan sometimes is that he's not comfortable with doing absolutely insane things. Ethan Hunt comes up with these almost suicidal plans for getting into buildings so he can avoid conflict. Brandt agrees philosophically with the conflict avoidance, but is also scared about jumping off of things. While not as compelling as Ethan's trip outside of the tallest building in the world, his leap of faith is still a pretty fun time. The dynamic that they have is also pretty great. They aren't exactly friends and I like that. I don't know if Renner sells the guilt that he carries as well as he should, but there is this sparring that works. Yes, Ethan Hunt could beat up Brandt, but it would leave both of them pretty wrecked. That's a fun situation.
You know what scene I keep forgetting is in this movie? The Kremlin scene! How is that forgettable? In The Sum of All Fears, Boston (I think) is nuked. The fact that I'm citing The Sum of All Fears right now shows that one scene can make a movie memorable. SPOILER: How did I forget about the destruction of the Kremlin? The entire scene is pitch perfect. While I love a good facemask gag, I almost appreciate it more when I see the actor's face. Facemasks are cool, but they are also a bit of a cop-out. The twist can come out of anywhere. When we know that there are no facemasks in play, it forces you to look in other directions for where the twist is going to happen. The projector screen gag is absolutely priceless. I know that Bird didn't write this, but he executes it really well. The visuals coupled with the jokes in that sequence are top notch and I slow clap some of those moments. Honestly, I could just show you the projector screen bit and you could understand the tone of Bird's movie. It's playful while compelling. It just works really well. That leads into Ethan on the lam (once again). I kind of want Ethan to have a good long time in IMF before being disavowed again. They keep doing that to him. Yeah, it's the premise of the movie. I mean, they named it Ghost Protocol. They told us it was going to happen (if the title made any sense to anyone who hasn't seen the movie. Oops. I've gone cross-eyed). But him on the run from the Russians is charming in the same way it was in Ant-Man and the Wasp. I think it works better in Ghost Protocol than it did in Ant-Man and the Wasp, but that's probably due to expert planning.
As much as I fawn over Bird's direction, there's something very weak about Ghost Protocol and that's the villain. I know a lot of movies can be good despite a weak villain. It doesn't happen very often, but it happens here. The villain has extremely weak motives in this one, which is oddly paralleled in the new movie Fallout. (I just had this epiphany. It's the same rationale.) Also, I know that there needs to be a big fight sequence between the hero and the villain at the end of the movie. I know that. But I don't buy this fight. Ethan should not be having such a hard time with that fight at the end. He's gone up against way more impressive bruisers not only in previous movies, but in this movie as well. The only reason that Hendricks is tough is because he's the primary antagonist. The car park adds so much to the fight to make it compelling, but I call shannigans that it even would have gotten that far. Also, Ghost Protocol may be the first in the series to commit a movie sin for me. There are moments in films where action characters do something that should kill them. It is meant to be scary because it seems like an act of desperation, but then they get out and walk away. SPOILER: Ethan, to take a shortcut to the ground level, drives his car off the top level of a car park to get to the bottom level. The airbag saves him. Nope. Nope nope nope. There's suspension of disbelief and then there's lazy writing. It gets worse in Rogue Nation and Fallout, but this is the beginning of something absolutely silly that I can't stand in movies. The protagonist should follow the rules. The rules are allowed to bend, but they aren't allowed to break. The car launching off the top floor is breaking the rules. Ethan is allowed to take more damage than the average person, but he still has to be killable.
Regardless, I like Ghost Protocol a lot. I'm not alone in that opinion, so I know I'm not crazy. It's just that the rewatch of the movie didn't hold my attention nearly as closely as the previous watch. It's solid, but I wish it didn't bleed into the background as much as it did.
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