Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible 4 PosterRating: ★★★★½

I cut to the chase when I say that “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is the best action movie of 2011. Not much of a statement, you might think, since trash like “Battle: Los Angeles” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” were released in the same year. But whatever. I felt a shy satisfaction while viewing it. I thought that my growing cynicism, thanks to the two movies above, had deemed it impossible for me to cherish another explosion, but all is not lost. There is sophistication in its silliness and spectacle in its set pieces. I urge every fun-seeking movie-lover to see it in front of the big screen. (I heard the IMAX version is wonderful.)

The latest “Mission: Impossible” flick is a triathlon of stunts, escapes, chases, and shootouts. A lot of them are performed, dangerously, by Tom Cruise himself. At age 49, you would think that the guy would welcome the expertise of a stunt double, but not today. That’s really Cruise hauling his own ass. And there’s a lot more ass-hauling here than your average action movie, but the bombardment is backed up with ambition and artistry. What places the movie in a high order within its class is its mindset to surpass expectations. It always manages to add an extra layer of oomph and finesse in each section of its screenplay.

Tom Cruise and the Burj KhalifaConsider the part where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are to intercept a crucial meeting at the world’s tallest building: the Burj Kalifa of Dubai. Before any intercepting could be done, their farcical computer genius, Brandt (Simon Pegg), informs them that they must break into the control panel and retrieve the building’s codes. Any other screenplay would have just ordered our heroes to pick some locks and get it over with. But this particular screenplay, written by Josh Applebaun and André Nemec, raises the bar to exhilarating heights. When I learned that Hunt must scale the outside of the towering skyscraper, my fear of heights stared straight into my soul. During the movie’s most glorious moments, there is a terrifying image of a dangling Tom Cruise that would make even Spiderman pee his pants. Suspended thousands of feet in the air, he inches his way through a room with nothing but mechanical “Sticky Gloves” that may or may not be low in battery.

The same form of ingenuity can be said for many other instances, like the scene where the objective of Ethan and Brandt is hindered by a guard at the end of an empty hallway. Instead of just tranquilizing the poor bastard, the two utilizes a device of technical trickery that erases their visibility. In another sequence, a typically standard chase in the streets is granted a fresher tone and look when a pesky sandstorm decided to arrive just to follow Tom Cruise’s path. I’ve heard that some paparazzi can be quite annoying, but this sandstorm’s a real jerk.

Tom Cruise, as Ethan Hunt, in a SandstormCompared to the previous installments, the plot in “Ghost Protocol” is rightfully less complicated. From what I gathered, there is a mad Russian (Michael Nyqvist) whose intent is to launch a missile that would start a nuclear war. What he plans to do after the world is obliterated, I do not know. I bet he doesn’t know either, but let’s continue. This triggers countless fights for a briefcase that contains the codes for the launch, but this is all for props. I couldn’t care less if that darn briefcase contained, say, the secret recipes of Pancake House. Hey, as long as the briefcase produces great action, and as long as the action is done well, count me in.

The action in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is not just done well – it is done beautifully. I praise the cast and crew for their discipline and imagination, but I especially want to praise the incessant dedication of Mr. Tom Cruise. In an age where baby-faced pretty boys are appearing here and there, a veteran like Cruise resurfaces. Covered in sweat, ash, and a little bit of sand, he gives these recruits a good reminder of what a real action star is supposed to be. Children like Taylor Lautner should take notes.

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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol