Four of a kind – It’s not often an action series gets to number four. And I think the key word out of that is ‘action,’ as very few series including “Bond” can completely claim ‘action’ as their genre of choice. In fact, outside of the current “Mission: Impossible” series, the only action-laced series to be successful after four films is maybe “Die Hard?” Some might say “Rambo,” but given there was 23 years between the third and fourth installments, it’s hard to put Sly in the same argument. That’s why “Mission:Impossible” sits atop this short list in my mind and why it was a no brainer to go check out “Ghost Protocol” on the big screen.  

The story in this one…picks up some years after the last and finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) locked up in a Russian prison.  Don’t worry, he escapes with a little help from his IMF friends, who at the time didn’t truly understand why they were breaking Ethan out.  Several hours later, Ethan, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Jane (Paula Patton) were knee deep in a mission to infiltrate ‘The Kremlin’ in search for some archives said to be the key in finding a Russian person of interest dubbed ‘Cobalt.’ But, before they had a chance to find out more, a bomb goes off destroying the Kremlin and any chance at figuring out why and how their cover was blown on the mission.  Next thing they knew, the U.S. president activated “Ghost Protocol,” disavowing all of IMF, essentially blaming Ethan and his team for the Kremlin attack in order to sustain peace. However, the IMF allows Ethan and his team to escape government custody in order to track down Cobalt, who they later learn was planning a nuclear attack on America.  Determined to end this threat, Ethan and Co. set off on a new ‘mission’ to stop ‘Cobalt’ leading to a dramatic conclusion full of nonstop action and thrills.

Who was in it?  Clearly anytime Tom Cruise is around, the supporting cast will get somewhat overlooked.  That’s just a fact, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth noting and here, Jeremy Renner hammers that point home. Sure, not in the over-the-top fashion at which Cruise operates, but Renner made his impact each and every time he was on screen. That was crucial, because if this series is going to live on some day without Cruise’s own Ethan Hunt, we might need someone like Renner to take over. So, I was glad to see him in this role as William Brandt, an IMF desk analyst turned field operative. As for Simon Pegg, well, his character is in the field now, which was a nice distraction from all the chaos taking place. So, that was good, but at the end of the day, this was Cruise’s movie, just as the first three were. And like so many other iconic cinematic figures before his, Cruise’s own Ethan Hunt makes you want to see what’s next, no matter what’s happening on the big screen.  That’s important, because its’ not always easy to keep a series fresh, but I think Cruise has been able to do that with all his effort on and off the screen. 

From small time to big time – It’s not often you find a director that has never done live action, get the chair for a film like this.  But, not every director is like Brad Bird, who clearly knows what looks good in front of the camera. It’s true, before this gig, Bird had never directed live actors, so I give him a lot of credit in how this film looked and felt. Because it’s been awhile since I have watched a film as fast paced as this seemed to be.  I mean, the story barely ever took a breath, which actually hurt it in some of the more dramatic areas that in no way could keep up. So, it was good the action was so incredible, as without that, there’s no way this film would have been able to sustain itself for all 132 minutes.  And what I liked most is how he tied the first three films into this one, often paying homage to what made the predecessors so popular. That was a nice touch and one I credit Bird and the writer’s for wanting to do.  Having said that, Bird also wanted to make a point in showing a movie without the added 3-D effects that in Bird’s own words would bring back a “level of showmanship” to the overall movie presentation.  Wow, and here I thought a director with those traits had been lost years ago, leaving me hope for the future.

Bottom Line – Whether or not people will admit it, they like Tom Cruise and will see “Mission” Impossible – Ghost Protocol” one way or another. Sure, maybe not on the giant IMAX screen like I did, but they will watch this and probably enjoy it more than they imagined they would. And that’s good, because with so much junk being thrown on the big screen these days, it’s nice to see a good old fashioned action series like this continue to be relevant. 

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