Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Released: 2011
Director: Brad Bird

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg

The old ones are still the best…

As impossible as it is to believe, Tom Cruise is almost 50. He’s been a movie star for more than three decades so the news shouldn’t be that surprising but he’s so vibrant and youthful that it’s hard to imagine that he’s about to hit his half-century. Action movies are regarded as a younger man’s game with Shia LeBeouf (25), Chris Evans (30) and Chris Hemsworth (28) starring in some of last year’s biggest hitters. So can Tom and his 15 year-old Mission Impossible franchise keep their position at the top and beat off the challenge of the new boys?

The fourth Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol answers that question with an emphatic yes. From an exciting Budapest chase sequence to a terrifying stunt on the outside of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, this is a non-stop thrill ride and a textbook example of what a good action movie should be.

The story isn’t complicated – the Kremlin is destroyed in an explosion, Ethan Hunt faces the blame, the entire IMF is disavowed and global nuclear war seems the likely outcome. Only Hunt and his new team can discover the truth and save the world. The action moves rapidly from Budapest to Moscow to Dubai and Mumbai without any slow or flabby moments and Cruise’s Hunt is just as buff and at least three times as charismatic as any of the young pretenders to his action hero crown. After the disappointing Knight and Day which was only half saved thanks to its leading man’s performance this is a welcome return to form and the kind of crowd-pleasing and fun movie that we want to see from such a big star.

Hunt’s team includes glamorous Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton), nerdy but amusing Benji Dunn played by Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner’s man with a past William Brandt. All three offer good support – particularly the 41 year-old Renner who is increasingly looking like the only man who can challenge Cruise’s position as top dog in the action hero stakes. The interactions between Pegg and Renner offer a degree of comic relief without changing the balance of the film from action-adventure to action-comedy. Patton, while gorgeous and gung-ho in the fight scenes, does feel a little like the token woman whose major asset is her beauty rather than her brains or scrapping ability. The bad guy is relatively bland in a poor Bond-baddie way and all this does is emphasise the fact that Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is Cruise’s film.

The big set-piece scenes are stunning particularly the breathtaking climb on the outside of Burj Khalifa. What makes this especially exciting is that Tom Cruise takes on many of his own stunts and you know there’s real danger involved – it ups the audience adrenaline no end and that’s what he wants, it’s a blatant crowd-pleaser. The final big fight was great but a little over-long and would have benefitted from a little more judicious editing. The film lasts 133 minutes – losing 3 or 4 wouldn’t have hurt at all.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that the ending leaves the door open for another Mission Impossible film. I hope it happens – I hope Cruise continues to flex his ample muscles, I hope the new team returns and Patton’s role is expanded. And I so want to see more of the lovely Jeremy Renner. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but I do prefer my action heroes in their 40s and 50s rather than these young whippersnappers – they really do know how to save the world.

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