Good thing IMF agent Ethan Hunt isn’t afraid of heights. He’s already leapt from a speeding train onto a helicopter inside the Channel Tunnel. He’s gone free-climbing up a 600-metre cliff-face. He’s leapt between Shaghai’s skyscrapers. So scaling the outside of the world’s highest building, Dubai’s 163-storey Bhurj Khalifa, without ropes, is all in a day’s work.
The epic action centrepiece of ‘Ghost Protocol’ easily surpasses its predecessors in terms of sheer scale and white knuckle thrills. But – with comedian Simon Pegg in tow to explain how Hunt’s adhesive climbing gloves work (“blue means glue, red means dead”) – the sequence also highlights the differences between the ‘Mission: Impossible’ films.
The first had director Brian De Palma providing masks on top of masks, double-double-crossing and ‘I know that you know that I know that you know that I know what you did’ intrigue. John Woo gave ‘MI:2’ shots of doves flying in slow motion, explosions in slow motion, and motorbikes riding through explosions in slow motion. Round three saw JJ Abrams introduce a human touch, flashback narrative, and a gritty edge to match ‘Bourne’ and Daniel Craig’s 007.
And now veteran Pixar director Brad Bird, making his live action debut, brings a playfulness not seen in the world of espionage since Pierce Brosnan handed in his licence to kill. Not that the man who gave us the funny but frenetic ‘The Incredibles’ neglects the action. He takes Hunt and his team from a daring Russian prison escape (complete with full-scale riot) to a bloody brawl in an automated high-rise Mumbai car-park (complete with aerial acrobatics, flying kicks, and wanton vehicular destruction). En route, there’s a claustrophobic high-speed chase through a desert sandstorm and the not-insubstantial destruction of the Kremlin in Moscow – an act that forces the IMF into black-ops “ghost protocol” mode.
Disavowed by their own organisation, Hunt’s crew must save the world from nuclear destruction – which can be even more difficult than it sounds when working alone. With the high-tech systems, including an anti-gravity vest that allows for airborne snooping, frequently on the fritz, there’s plenty of opportunity for failure – and laughs, expertly mined by Pegg as the techie-turned-rookie field agent.
Cruise, following the disappointingly jokey ‘Knight And Day’, is wisely kept away from the punchlines, in favour of running, jumping, climbing, and motivational speeches. Despite finally beginning to show his age, the 49-year-old star once again excels in the stoic superhero role, performing many of his own stunts along the way. He’s ably supported on the gung-ho front by Jeremy Renner (‘The Hurt Locker’) as an analyst with a secret, while Paula Patton is just as good at providing the necessary long legs and seduction techniques needed when dealing with shady sorts.
It’s a well-worn formula but – by introducing the element of a team in trouble and forced to improvise and by favouring real, dangerous stunts over computer-generated trickery – Bird gives the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise an adrenaline shot to the heart.
Like the tower its hero scales, ‘Ghost Protocol’ reaches new heights.
- This article originally appeared on EntertainmentAfrica.com.