This is the reason to see a movie in IMAX (at least until they make a sequel to Avatar).
Found rotting away in a Soviet prison, agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is reactivated from semi-retirement to stop a nuclear threat. When the mission goes awry and the Kremlin explodes, circumstantial evidence places the blame on the IMF agency and all of their operatives are disavowed. Innocent of the crime but still with a job to do, Hunt and a small group of agents must mount a mission to save the world, clear the agency’s name, and reboot the franchise.
It’s hard not to love producer J.J. Abrams. It’s even harder not to love director Brad Bird. Tom Cruise? In spite of his antics outside of his career, it’s hard to suggest he doesn’t bend over backwards to entertain his audience. Enter the new Mission Impossible movie, shot entirely on IMAX cameras and pooling the resources of all these talents into a summer-worthy blockbustering end-of-year blowout. Sweeping venues, impossible tasks, and covert intrigue are all things expected from a Mission Impossible movie, but after finding the franchise’s stride with the third installment, this is the Abrams-produced sequel to his own contribution: everything that worked in the third film amped up to eleven. It’s about the team, it’s about the mission, and it’s about time.
For those who fear: this is not the Tom Cruise show. As for the James Bond comparisons, the only similarity is the globetrotting venues; Bond pushes villains to make mistakes (blowing up plans figuratively and literally) while Mission Impossible has always embraced subterfuge and hi-tech slight-of-hand (a quick note on the inevitable gadgets argument: 007 gadgets have mostly been impossible, while Impossible gadgets have mostly been just ahead of their time). Also, the television series that inspired the films were rarely about the individuals on the mission themselves; modern audiences demand more from their characters to care about these days, and secret loyalties and agendas are necessary complications but only footnotes in the story here. The way is kept clear for things to go wrong and go big in an entertaining way and keeping the mission as impossible as possible.
While the premise of a disavowed team has been a mainstay of the Mission Impossible franchise (the way time travel haunts Star Trek), it’s more of an obstacle to be overcome in this storyline and less of a vendetta (as it was in the first Cruise “Mission”). Also, it’s hard to believe that no one would notice someone climbing all over the outside of the world’s tallest building in broad daylight and not get more attention, but an active response in the time frame shown would have been overkill (and it’s not like there weren’t enough monkey wrenches to overcome in the sequence already). Happily, Cruise’s agent Hunt is joined this time in the field by tech-support guy Benji (played by the always-welcome Simon Pegg), an overenthusiastic yet professionally perfect foil for the silently serious Ethan. Finally, there’s director Brad Bird: The Iron Giant proved he could tell a great animated story while The Incredibles proved he could create awesome animated action, but Ghost Protocol proves he is no less effective off the drawing board.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)