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Mission Impossible:
Ghost Protocol

In high school I wrote a paper on John F. Kennedy that I was really pretty proud of. It had a lot of good facts, I researched the hell out of it and it was nicely written. To my amazement, when I got it back, instead of being in the "A" grade range I was given a solid "B."

When I asked my history teacher what was wrong with it, he had mentioned that the overall paper didn't follow its own title and subtitle. You see, I had titled my paper, "JFK: The Bay of Pigs and Castro's Cuba"… or something to that effect, I don't remember… The point is, he had commented that he liked my paper but that the title or more importantly the subtitle was a little confusing.

So imagine my frustration walking into Tom Cruise's new Mission Impossible movie titled Mission Impossible or more importantly, subtitled Ghost Protocol.

Now the name itself, sounds pretty cool. Makes me think that this is what the whole movie is going to be about. Some protocol that affects the whole movie. Maybe it's a device in which they have to stop or shut down or something? Sounds intriguing…

Unfortunately, in this flick, all Ghost Protocol means is that the IMF (Impossible Mission Force?) is being framed for a crime they didn't commit and they have to operate outside the normal channels. Cut off from Headquarters. Reliant on their amazing skills and team work… Isn't that how they've always operated, in all the other movies?

Now this wouldn't bother me so much if it was a crucial part of the plot, meaning, everyone was after them, since you know, they are wanted as global terrorists… But it seems the only ones hot on their tail are the Russians. I'll explain later. Either way, the subtitle Ghost Protocol is mentioned twice in the film and then pretty much dropped. Because the focus on this film is actually a guy named Cobalt, but I guess Mission Impossible: Catching Cobalt wasn't as marketable.

What's most remarkable about the fourth film in this farcical franchise is that how director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), best known for his animated films with organic stories and heart, was able to make a live action film seem like an animated film devoid of any humanity and heart.

The biggest problem MI:4 has is that it's a giant, bloated, hilarious cartoon. Right from the opening title sequences, which just happen to preview the film with little clips from the movie foreshadowing the plot, the film moves and sweeps around like a Pixar film. But it's perfect because what better actor to lead your cartoon than the nearly plastic Tom Cruise.

Back as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, Cruise swaggers through this film like Foghorn Leghorn at times. Now don't get me wrong, my boy Tom is a good actor. I like the guy. I promise. But this movie and this franchise are merely here to stroke his ego. The opening sequence of this film just shows him laying in a bed casually bouncing around a rock while a jailbreak goes on around him. Because he's too cool to get out of bed!!! But once he gets out, he casually strolls through a riot to help out a buddy. It all works out in the end, sure, but in this day and age of cinema, it's cliché' and laughable.

Once out of prison, Hunt is joined by his new team of old and new faces, including his pal Benjy (Simon Pegg) and the hot, yet troubled Jane (Paula Patton). They get a mission to infiltrate the Kremlin. They get set up. The kremlin goes Dos Vidanya and next thing ya know, it's Ghost Protocol. But not really… The rest of the story you know.

Here's what you need to know before seeing this movie. We saw this on Imax. It was big and it was beautiful. Was Imax necessary to the story? Not really. Did it make for a fun movie going experience? Only when Tom Cruise climbs stuff and since that's kind of his thing in these movies… I guess it's fine. It didn't add much.

The story itself is thin. Bad guy wants the Nuke codes. Good guys want the nuke codes. Bad Guy wants to blow up the world. Good guys don't want him to do that. The rest of the film is just Tom Cruise either running from things or after things. Homeboy can run.

So, if you were looking for intelligent dialogue in this movie, forget about it, it's not happening. Maybe that's the Ghost in Ghost Protocol… the script? Either way, this thing's gonna play great overseas…

If badly written and even more badly delivered exposition about a character's troubled past in the Spy Game is your cup of tea… then maybe this film's for you. But if you don't care about that, then what Ghost Protocol gives you is at least a solid two hours of action.

The fighting is top notch. Lots of good, hand to hand stuff here. Solid. Also, surprisingly, a lot of CGI. But that makes sense since the director of the film is known for his animation.

What's missing from the film is any real shred of humanity and whatever humanity you get, you get from the awesome Pegg. Pegg's everyman/genius character has a very tiny backstory (Finally allowed in the field after passing his test, Benjy can't wait to prove himself as an agent and not just as phone support) and once again it's cliché but Pegg pulls it off so subtly and beautifully. Simon Pegg is the only heart in this film.

The film does try to add an ounce of melancholy to the story by hinting at a conclusion to Hunt's marriage but it's handled so quickly and haphazardly it's merely an afterthought.

And then there's the Russians. Yeah, Hunt and his crew were framed for blowing up the Kremlin, so it makes sense that the Russians are after them. But if Ghost Protocol has been enacted, wouldn't it make sense that the whole damn world would be coming for them? Maybe some other IMF agents?

Plus, Hunt realizes he was set up and even tells the head of the Russian Spy force, "I am not your enemy," yet it was their team that shot up the IMF SUV and killed Hunt's old boss. Who knows, maybe he didn't like his old boss?

Either way, for a team that is supposedly cut off from their network and operating on their own, not once did they act like they weren't in control of their situation. Even when they lose. There is no point in the movie where they don't face an obstacle that a fancy gadget can't fix.

And that's where this film gets interesting, at least at times. Where this film shines is in its creativity. The Spy Game genre is taken up a notch as the ingenuity of the gadgets perfectly fit the perils of the plot. The contact lens cameras, the sticky gloves and a gadget that, in probably one of the best bits of the film, cloaks a hallway, are the selling points of this film. I found myself most interested trying to figure out the tech and which version of the iPhone they were using.

All in all, MI: Ghost Protocol is a solid action film that will keep you entertained for a couple of hours. It will surely please your eyes and keep you engaged as long as you can forget that these characters are in no real danger of being caught by anyone, they're in no real peril and they act like it's just another day at the office. There's zero tension in this film, very little heart and just enough laughs (intentional and unintentional) to make this film worth checking out if you liked the first three. But if you were looking for something more in the way of a Ghost Protocol, then sadly, like my high school history teacher, you may be a slight bit disappointed.

Mission Accomplished!

Lon Lopez

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