Reviewed by Lamar Kukuk
The Mission: Impossible movie franchise was born at a uniquely strange time in the evolution of the modern blockbuster, when studios had begun to fully commit to raiding their vaults for remakes and adaptations of TV series but had not yet gotten a clue that it was the fans of those pre-existing properties that were their target audience. As such, M:I, the popular late-60’s espionage series about a team of agents became a star vehicle for Tom Cruise who played a team of one in Brian DePalma’s diverting but forgettable flick that made sure no one confused the filmmakers with fans of the series by allowing original IMF leader Jim Phelps (then played by Jon Voigt) to die only after revealing he was a traitor.
But either way, money rolled in and a franchise without a direction or purpose was born. Latching on to Hong Kong director John Woo’s success with Face/Off, he was hired to helm Mission: Impossible 2, a laughable unintentional parody of his best work that again grossed money hand over fist but left Cruise and the Paramount suits knowing they still needed to find some kind of point and direction for his cypherous IMF hero Ethan Hunt. Enter JJ Abrams, the TV mogul looking to make his feature directorial debut. He and the team responsible for the cult TV series Alias finally licked the whole Mission: Impossible thing with M:I3, which gave Hunt a wife, a life, friends, a workplace and, dare I say it, stakes. Then something really nasty happened: a series of PR missteps caused Cruise to fall out of favor with the public and it seemed that the underperforming sequel would be Hunt’s swan song. But that’s the thing about franchises, they provide actors with a safe harbor during the valleys of their careers and under the producorial eye of Abrams, with many of the Alias team intact and Incredibles animation wiz Brad Bird making his live action directorial debut, the series finally hits a new high note five and a half years later with Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, which does everything the original M:I got wrong right, building a solid team in a slam-bang espionage thriller packed with amazing stunts. Most of all, it really understands the human dynamic necessary to make an action blockbuster run. Who cares if Ethan Hunt prevails if he’s an indestructible superman? But if it takes everything he’s got to turn his amp to 11… well, THAT’S a movie hero, and Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol is a globetrotting spy action flick of the highest order.
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