You’re a high tech spy thousands of miles from home, disavowed. All you have left are three partners-in-crime and a train car full of your agency’s last high-tech goodies. You just allegedly bombed the Kremlin and you’ve got to prevent a nuclear holocaust. So what do you do? Anything you can. Produced by Tom Cruise (of course) and JJ Abrams (who directed the series’ last outing), the viewfinder has been passed onto animator Brad Bird, who made the excellent The Iron Giant and The Incredibles and has now made an incredibly slick action thriller in Ghost Protocol, his live-action debut.
Fast cars, explosions, and elaborate tricks are all part of the trade as Ethan Hunt (Cruise) makes his way around the world, piecing together the plot of a crazy Norwegian who believes that blowing up the entire world with nuclear weapons, a common fear in the Cold War, is going to bring about world peace. Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense, leaving us with two hours of incredible action without a strong villain. That hardly matters, the movie is more than happy to throw crazy twists and turns as Ethan and his gang improvise their way through situations that reek of how desperately they’re improvising. Simon Pegg returns as the team’s comic relief, Paula Patton serves as the friendly eye candy, but we also get Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town) who’s an analyst that has more to him than meets the eye.
The Dubai sequence that comprises the middle third of the movie is easily the best, with lingering shots of Tom Cruise free climbing the side of the world’s tallest building. The gadgets employed here are pretty ingenious (I won’t spoil any for you), but when they fail, which happens pretty often, things get pretty desperate, pretty fast. I don’t know why my boy Brad Bird took so long to direct a live-action film, much less an action movie, but it works out perfectly as each scene feels perfectly calibrated, in much the same way that a scene from his Ratatouille must be crafted to specification from scratch. A blemish on the film is the at-times cheesy special effects (Tom Cruise looks like a fat man running away from the exploding Kremlin), but the amount of practical sleight of hand the movie presents you more than makes up for it. Unless action films are your kryptonite, or action films with a ton of improbably sequences, which would be a few people I know, then you’d be crazy not to go see this on the biggest screen you possibly can.