The Cruise/Wagner, Mission: Impossible franchise, has and continues to be a financially rewarding series, but whereas the 1960s TV serial was about spying and espionage, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible, too frequently relies upon set pieces instead of character and narrative development. Arguably, since it’s rebirth in 1996, its sole purpose has been to make Tom Cruise, look good. So, is Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol any different?
Brad Bird’s, Ghost Protocol, is neither the best nor the worst entry in Cruise’s cannon. As with Mission: Impossible (De Palma 1996) and Mission: Impossible III (Abrams, 2006) there’s little evidence of the director’s fingerprints, this is a Cruise/Wagner production, an exemplary case for the producer as auteur (author). The one exception to this being John Woo’s ridiculously over the top Mission: Impossible II, which despite its many flaws, is still the best Mission: Impossible film, largely because it is clearly identifiable as the work of John Woo, the king of ballistic action cinema.
The film starts with Cruise’s, Ethan Hunt, being broken out of a Russian prison, before being quickly dispatched to his first mission, which involves breaking into the Kremlin to secure some data. However, the mission is hijacked by a mad professor, who steals Russian nuclear launch codes with the intent to start a nuclear world war and to cover his tracks he blows-up a large proportion of the Kremlin, which leads to Ethan, his team and the entire IMF, being disavowed by the US Government. With the titular ‘Ghost Protocol’ in play, it is up to Cruise and his merry band of stooges, to prove their innocence and prevent WW3.
Ghost Protocol adheres to the Mission: Impossible check list. So, it features globetrotting (which could rival a Bond film), Hunt being disavowed (again), action, a set piece which illustrates Cruise’s athleticism, an assortment of caricatures for characters, with Jeremy Renner’s character playing the spy with ‘secrets’, minimal espionage and of course, Cruise, running. And boy, can Tom Cruise, run. I think it’s fair to say he’s 85% professional runner, 10% male model and 5% actor. One does wonder, what will poor Tom do, when he can no longer run with such flare and finesses? He really is exceptionally talented, when running.
As ever, the real victims of Mission: Impossible -aside from the audience -are plot and narrative. At the top of Cruise’s agenda is spectacle, well, second to making Cruise look good, obviously. With the entire IMF disavowed and Cruise’s band of mercenaries essentially going rogue, you’d expect the US Government to be after them, considering it’s Hunt who is blamed for the Kremlin explosion. But this is blissfully ignored. And if the entire IMF has been disavowed, how come Hunt and co. can move so freely between country to country? Surely all their various identities would be flagged up as terrorists, but not once is there any emphasis placed upon how they will enter this particular country. However, knowing Tom Cruise, they probably just outwitted border control, by running between locations. After all, nobody expects a spy to run from Russia to Dubai, and he really is a beautiful runner!
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is by no means a bad film, but if we are to be treated to another entry, Cruise and Wagner should take a step back and revisit what made the original TV show so compelling ie character development, narrative and plotting. That way, the next time the entire IMF is disavowed, if there’s actual character development and narrative, it will mean something, because the audience will be invested in the film’s story, not just in awe of the spectacle, at witnessing Tom Cruise, leap about on a very, very, tall building.