Last week I wondered if we really needed "Sherlock Holmes" at the movies when we already have "House" on TV.
This week, I question the necessity of a fourth "Mission Impossible" movie when we already have 22 James Bond movies with a 23rd on its way next year.
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Bond and Ethan Hunt are both super-competent spies with an array of neat gadgets at their disposal. Not to mention that they both have trademark opening sequences and iconic theme music that follows them everywhere. But Hunt as a character doesn't have as many distinctive traits as Bond, and it makes the whole franchise come off as derivative and unoriginal. That's the bad news. The good news is that "Ghost Protocol," is arguably the best installment of the inferior franchise.
Tom Cruise stars once again as Hunt, his celebrity smile somehow always showing even when the scene doesn't require it. Other members of his team include Paula Patton as the requisite tough beauty, Simon Pegg as the comic relief computer nerd, and Jeremy Renner as a dull analyst who gets sucked into the action.
It's a lightweight team, with two members who are rookies, one who's rusty, and two who spend most of the time beating themselves up over past failures. I think there should be at least one member who looks somewhat dangerous. It's a shame previous cast member Ving Rhames pretty much sits this one out, he would have worked well as a fifth member or as a better choice than Pegg for a fourth.
The plot is some mumbo-jumbo with Russian nuclear launch codes. The team first has to break Ethan out of a Russian prison, then they undertake a mission in the Kremlin which gets botched.
The team is disavowed (just as Ethan's overseers are always threatening to do) and they have to carry out the rest of their mission with only a traincar full of supplies. It would have been a more interesting challenge if they didn't have an entire traincar, but they need to keep all the spy toys somewhere. Then they have to manipulate some bad guys in the world's tallest building and then get vital information from the host of a fancy party. It's practically a requirement with spy movies that the characters go undercover at a fancy party.
The scenes at the Kremlin and the high-rise are the film's strong points. At the Kremlin the team uses a hologram to sneak down a hallway in an impressive sequence. The tower sees a tense series of negotiations, a super-sexy catfight, and Ethan having to climb the side of the building twice, once using adhesive gloves of dubious functionality and again improvising with a poorly chosen rope. I hate heights, but I love those scenes.
The film's weak points are its predictable second half and its poor choice of villain (Michael Nyqvist), probably the most uninspired antagonist of the year. The climactic fight scene in one of those car vending machines is sort of a draw, the action isn't terribly original, but it gets points for its unique location.
"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" goes along quite nicely for a while, but loses its way after the tower scene. Director Brad Bird is best known for animated work, which perhaps explain why the film has impressive visual sequences but is lacking in its script. It's an agreeable enough action movie, some decent eye candy for the holiday season. I still don't have the same loyalty to the "Mission Impossible" franchise that I do for James Bond, and because of that I see "Ghost Protocol" as little more than a warm-up for next year's "Skyfall."
Two and a Half Stars out of Five
"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence. Its running time is 133 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at email@example.com.