Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Audiences around my age can be forgiven for not realizing that the original television series of Mission: Impossible was actually not an action show. In fact, it straddled the con-heist genres in much the same way that Hustle has on the BBC starting in 2004, and it was largely inspired by Jules Dassin’s excellent Topkapi. In a way it’s sort of a shame that such a great property has been reduced to nothing but gadgets, explosions, and ever-more-mangled versions of Lalo Schifrin’s catchy 5/4 theme. The latest step down is Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
We start by seeing an agent (Josh Holloway) get bumped off in the middle of a mission in Budapest. Next, we cut to a daring operation to break Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out of a Moscow prison, engineered by Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) — both holdovers from the last installment. Right away, Hunt is given another mission to retrieve a file from the Kremlin’s archives, which culminates in a bombing for which Hunt and his team are to take the fall. They end up disavowed by the government and left to their own devices — along with the help of IMF analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) — to clear their names and stop the real bomber, who we know to be a mad scientist, Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), bent on setting off a nuclear war in the name of peace.
Wait a minute. A botched operation in Budapest leading to an agent’s death, an outcast responsible for saving his former organization, intimations of a double-agent; I wonder where they got this idea from. Actually, that may not be fair, since the latter may be only in my head. The trailer certainly suggests the suspicion, but nowhere in the movie does anyone ask just how the team was set up in the first place. It’s a fait accompli, and questions just mean more time something’s not blowing up.
After all, why bother getting inside your enemies’ heads when you can just assault them head-on? And, for that matter, the same question seems to go for the audience.
The Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building — features prominently in the movie, which reminds me of something I heard recently. Evidently interests in Dubai can afford to construct such a skyscraper, but the city itself has almost no infrastructure to support it. In particular, there is no waste management system to speak of, and so the tower must have a fleet of tanker trucks to carry away literally thousands upon thousands of gallons of raw sewage every day. The lesson seems to be that you may be able to build an impressive edifice, but if it lacks a proper foundation you’re going to have an enormous load of crap on your hands.
And, in a way, the movie provides its own rebuttal. In reference to any number of points in the story, I might lift some of Brandt’s dialogue to ask writers André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum and director Brad Bird why they thought it would work; what did they expect the audience to think. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they responded with Hunt’s dialogue: “These aren’t Rhodes scholars we’re talking about; we didn’t expect them to think.”
Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.