When an incursion into the Kremlin goes awry, secret spy force IMF is shut down and its agents disavowed. Framed yet unbowed, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his three allies have mere days to prevent slick terrorist Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) from unleashing nuclear disaster on America’s West Coast.
The fallout from JJ Abrams’ Mission: Impossible 3 didn’t centre entirely on the plot and selfishness of Cruise on screen, but off of it too. After the release, Paramount owner Sumner Redstone decided not to renew Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner’s distribution rights, apparently appalled by the actor’s recent antics, particularly his appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Five years on and Cruise hasn’t learnt his lesson. Jeremy Renner, cast to ease the strain on the movie star’s wilting 49 years, is actually marginalised despite afforded a good portion of hands-on duties. It’s not that he isn’t unlikeable, but the Cruiser hogs the screen ad nauseam and you could be forgiven for assuming you were witnessing The Tom Cruise Show.
It is director Brad Bird who is the star of the show rather than his self-indulgent leading man, thanks to the execution of the film’s bedazzling set-pieces. The use of CGI is so meticulous and believable during the explosion on Red Square that it is a reminder that the method can be so much more than paint-by-numbers gratuity.
Bereft of visual trickery however is Cruise ascending and running along the Burj Khalifa. The film’s money moment, in IMAX it is so immersive that you’re expecting to plummet back down to earth with him, such is the intensity of the vertigo-inducing effect. This is where Cruise’s dedication to rewarding his audience is sustained, where as both an actor and a star, he regains credibility.
Veering away from Abrams’ darker territory, the mundane, bad-Bond plotline ensures a banal final act, which sags horribly given the electrifying sequences in Russia and Dubai that preceded it. Anil Kapoor makes a camp cameo as a playboy that is incongruous even amidst the flippancy of proceedings, while product placement sabotages the finale.
Complementing the tone well though is Simon Pegg, back on form after a recent unfunny slump, although Renner and Paula Patton aren’t as comfortable backbiting as they are fighting.
Nyqvist’s terrorist too is a conundrum. His motives are unclear and as an adversary for Cruise, he isn’t allowed sufficient screen time to impose his cerebral superiority, which makes his sudden physical prowess feel distinctly off piste.
Fun and frothy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a mild improvement on the third instalment of the franchise, but despite the grand scale fails to convert the series into essential espionage viewing. Pixar alumni Bird directs his live action debut with typical audacity and impossible imagination, but this winter blockbuster fails to warm the cockles throughout the three acts.