Casper The Frenzied Ghost.
The one with the Burj Khalifa. By this fourth MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film, all the adventures are jumbled together in our heads; the only way to tell them apart is by each film’s stunts. 1996’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE had the fish tank restaurant, the suspension gag and the helicopter-bullet-train climax; II had free-climbing, bike stunts and the knife-to-the-eye gag (and doves); III had the slanted roof gag (a precursor to the Burj?) and the missile hit…
… and in MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) free-climbs the largest hotel in the world in Dubai. Of course he did the stunt himself… otherwise, where would the Xenu deathwish be?
Joining IMF agent Hunt on this mission to retrieve Russian nuclear launch codes, are hacker Benji (Simon Pegg), new field agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and field agent Jane (Paula Patton, one of the sexiest spies to grace the IMPOSSIBLE series, with her square jaw and refusal to wear high heels). The amazing thing about all the IMPOSSIBLE movies, though, is that their prime stunts are merely part of a larger framework of outlandish plotting and action/adventure; they’ve sidled up so close to modern Bond movies that Tom Cruise could be cast as The Next Bond and no one would blink an eye.
OPENING TITLE: Budapest (oh, is this what Hawkeye means with that running gag to Black Widow?). An IMF agent (Josh Holloway) is killed by none other than a Bond Girl – Léa Seydoux as Sabine, stealer of the Russian codes (and Bond’s heart).
We then see Hunt break out of a Moscow prison, dragging a cooperating witness, who can help with the Russian code chase. Michael Nyqvist (renowned Russian badguy – after Rade Sherbedgia) is Hendricks, who plans to start a nuclear war so that only the strong will survive in Electric Ladyland.
Then the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE filmmakers have the audacity to blow up the Kremlin. (Go big or go home, right?) Hendricks did it Bold As Love, but of course, Hunt is blamed. And the Gutless American Government initiates “Ghost Protocol” disavowing the IMF (again!), causing Hunt and his team to go rogue (again!), but with the surreptitious consent of the gubmint to continue the mission… Just don’t tell anyone they’re on a mission… uh, isn’t that how ALL secret agent missions are done?
To India (you’ve never heard Lalo Schifrin’s Mission: Impossible Theme played, until you’ve heard it played on a sitar), featuring Anil Kapoor (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) as an Indian tycoon with codes that the IMF team want. For those who crave this kind of stunt-run-stunt-explosion frenzy, GHOST PROTOCOL delivers in spades, as well as gags like the fake corridor hologram, the magnet floating Brandt above the fan, Tom Cruise Running to escape a sandstorm, and even a savage girl-fight where Paula Patton simply redlines the sexiness meter.
In a film full of McGuffins, Hendricks flees with his suitcase of nuclear codes, into a multilevel parking garage designed by M.C. Escher, where he battles Hunt while cars and platforms move up and down for no reason at all. While a launched missile bears down on a city, the case that can stop it lies at the base of the multilevel complex, and in one of the film’s funnier-yet-insane stunts, Ethan drives a luxury car directly off a high platform to retrieve the case, knowing the airbag will activate upon impact with the ground!
Written by TV writing team Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, and directed by Brad Bird (RATATOUILLE), one thread keeps dangling from the previous film, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III – Hunt’s marriage. That movie’s plot was driven by Hunt rescuing his fiancé (Michelle Monaghan), which he married by movie’s end. In this film, she’s an untidy subplot: Brandt was apparently her bodyguard and failed to save her life, beating himself up over it and working for Hunt to absolve himself – until Hunt reveals he faked his wife’s death, so that she could live peacefully away from the spy world. Hunt watches her from afar in the film’s coda. Is that really healthy? Because if she thinks he’s dead or unattainable, she will move on with her life, and does he really want to see her being spanked by another? I guess he could use those Burj climbing skills to be a real Peeping Tom.
History will probably regard Tom Cruise as the Sean Connery of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise (the 1966 TV series starring Peter Graves will be largely forgotten), because of course another actor will take up the mantle of Ethan Hunt when Cruise gets too old to bodyshave his way out of jams. And there will come those inevitable arguments on WHO is the best Hunt; and the series will suffer its trends, swaying from De Palma to Woo, from grounded to eye-damaging efx, from gritty to girly, to prequels and offshoots… I wonder about those upcoming actors, how they must out-charisma Cruise, how they must out-stunt their predecessors, and how they must out-crazy Scientology…