MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL
Premise: After being framed for blowing up the Kremlin, super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and a small team (Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner) find themselves disavowed from the Impossible Mission Force and on the run. They have less than 36 hours to stop a villainous Swede (Michael Nyqvist) from receiving missile codes and triggering a nuclear war. You know, just another day at the office.
Behind-the-Scenes: J.J. Abrams (who directed M:I-3) stays on as producer, but hands over directing reins to Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille). This is Bird's first live-action feature. Also, full disclosure - M:I-3 is my favorite movie of all time.
The Good: Ghost Protocol plays like M:I-3.5. It's got the same energetic tone, the same breathless pacing, and more of the best action set pieces you'll ever see. Bird makes one hell of a live-action debut. The action is thrilling and well-constructed. It's brilliantly filmed - with an eye for detail and clarity in every frame. Bird's animation background really shows in the opening credits - the best I've seen this year. Tom Cruise owns the role of Ethan Hunt by now, and he sells every single sequence. He just oozes movie star charisma. There is a noticeable lack of CGI (thank god), and most of the stunts are real (and performed by Cruise himself). There are so many highlights in the movie, but the standout sequence has to be Cruise climbing up the side of the world's tallest building in Dubai. I saw this in IMAX and recommend you do the same. I promise - you will feel the height, and the resulting vertigo. Michael Giacchino's score adds immeasurably to the fun. The best line goes to Renner: "Next time, I get to seduce the rich guy." Ghost Protocol is as exciting and entertaining a movie as you're likely to see all year. This is smart, superior popcorn moviemaking. I loved it.
The Bad: Nyqvist's villain is a non-factor. He's as one-dimensional and non-threatening as most Bond villains. Maybe that's why the movie barely spends any time on him. The Mumbai party sequence with Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire) is a tad goofy. After the "this time, it's personal" storyline of M:I-3, the nuclear warhead climax here seems a little too...much.
Should You See It?: Oh hell yes. Ghost Protocol is a real crowd-pleaser. The Wow factor is high with this one. Easily the best action movie of the year. It's also one of the best movies period. Go see it in IMAX.
Rating: ***** out of 5 stars.