It's a pleasure then to watch Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The creative team headed by Pixar’s Brad Bird, Bad Robot’s JJ Abrams and his long-time co-writer Andre Nemec present a film that plays to the strength of the Mission Impossible franchise while neutralising the weaknesses of its anchor star.
The most obvious positive change is the reinstatement of the team (and the ensemble acting it entails), which had been steadily pared down since the first Mission Impossible film. The ensemble chemistry is solid. With a team of credible actors such as Renner and Pegg providing both dramatic and comic acting, the pressure for Tom Cruise to overact is evidently checked.
For a series in its fourth instalment, the Ghost Protocol script is surprisingly inventive and clever. Familiar tropes and even set pieces that have been established in the series are cleverly subverted to great effect. For example here, we all expect a member of the team to harbour a secret that will jeopardise the mission or point towards him being the mole. We also expect someone in the film to be the villain wearing a flesh mask. The script plays with what we think we know should happen. When the outcome is unexpected (at least for this series), the surprise it generates is truly satisfying.
Pixar's Brad Bird may have been making nothing but animated films for more than 15 years but his greatest contribution to Ghost Protocol is his visual sense, which is well-employed in the breathtaking outdoors scenes (filmed in gorgeous IMAX) and the meticulously planned, highly visual action sequences that take place from Moscow to Dubai to Mumbai. (We suspect that keen visual sense may also explain why the film's action men Cruise and Renner keep donning shiny, contour-accentuating pants in their action sequences.)
Bird's experience helming Pixar's kid and adult-friendly animations has also developed a talent for melding comedy and adventure in the same film, which he uses to entertain with Ghost Protocol. Purists may argue over the place of comedy in this film but personally, I appreciate the light comedy that was sprinkled liberally in the film.