Since they blow the Kremlin up in the trailer it’s not a spoiler to say that the movie version of a 9/11 moment for Russia is a great premise for filmgoers yearning for the 60’s plot that Mad Magazine did so well exploiting – Spy vs Spy, America vs Russia…classic enemies that can be friends, as long as they keep the cold war limited to high octane films. With extravagant I Max cameras giving the viewer breathtaking worlds, Ghost Protocol is eye candy that keeps you glued to your seat. It’s an old, forgotten formula of holding an audience’s attention with clever twists, creative imagination and a dash of anticipation. Set in Moscow, Dubai, Mumbai…as certainly as a soundstage in Canada…half the fun is the escapism, the suspension of reality…and not wasting time figuring out which piece of film was made where.
Ghost Protocol is the best James Bond movie in a long, long time, outdistancing the competition – Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman in 1998’s The Avengers, Bradley Cooper in 2010’s The A-Team as well as Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale. Paramount Pictures has a two hour and thirteen minute quasi-Bond flick that is superior to both Craig outings as the super spy, the shadowy team assembled in Ghost Protocol proving Euclid’s axiom – “The whole is equal to the sum of all the parts and is greater than any of its parts.”
Cruise is very aware of his status as a 49 year old film star, putting his ego aside to bring the 39 year old Jeremy Renner ( causing trouble a few years back in S.W.A.T., the antagonist to Colin Farrell’s hero cop) into the fold as a key element of this “fantastic four”. Where the A-Team film misfired by bringing too much levity to the table, director Brad Bird does a delicate balancing act…but is almost tempted to fall off that same cliff. Simon Pegg’s Benji reflects Sharlto Copley’s Murdock in the A-Team, and for this critic, it is a bit cloying and problematic: the filmmaker should’ve been relying on Mission Impossible’s strengths…the all business approach: the all-out effort to disarm the sociopath. Isn’t that the goal of every impossible mission of both the TV version and this now spectacular film series?
Smartest move Tom Cruise has made to date is re-establishing this old TV show and utliizing it as his primary film vehicle. Ghost Protocol, the fourth of this franchise, is up there with the first one—eclipsing the film debut when it comes to innovative action scenes, yet missing that marvelous touch a class act like Vanessa Redgrave brought to the party in 1996 with her very appealing character, Max.
The 74 year old actress was a mere 59 years of age in 1996 when M.I. one first hit the screen, and her sparkle would have added a nice touch to this stylish entry. Those aware of the first solid outing were perhaps wondering, as I did, if Mad Max was about to return when the ski mask is given to Cruise/Ethan Hunt before he gets to meet yet another “invisible” arms dealer.
And by the way, I jotted in my notebook while watching the film that the Bond elements were hard to ignore. Great minds think alike as the bevy of reviews – from the Kansas City Star’s Jon Niccum, MSNBC’s Gael Fashingbauer Cooper , critic Kris Fade and other writers on other sites picked up on the shaken-not-stirred flavor of this two hour plus epic immediately, if not torching their headlines with the 007 comparisons. So Paramount/Bird/Cruise make that point very clear. If Daniel Craig is going to drop the ball, the Mission Impossible series can pick up the slack – not with one super spy, but with multiple super sleuths. Tom Cruise will never get to play Bond, just as Interview with a Vampire would have found a wider audience had someone else played Lestat de Lioncourt, but here Cruise does make a great team leader, and his understanding of Euclid’s Axiom will maintain his superstar status, a level of seriousness that rewards him richly – no matter what his offscreen proclivities.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.