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Film review: Brad Bird adds wit to 'Mission: Impossible'

December 23, 2011|By Andy Klein
  • Paula Patton plays Jane and Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in "Mission Impossible --- Ghost Protocol." (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions)
Paula Patton plays Jane and Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt…

“Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” gallops into theaters almost exactly on schedule — its predecessors came out in 1996, 2000 and 2006 — and (more importantly) just in time to rescue Tom Cruise's flagging box-office numbers. Outside of his funny, if bizarre, guest spot in “Tropic Thunder,” his films since the last entry (“Lions for Lambs,” “Valkyrie” and the underrated “Knight and Day”) have all underperformed. The utterly enjoyable “M:I — GP” should fix all that.

Cruise has hired different directors for each “M:I” feature, from veteran Brian de Palma to transcendent transplant John Woo to TV prodigy J.J. Abrams, who had never before directed a feature. This time he has hired someone who has never even directed live-action before — animator Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”). Daring ... and entirely worth it.

“M:I — GP” opens in Budapest, where another IMF agent (Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer in “Lost”) is trying to steal a briefcase full of MacGuffins (nuclear launch codes, if it makes any difference). Things go awry, and the other members of the team — Jane (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg) — are instructed to round up Ethan (Cruise) to take over. The problem is: Ethan is doing hard time in a Moscow prison (for reasons we only learn about later).

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They spring him, and in no time — I mean, really, it's the same day — he masterminds a scheme to break into the Kremlin and steal ... um ... actually I can't remember what they're stealing ... . Launch codes? A personnel file? The Hope Diamond? It doesn't make any difference — that's how MacGuffins work — because all we care about it that the gizmos they use are so cool. On the high-tech side, there's a more or less feasible invisibility shield. (I've seen it demonstrated on NatGeo.) On the medium-tech side, there's a teeny periscope camera attached to an iPad (or maybe it's Android-platform, who cares?) for seeing around corners.

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