‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated December 12th, 2014 at 9:28 pm,

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible   Ghost Protocol Review

Bird takes the series up a notch with enjoyable performances and character dynamics.

Nearly fifteen years after the original Mission: Impossible film debuted (and 45 years after the network TV show), audiences are once again presented with another franchise offering – this time in the form of the Brad Bird-directed installment, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

With a long-standing pedigree of experienced live-action directors helming the Mission: Impossible series (Brian De Palma, John Woo, and J.J. Abrams), Bird might have initially seemed at a disadvantage, given a resume chock-full of animated films (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and The Iron Giant). As a result, has the director succeeded in his “mission” to bring a fresh and stylish M:I installment to the big screen, more than six years after the lukewarm reception of Mission Impossible III?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. While Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (aka Mission Impossible 4) doesn’t hit the mark in every scene or character interaction, the majority of the film is an in-your-face action adventure with a number of enjoyable performances and exciting set pieces. Bird successfully captures the team dynamic of Mission: Impossible, while also making sure that the movie clips along at a quick pace and is filled with stylishly fun moments and the requisite character drama,.

Unlike prior entries (especially Mission: Impossible III), the story in Ghost Protocol is pretty straightforward with a linear race against time to stop a nuclear war. Tom Cruise once again returns as series lead, Ethan Hunt, who is incarcerated in a Russian prison at the opening of the film. When Hunt is sprung from jail, it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught in a shadowy conspiracy – one that doesn’t just result in the decimation of the Moscow Kremlin, but also the dissolution of the entire Impossible Missions Force (aka IMF); that is, with the exception of Hunt and his newly-formed team, which includes Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Jane Carter (Paula Patton). Using limited resources and fleeing for their lives, the trimmed-down IMF squad sets their sites on a mysterious person of interest, “Cobalt,” who is convinced that nuclear war is a necessary evil on the road to peace.

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol Ethan Hunt Mission: Impossible   Ghost Protocol Review

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’

While some franchise fans might wish for a Mission: Impossible film with more twists and turns, Bird’s installment in the series works largely because it keeps the focus grounded in the moment on a number of eye-popping action set-pieces, as well as tense, and interesting, character interactions. As mentioned, prior films in the series have been weighed down by overly-complicated storylines that actually distract from some of the cooler action beats. The trimmed-down plot in M:I4 is by no means thin, and successfully provides a sharp and believable globe-trotting James Bond-like adventure, leaving room for plenty of Bird’s style and sense of humor. Despite the high stakes, the film manages to find an enjoyable balance between the tongue-in-cheek absurdity in the onscreen hijinks, and a tense and relatively realistic tone.

While Cruise has always carried the Mission: Impossible movies, his performance this round is particularly in sync with Bird’s tone and style. Ethan Hunt’s personality, despite being a badass character on principle, has been somewhat amorphous from film to film (definitely hinging on the director’s interpretation), but in Ghost Protocol Cruise finds a great balance between humor and kick-ass action hero. It’s the first time (with the possible exception of the original film) that Ethan doesn’t come across as a hollow tour de force. While some character moments are a little melodramatic, and aren’t as successful as the film’s various action sequences, the story humanizes Hunt: we’re privy to moments of him struggling with loss, frustration, and even his sense of humor.

Some Mission: Impossible fans might have been frustrated by the absence of fan-favorite IMF agent Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), who sits this Mission out. However, the Ghost Protocol team offers a great blend of personalities (and, subsequently, in-the-field talents). Simon Pegg returns as tech-guru Benji Dunn, and much like Cruise, is at home with Bird’s direction, providing a number of memorable comedic moments without compromising the tone or believability of his character’s competency. New to the franchise this round are Renner’s Brandt and Patton’s Carter who, in addition to providing some kick-ass action, offer serious dramatic chops that make the film’s more sentimental moments worthwhile – instead of boring lulls in the action.

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol Simon Pegg Jeremy Renner Paula Patton Mission: Impossible   Ghost Protocol Review

The ‘Ghost Protocol’ Team of Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner.

That said, there are some character elements in the movie – especially Brandt’s backstory and how it fits into the larger Ghost Protocol story – that aren’t as deftly handled as the action. As mentioned, the Ghost Protocol plot is tighter than previous entries, so these character moments don’t ultimately detract from the large-scale action set pieces; however, some moviegoers will consider the thematic implications and character revelations to be pretty flat or even bizarre (such as a conversation about seduction between Carter and Hunt).

Similarly, the Ghost Protocol villain, Kurt Hendricks/”Cobalt” (Michael Nyqvist), is provided with a shocking lack of screen time or ongoing development. Audiences are introduced to the character early on, and everything worth mentioning about Cobalt is dumped out in one minute of IMF team-briefing exposition. The character is presented in the film as a shadowy and complex genius, but unfortunately, Bird never really gives Cobalt a voice. As a result, the character is little more than a flat go-between for the larger plot device of possible nuclear war. Ultimately, Cobalt successfully serves the narrative, but it’s a missed opportunity to craft an engaging villain, and the character is no doubt the least interesting antagonist in the Mission: Impossible film series.

While Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol managed to dodge the current 3D trend in Hollywood, it is still offered as a premium IMAX experience – with roughly 30 minutes shot with IMAX cameras to fill the entire screen. There’s no doubt that the increased scope (not to mention heavy-hitting sound) adds to the experience, especially during the sequence at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. However, while cinephiles (or Bat-fans with a 70 mm IMAX theater nearby) may want to spring for the extra ticket, casual film fans who are merely looking for a hard-hitting action experience aren’t likely to miss much by seeing the film in a conventional theater.

Regardless of which director is at the helm, the Mission: Impossible series has always been about action and cool spy/infiltration scenarios, and there’s no doubt that Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol delivers on those points. Bird takes the series up a notch with enjoyable performances and character dynamics (even if a few fall flat), as well as a straightforward but still intriguing story that keeps the action moving at a steady clip from point “A” to “Mission: Accomplished.”

If you’re still on the fence about Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, check out the trailer below:


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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film below:

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is now in theaters.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. Going to see this right after work, been waiting since I seen the first trailer.

    • FABoulous, you say?

  2. Nice review Ben !! Thanks!

    • Cheers. Glad it was helpful GK.

  3. So it is an action fest with passable characters and story line. I enjoyed the first one and don’t even recall if I saw the others.

    I believe I did but I think I just forgot about them.

    From the review it is probably a wait until the ticket price is reduced or catch it on NFlix.

  4. i wanna go see it in Imax so bad, hopefully tomorrow.

  5. The IMAX effect wore off after the first 15 min for me but it’s a must-see in theaters, regardless.

    • So 6 minutes of TDKR and 9 minutes of MI4?

  6. My girlfriend and I saw it last night. TDKR prologue and the entire MI4 movie was amazing in full IMAX (saw it in Orlando) and well worth it for film nerds/students like myself. Definitely worth the ticket price and the best in the series.

  7. I got to ask, does Cruise say any dumbass lines that are forced into the dialog that have no need to be in the movie at all?

    Example: in M:I3 “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…” I don’t remember the rest of that ridiculous line. I left the theater right then and there.

    • Personally, I felt like the dialogue in this one was sharper than the other ones – which were pretty cheesy at times. As mentioned in the review, there’s a pretty awkward exchange between Hunt and Carter on the subject of seduction (but it’s not as bas as Humpty Dumpty).

      • @Ben

        Did you catch the character change in ETHAN HUNT in MI4, the change in how he responds to the more comedic lines from the other characters (normally his own team members)? For example when Benji would make a somewhat idiotic comment/statement (at least one that was inappropriate for the setting) the response from Cruises Hunt was more of a “Are you serious, am I dreaming” and all without saying it, using strictly facial expressions. It was almost like as if HUNT himself was mentally operating in another place and when his team members like Benji would say or do something unprofessional/inappropriate for an IMF Agent in the field, it would briefly snap him back to this reality (mentally speaking) and that would leave him temporarily uncertain as to how to respond or act?

        Its kind of hard to explain but hopefully the above comes close.

    • Cool. Isn’t it like a rough footage preview of DKR? But the action in MI 4 looks sweeet.

    • I’m actually keen for this one, mostly for the dubia building stunt & Simon peggs is back?? Awesome!!

    • That too bad for you. Personally I rather enjoyed M:I3 but then again…I have a sense of humor. Laugh a little and move on, life’s not that serious. You walked out of the movie after that one line? then I have to assume you sneaked into the movie, because no one with any good sense, would pay full price for a movie and then walk out because they didn’t like one line. That’s really immature, and a waste of time and energy.

      • Well, by that point I was already annoyed with the movie, the line was the last straw. I don’t care much for terrible jokes that have absolutely nothing to do with the scene or movie for that matter. What had me annoyed before that was the terrible helicopter scene at the beginning of the movie, I let that side in hopes the movie would get better, there were a few other things that bothered, but not bad enough to make note of.

  8. Tired of cruise action film’s when he has a solo movie for that character he had in tropic thunder please let me know.

    • lol he wons everyone by some role of his. Les Grossman was legendary!

  9. So there’s something worth sitting for after TDKR prologue! Good to know! ;)

  10. This movie seems to be the one to see this weekend, then Sherlock Holmes. SH is getting moderate reviews but this film is getting very good reviews; I would have expected the reverse.

    I plan on seeing this on an IMAX screen (mainly because of TDKR), and may go to see SH right after. Great review Ben.

    • IMO the reviews are a little skewed. They both appear big on action but short on story/characters.

      So that should equate to them both being about the same.

      Just from the (written) reviews alone I put SH over MI.

    • “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is the one to see this weekend!

      • Great movie for sure but… sadly, not for everyone.

      • Yea no thanks, Im not intrested lol

      • Unfortunately, it’s not playing anywhere near me. :-(

        • Me neither. It’s ridiculous.

    • Thanks Kahless.

      Aknot – I’ve screened them both and think the review scores are accurate – with MI:4 a bit higher. Sherlock Holmes is entertaining but roughly the same as the first one and MI:4 was a welcome surprise. Fans of Sherlock will no doubt enjoy it but, for my money, I’d recommend MI:4.

      • Well said…iv been waitin on screenrants review before I go see it, and based this n other reviews im going to give it a chance

      • Ben…. you may be right. ;) I ate my crow in the SH thread. The wife wanted SH though so that one I had to see…..

        MI will be seen within the week.

  11. Went to see it last night in IMAX, unfortunately only 70 mil IMAX theaters are showing the TDKR preview, so I would have to go to LA to see it, otherwise Mission Impossible was an awesome movie, fast paced and believable for the most part, was nice to see then work as a team instead of Ethan doing all the work, this worked much better and you got to see other characters involved. Well worth it in IMAX with the loud sound system, had me on the edge of my seat towards the end, was funny I was thinking to myself this is only a movie but it sure did have me going, so it is worth the price of the ticket.

  12. Great review and a fantastic flick! It’s been the first action film I’ve seen in a long while where I’ve actually been intensely concerned for the main character! The tension and action stunts are so well done and shot and definitely worth the extra dough for IMAX. I wa thoroughly impressed with this film. Personally, I enjoyed the linear storyline. It honestly made the action far more enjoyable, as most everything in the film is a race against time and the action is so solid it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I really went just to see the first 6 minutes of tdkr, which was freakin fantastic!!!!! But the film surprised me for the better! Highly recommend it!

  13. Kind of lame that you can not see in a typical theater untill next week. Bright side. Gives me more time to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie.

  14. how many hand to hand fight scenes are there in total and how well where they shot (shaky cam or normal distant stuff?)? the trailers haven’t convinced me to watch this and i’m not really a fan of tommy cruise (he has god mode in all his movies) so it all comes down to how good the action and fight scenes are (trailer made it look as if it has alot of shaky cam).

    • You can rest easy. Brad Bird is not one to advocate shaky-realistic hand cam. Every camera movement in MI:4 is as smooth as Burj Kalifa’s glass surface. This is Mission Impossible afterall. Not Bourne or Transformer

  15. Cool (nice review Ben).
    Can’t wait to see this one :D

  16. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but without a doubt MI4 is hands down the best of the series. I had some reservations about Brad Bird making the transition from animation to live action, but all that is in the past. The acting and action were excellent and the story wasn’t bad. All round it was definitely one of the years best action films.

  17. Disagree with you saying that fans won’t miss much by watching it in normal 2D. Saw it in both formats, and I strongly recommend everyone to watch in IMAX, million times better

  18. The stunts and cinematography was ok -for a James Bond movie; but since when was Mission Impossible about those? Where are my plot twists? Where’s the betrayal? I found the movie to be frankly too cheesy, and very flat. It’s no where close to the brilliance of the first one, or the complete experience the third one offered.

    • There was enough betrayal in the first three movies: An agent gone bad. Got a bit tiresome. Time for a change.

  19. Went and saw MI4 in Imax today. Wow was it worth it. A fun film to watch. Also the Dark Knight looks great. We didnt have the big long trailer but it was a trailer.

  20. i loved it. great action and solid direction. very exciting. on par with mission impossible 3!

  21. So I just got home from this movie and it was awesome but i didn’t get to see the prologue of TDKR. Just a trailer which was still sweet. But does anyone know why? I went in IMAX, is it only at select Imax theaters?

  22. Huge fan of the first film. The second one was hilarious apart from Metallica’s amazing soundtrack(which sadly only appeared during the credits). Third one was a step in the right directions, while still offering some sad cheese. As a swede I’d hope Michael Nyqvist would have gotten a bit more screen time in this one, judging by your review. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy it. :)

  23. I enjoyed the show overall. By far the weakest link for me was Patton. She seemed to have two faces; one for stoicism, other for having an emotion. By the middle I wasn’t sure if she was mouth breathing because someone farted or just that freakin’ bad. Hot, yes, and good on action, but dammit for a character that was pretty much Jo Lupo from Eureka they could’ve hired Erica Cerra and received a much better performance.

    There’s a few groan worthy lines, and the villain (per Ben’s review) is a missed opportunity, but I enjoyed this one as much as the first film all those years ago. Simon Pegg is a gem in this one, and a thoroughly enjoyable character on this go around, and Renner does okay.

    The big sets and the awesome sound almost demand the theater. I saw it at a Regal on their RPX, and the experience was something else. No TDKR prologues or such there.

    Great review, Ben. Thanks!

  24. One of the things I liked best about this latest movie was the new team joining Hunt and the late showing Stickwell. That includes Agent Carter (Paula Patton). Patton was a fantastic choice for the role, and one of the best leading ladies this movie franchise has seen. Her acting was on point and she did a fine job – no replacements needed unless they want to mess up the next film.

  25. To the site:

    I don’t understand the point in posting the comments out of order so it looks like someone that posted two days before I did is replying to me. Weird.

    • Janice, they don’t arrange the comments out of order: every comment is usually sorted and displayed according to who posted first.

      That comment at the bottom of the page (posted by “Jace”), is most likely just a glitch, kay? ;)

  26. I went into the film with mixed expectations just because I was sad to hear that Julia and Luther wouldn’t be back. Somehow, and I wont give away any spoilers, but the screenwriters went in a hell of a good direction. It was fresh, exciting, funny, good action, and of course it was good to see Cruise back doing what he does best. Like the review said, my only disappointment was that the villian, like the review said, didn’t get enough screentime. Less memorable, but still sinister enough. Overall, I would give it a 9 out of 10, easily surpasses any of the other missions. Hats off to Tom Cruise, Brad Bird and JJ Abrams.

  27. This was a really good movie, as was the third installment. Looking forward ti another, although I hope that the next one will wrap it up for Ethan Hunt

  28. This franchise gets better and better, looking forward for the next one.

  29. Not sure if anyone else has maid this comment or not but the female IMF Agent, Jane Carter (Paula Patton) was incredibly hot and was very much like what I would envision the modern day Daniel Craig BOND series bond girl would look like. I’ve been to see this twice and both times I was breathless when Agent Carter was in character as VENUS in the India scene. I know some would disagree but in that dress/hairstyle/makeup/ect she was quite possibly the hottest woman in Hollywood.