Tom Cruise is back in action with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, a summer popcorn flick being released for some reason at Christmas. This also marks live-action directorial debut of Brad Bird, whose animated work includes The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
Opening with a brief confusing prologue with Josh Holloway (in what's barely a cameo) and then a rousing prison escape sequence to spring Cruise from a captivity (whose reason is doled out throughout the plot), the IMF trio of Cruise, a returning Simon Pegg, and new face Paula Patton (she was the teacher in Precious) are on the move to Moscow to sneak into the Kremlin to find out who is behind the McGuffin of stolen Russian launch codes. But the bad guys are already there and the USA is framed for blowing the place up, leaving the IMF totally disavowed and on the run. To save the world and clear their names, the three and Jeremy Renner trek to Dubai and Mumbai - it's the *bai World Tour! - to stop the bad guys (and girl) from whatever they're up to.
And that's the problem with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the same issue weak James Bond movies have: lame villains. I think the head baddie is trying to end the world for some vague pseudo-scientific reason and the sidekicks are hired guns, but why are they helping a guy bent on triggering global thermonuclear war when they'll have to live on the ruined Earth? One scene implies that one bad guy is disguised as another bad guy, but it makes no sense. Other than a oblique video clip, we never get much sense of who the bad guy is and what he wants to do. I know it's a trope to have the mustache-twirling bad guy monologue about his schemes, but M:IGP could have benefited from a bit of expository detail. (No, that's not something you stick up your butt.)
Bird's action set pieces are quite good, especially Cruise's climb up the tallest building in the world and subsequent chase in a dust storm and the final fight in an automated car-parking tower. There isn't much shaky-cam, but they could've backed the camera up to capture the geography a little. The performances are adequate, but Pegg steals every scene he's in.
I'd heard good things about the IMAX presentation and was considering dropping the $13.75 to see it at the Henry Ford IMAX Theater, but I'm sure glad I didn't.* I sat dead center about four rows from the front and the normal frame most of the movie is in was so large that when it popped to the full 1.44:1 IMAX ratio, it was well above and below the the eyeline; it didn't feel like it was drawing me in more. Perhaps if I'd sat in the back - I was in the back of the line, so those seats were taken when I got into the room - the effect would've been more acute, but seeing it in a nice big normal movie theater will suffice.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a quite acceptable action flick that puts more emphasis on the spectacle than the story and thus renders it superfluous. If you're missing the warmth of summer and want some cheap thrills, accept the mission to see it, but don't pay $14 for the ride.
Score: 7/10. Catch a matinee or dollar show at a big-screened theater.
* Because it was a free preview screening, they ran the film ahead past the previews and, most importantly, the hotly anticipated prologue from The Dark Knight Rises introducing Bane. Thanks for nothing, killjoys.