On Second Thought: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

Sequels are tough. They’re notoriously considered inferior, and only meant to bring in money for the studios that release them. Try as we may, try as we might, we seldom fully come around to them, even after we’ve seen them. If only the various people involved in making sequels could learn from the failures of others. There’d be far less terrible follow ups out there.

The Paramount Pictures film “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”, fortunately, isn’t one of these bad sequels, as it takes everything you love about this film series, and expect, and amps it all up to 11!

This action film stars Tom Cruise (“Edge of Tomorrow”, “Oblivion”), Jeremy Renner (upcoming “Story of Your Life”, “Captain America: Civil War”), Simon Pegg (“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”), Paula Patton (upcoming films “The Do Over”, “Warcraft“), Michael Nyqvist (upcoming films “A Serious Game”, “I.T.”), Vladimir Mashkov (upcoming “The Duelist”, “Ekipazh”), Josh Holloway (“Colony”, “Intelligence”), Anil Kapoor (upcoming episode “Family Guy”, “Welcome Back”), and Lea Seydoux (upcoming films “The Lobster”, “It’s Only the End of the World”).

The film was directed by Brad Bird (“Tomorrowland”, “Ratatouille”) and written by Josh Appelbaum (upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”, “Zoo”) and Andre Nemec (upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”, “Zoo”). The film is based on the TV series created by Bruce Geller.

The film originally debuted on Dec. 16, 2011.

Not many films can continuously wow me with each viewing. Ever since I saw this film in theaters, not once, but twice, I have loved every aspect of this film! It’s incredible, and is definitely my favorite in the series, at least, right now. It’s pretty much a blueprint on how to execute a fun and memorable action film. If only others could be just as much fun. Too often there seems to be a lot of recycling going on. Thankfully this film worked out so well, or we wouldn’t have gotten the sequel, which I hear is also amazing and just as good, if not better. If these film’s can continue to up the stakes and the adrenaline infused action, it may be one franchise worth keeping around for awhile more, even without Cruise. But, let’s face it, he’ll never stop doing these film’s as it’s really the only thing he’s good at, which is also pretty sad. I can’t remember the last thing where he actually had to really act or show a lot of emotion. Regardless, that’s not for now, but another time. What is for now, is looking at what makes this film so amazing to watch and even better then its predecessor.

BIGGER & GRANDER!!!

That truly sums up EVERY aspect of this film. EVERY component needed to bring this film to life, that I could immediately notice, was on display in an even better way than the third mission out. In some ways, I was given hope for sequels.

One thing I loved this time around is the action and the score, which definitely worked hand in hand this time. Score in general is meant to affect you in some emotional way, and here it does it even better than the previous film. I went on about composer Michael Giacchino in my piece on “Mission: Impossible III”, so I’ll do my best not to this time. I was thinking on it, before tackling this section, and it dawned on me why I like Giacchino so much. It’s this score. Prior to hearing other previous works of his or his most recent, this one just did it for me the most. It was more complex and definitely suited this film’s story. I love it so much, that occasionally, I allow it to be my guide when I go out for runs, which sometimes ends up not being such a good idea. Anyway, in this film, because of how he composed this film, and the various action sequences, all of which are so much bigger and well thought out than before, plus the impact and overall experience is still something I’m surprised by. I can get pulled in each time.

Two action sequences, which utilize Giacchino’s score well, and in turn makes these sequences even better are all the Dubai set action, and the finale parking garage. Okay, the Dubai stuff is really a lot of action sequences or moments, but throughout Giacchino doesn’t disappoint. He starts by making sure to ease you in, and then unleashes everything for one big reveal! It’s all so big and sweeps over you as you take in Dubai and head towards the building known as Burj Khalifa, a massive skyscrape. This in turn leads us to some suspenseful, fun, and well executed action sequences and moments. When watching the film this time, the way I reacted, you’d think I hadn’t seen this part of the film before. Breathtaking. The parking garage was another big sequence that became so much more with the aid of well composed score. With this particular action sequence being so big and complex, and on a fully constructed parking garage, it needed something equally as big. I feel that trough the use of all those various horns and strings, he succeeded in this. To me, Giacchino’s always been a composer who really knows how to use the instruments at his disposal.

While we know that Cruise is highly capable when it comes to action, as that’s all he’s been doing for the better part of several years now, There’s other’s in the film too. They get opportunities to play and showcase what badasses they really are. Pegg get’s more to do, and somewhat get’s to show how his character has grown, but not a whole lot. He gets taken out by Seydoux, which I’ll get to in a moment. Renner has a few incredible moments, which was before he became known for other action films the following year. He, like Cruise, is clearly capable and can make complex choreographed fights look amazing! Well, and other stunts too.

And no, I didn’t forget Patton. Patton was actually given a lot to do! She had an emotional story arc and she had a lot of fight sequences, considerably more than Maggie Q did in the previous film. For some reason, I’m not sure what, I love when women are in fight or action sequences. It’s somehow more exciting, or something. I don’t think it has anything to do with this cliché and ridiculous idea that, it’s a “cat fight” between two women. That’s juvenile and stupid. Anyway, regardless of the reason behind my love of action involving women, the sequences with Patton were great! None more so than her fight with Seydoux. Everything preceding it was great, too, but when it came time for the two women to face off, especially given how the film begins, it was wonderful! It was the right amount of intense and gritty, emotional, and well choreographed. Patton and Seydoux really appeared to give it there all, and it looked like they did quite a bit of the fighting. In action films, and TV shows, there’s nothing I love more than seeing an actor do all the stunts they can, themselves.
In this film, like the previous, which I was surprised by, there was a lot of character growth, for everyone. New and old characters weren’t just fun to watch, but they were given the chance to touch your heart. Constantly throughout this film, and all the way up to the end, there was always some character insight, which was usually led by a deep emotional component. Not only did this guide them and show us who they were, but it was done in a genuine way. Everything dramatic just fell perfectly into place, and it continued some storylines from the previous film. Not many films do this. It certainly provided a stronger center, and a reason to truly care for this characters. Being a bad ass can only take you so far.

While none of these characters really had quirks or eccentricities, to speak of, they did shine through best, and most, while working as a team. I’d say even better than the previous team, which is the good and bad about each of these films. Rather quickly in the film can see how they all function, and it’s not just out of the need to accomplish the given mission. They genuinely know how to work together, which is weird, given that in this film, they’d really only just met, and Pegg’s character hasn’t had much experience in the field. Whatever, something easy to overlook. Within this group, which really adjusted quickly to changing dynamics, but I guess that makes sense given what they do, they also managed to showcase something else. Humor. Now, mind you, that’s mostly the writers doing, but as it’s the characters bringing this humor to life, they pull it off very well. Each little humorous moment landed, and gave this action film a much different feel. It’s rare to get action films that can balance humor and action, be it intentionally or not. It certainly a welcome addition to an already stellar film.

I may have loved the locations in the previous film, but they definitely can’t hold up against the ones used this time! It’s not just that the locations they shot in are different, but it’s how they showcased them. Two stood out more, although one even more so. They shot in Mumbai and Dubai, along with several other places that doubled for others, including sets that were built for this film. It was the time in Dubai and Mumbai that just wowed me, but that’s because these locals were filmed to showcase the beauty. In the case of Dubai, which wow’d me the most, it’s because of the skyscraper Burj Khalifa and the extended sequences shot there. Immediately, to set us up in that location, the enormity that is the building was showcased, which includes the area surrounding the building. So much to see, so much to love. Throw in everything else that happens, and the way it’s shot, and you’ve got one helluva view and experience. Traveling without leaving your seat.

Gadgets are tough to talk about, I realized now, mainly as they’re not so much grand or bigger, but cooler and way more fun! There were so many more and they’re all really cool!! Even seeing iPhones was exciting, and don’t get me wrong, I love iPhones, especially if used like iPhones, but they’re just iPhones. Nothing really to get overly excited about. The gadgets in this film had me super excited! Even the little things, like the ring Holloway uses to knock out his target, were fun little touches. The more noticeable gadgets, which are also my favorites, included, the gloves Cruise uses, the rover thing of Pegg’s, and the contact lens’s used by Holloway and Renner. They allowed for bigger and more exhilarating stunts, which of course didn’t go exactly as planned. Plus, as one would expect, they showcase IMF’s sophistication and all that they can do and will do in order to accomplish any given mission. How can you not love that?!

While everything else was bigger and amazing, some things only work in small and mild doses. Like the previous film, and executed quite well so they came off naturally, there were cameos, references and twists! Hell, even the cameos were originally kind of a twist, and I now regard them for how brilliant they were. They were so well executed, that again, it’s why it’s a good thing when you see J.J. Abrams’ name on anything having to do with a given movie or tv show. I’ve also apparently forgotten, even with having seen the previous film, what a good twist can be and feel like. If you’re caught up enough in the moment, and thus the action, it’s going to hit you in the best possible way. Hopefully it fuels your desire to really want to know more, not simply because the story needs to be filled in and completed. On the reference front, I sadly counted only one particular reference, but it is by far my favorite of all the references or Easter eggs that regularly pop up in an Abrams produced anything. In this case it’s the simple, yet amazing, number 47. Cruise and Renner were looking for the railcar that served as their safe house? Regrouping area? Place to lay low? honestly I have no idea, and I don’t care what it’s called, even though they gave it a specific name in the film. They were looking for it and the identifier was the number 47. It’s a truly special number.

Some sequels can surprise you. Yes, really, they can. They end up not only being good, but being so much better than the previous, and so much better than you probably thought possible. It truly is a rarity, but it does happen, and that’s what helps make a long running franchise worth seeing time and again. While this is definitely a good thing, sometimes I do wish the creatives behind the follow-up films would fumble a bit. I could use a break every now and then. Just a thought.

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