By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- GHOST PROTOCOL review (Grade: B+ )
I'll just say it: with Jackie Chan arthritic and far past his prime and Tony Jaa retired and living in solitude as a monk, Tom Cruise is the world's greatest stuntman-actor. The commitment and athleticism shown by the soon to be 50-year-old over the course of his career, and the Mission Impossible films in particular, is truly astounding. There's a vertigo-inducing, shot on-location action sequence in this film that earns Cruise a spot in the history of great film stunts. Though audiences may come for the element of real danger, there's plenty more to enjoy in the film that's built around that sequence.
True, it doesn't have the intensity and heart of the franchise-best Mission Impossible III, the new film, Ghost Protocol, is a fine addition to the franchise. Yes, its lukewarm plot is recycled from a dozen Cold War era Bond films and the villain lacks the memorable menace Phillip Seymore Hoffman brought to the last film, but this is easily the most breezy and entertaining film of the series. This is thanks in no small part to this truly being a team effort, with terrific supporting turns by Jeremy Renner (The Avengers), Paula Patton (Deja Vu) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek). Together with Cruise, this team (and their alternately tense and funny interplay) is the best argument for the continuation of this franchise.
Director Brad Bird (Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) makes a fine segway into live action films with imaginative gadgets, memorable heroes, and a keen eye for what used to make adventure films engaging. In other words, it's got a sense of fun, it's got action scenes that are shot and edited with the notion that audiences actually want to see the action (as opposed to catching glimpses of it through quick cuts and shaky camerawork), and it's got fallible heroes whose best laid plans often fail, forcing them to think on their feet.
The only real letdown comes in how this movie handles the love story from the film that preceded it: the producers are clearly trying to maintain the integrity of their protagonist while freeing him for secret missions untethered from domestic bliss, and though it works, it's not as satisfying as the “into the sunset” finale of MI3. As a continuation of that story, it feels like an unnecessary chapter; on its own, however, Ghost Protocol delivers fun, style, danger, and adrenaline and is one of the better action films of the year.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Mission Impossible- Ghost Protocol is rated PG-13. It has a handful of mild profanities and one comedic use of the s-word. There is no sexuality or nudity, though a woman acts like she's going to seduce a man as part of a cover (she just walks with him to his room, it's not vulgar) but interrogates him instead. The film has plenty of action violence, fighting, and shooting. A man's neck is broken just off-screen; heroes frequently twist the limbs of their opponents to disable them.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Success often depends on teamwork, cooperation, and the application of the strengths and talents of all involved. We are to be united and to value one another.
Fans of Mission: Impossible and risky stunts should check out my high school Mission: Impossible fan-film, made for our Latter-day Saint seminary in 1998. Check out the action clip above and watch the full film here.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.