Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by:Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Nyqvist
Released: December 15, 2011
Grade: A-

A suite of quality dramas being released in Australia over the next month in the lead up to next February’s Academy Awards – War Horse, The Iron Lady, Albert Nobbs, Melancholia, The Descendants and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The release of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol therefore comes at a perfect time.  It’s to cater for those who aren’t in the mood for a deep, heartfelt drama.  You can relax in your seat (hopefully with a bucket of popcorn in your hands) and enjoy some of the best action of the year.  There’s life in this series yet!

The far-fetched plot is nothing new.  It feels as if it’s been stolen from a James Bond flick.  Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his new team are after a crazy Russian businessman named Kurt Hendricks (Nvqvist) who is out to destroy the world.  Hendricks is after three items – a nuclear weapon, launch codes and a satellite.  It’s the standard shopping list for any villain.

It’s going to be another challenging assignment but to make it even more difficult, Agent Hunt no longer has the backing of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF).  An explosion at the Kremlin was blamed on Hunt and the President has ordered that the entire IMF be shut down.  It’s now up to Hunt and his three-member team to catch Hendricks, clear their names and prevent a nuclear catastrophe.

The script won’t take home any awards but you won’t care once you’ve seen the unrelenting action sequences.  My eyes were glued to the screen and my heart rate definitely increased!  The film’s signature moment is midway through and features Tom Cruise scaling the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, without any kind of harness.  It put my fear of heights to the test.

Director Brad Bird deserves praise for the way in which these scenes have been pulled together.  The camera angles are well chosen, they haven’t been over-edited, and the special effects are seamless.  It doesn’t have that “computer generated” feel that so many action films have today (such as Immortals or Transformers).  I’ve said it many times – the best way to create suspense in an action movie is to make the situations look real.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol does just that.

I admit to being a little surprised given Brad Bird’s career to date has revolved around animated films.  He was an executive consultant on The Simpsons throughout the 1990s before stepping up and directing two brilliant animated features – The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007).  Both earned Bird an Academy Award.  This is the first time that Bird has directed a major live action movie and I’m now confident it won’t be the last.

Tom Cruise has been hit-and-miss over the past decade but this film should steer his career back on the right path.  His passionate, full-on persona suits the role of Ethan Hunt.  He also doesn’t look too bad for someone who turns 50 next year.  Simon Pegg (Shaun Of The Dead) provides the film’s comic relief as a smart-ass computer guru and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) is also good as an analyst who is reluctantly drawn into the mission.

Has there been a better action film this year?  I don’t think so.