Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie Review: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol (+video)

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Sixteen years on from the first big screen revival, this largely gripping fourth instalment in Tom Cruise's action franchise is still taking its cues from the original TV show.

Those messages are still self-destructing in five seconds (isn't there an app for that?). The Secretary is still disavowing any knowledge. The more photogenic members of the IMF team are still required to pack evening wear so they can crash jetset parties in foreign palaces while their colleagues do a bit of rewiring out back.

The deja vu doesn't stop there. No, despite M:I3 going all War on Terror, this one has a Bond-throwback story of Cold War peril with villain Kurt Hendricks (Nyqvist) and his plot to kick off a nuclear war ... well, it's not so much a plot as an itinerary.

Sometimes it feels all those locations - Budapest, Moscow, Dubai, Mumbai with a San Francisco coda - weren't so much scripted but selected on the basis that there were enough local car dealerships for the film's prominent product placement marque to replace all those deployed airbags.

Fourth movie along, this is also referencing its own greatest hits - like the fly-by-wire dive into the high security computer room of the first film and the rock-climb prologue of the second.

This has Cruise's Ethan Hunt clambering up the side of the world's tallest building, Dubai's Burj Khalifa in what's become the film's poster and proof of its live-action cred.

Cruise did the vertical hard yards himself, presumably with safety wires later digitally removed. The sequence is stunning and vertigo-inducing, especially on an IMAX screen.

Combined with the other Dubai scenes (including the film's best fight and a chase, only one of which involve Cruise), it makes for quite a climax.

Only problem is, it's in the middle of the film. What follows down Mumbai way just isn't as exciting, especially with a tedious time at one of those aforementioned parties.

Not helping either is a confusing sideline about Hunt's wife who featured heavily in M:I3, who may be connected to William Brandt (Renner), the mysterious new draftee into the IMF squad.

Hunt also gets the help of boffin Benji (Pegg), promoted into the field after the last film and on system hacking and one-liner duties here, and Jane Carter (Patton) as the team's resident action babe.

That this is probably the best team effort - and least Cruise-dependent - of the four movies is undoubtedly down to director Brad Bird. The first-time live-action director has already delivered one classic squad before in The Incredibles. He was the director of Ratatouille, another Pixar hit too. Both films won Oscars and did bigger box offices than any Mission: Impossible film, so the animator may well be undaunted by his supposed promotion to the big league.

Even aside from Cruise playing Spider-Man 123 storeys up, Bird's eye view makes this a visual wonder, as does his precision pacing. That's whether it's a scene involving an invisibility device, an explosion at a major Moscow landmark, or another showing that even when you are pursuing a nuke-the-world madman through a Dubai sandstorm, that yes, there's an app for it.

Funnily enough, for a film made by a man who made his previous movies on computers, this is the least gadget-powered M:I film yet. The team are constantly thwarted by the unreliability of all that hi-tech gear, the subsequent laughs helping to distract from the film's mounting implausibilities.

And for the most part, M:I4 is as stupidly exciting and entertaining as fans of the previous films might hope. It's just a pity that the fun doesn't last.

The franchise's famous fuse burns brightly, yes, but it just doesn't keep sparking all the way to the end.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist
Director: Brad Bird
Rating: M (violence) Running time: 133 mins
Verdict: Fun fourth flick peaks too early

- NZ Herald

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