Before I start, I want to mention one thing. I think this film is almost as bad as Charlie’s Angels was for really blatant product placement. It’s really quite distracting, it’s so badly done. I appreciate the costs of a modern film make it almost necessary but come on.
Normally, the changeover from a numbered sequel to a genre-specific title signals a disavowal of the previous instalments in a series. For Mission: Impossible, this would seem like the obvious route to take. After the original outing, the series took a sharp downward turn with the second instalment – what the dire tie-in pseudo-metal soundtrack and ridiculous continuity didn’t manage to kill stone dead, the dust-dry chemistry and writing finished off – and the third suffered as a result. I don’t doubt it made a reasonable return – here we are after all with number four in our laps, writhing away for all it’s worth – but I doubt many can actually remember the plot of MI:III.
So, it was a bit of surprise that Ghost Protocol leans heavily on the back of MI:III, with Ethan all moody and stoic, and everyone else treading on eggshells around him over the fact that he’s no longer with his wife. In fact, it ends up the movie’s greatest flaw. Because the third instalment was so ethereal, there’s no impact to the various revelations about Julia (his wife), and Ethan’s responses to that. The coda at the end especially falls flat, an oddly detached few minutes of dialogue and apparently significant cameo action that floats free of the rest of the film, untethered and unconnected.
Even without this major, major issue hampering the story, the rest of it feels too anachronistic to actually make sense. The point of impetus – a team of US black ops specialists is disavowed in a brutal and public fashion is fair enough, but it’s quite a generic jumping-off point. RED did much the same, with much better results, and the inclusion of a GI: Joe – Retaliation trailer before the film did nothing to help matters. What follows after, though, is just so irrelevant that it almost feels like a joke.
Rogue nuclear strategist wants to set off a Global Nuclear conflict that will “touch the lives of every human being on the planet” by firing a single nuclear missile from a USS- I mean, uh, Sovi-, ummm wait, Russian submarine? It’s like Reagan never had a second term and the INF never happened. If that wasn’t mind-boggling enough, a Serbian hit squad – plucked from the early 90’s presumably – is muddled into things to try and pad out the obvious lack of content.
It’s like the writers aren’t even trying. There’s the usual mentions of terrorism, and a vague threat about how the US will pin a crime on Hunt’s head, but there isn’t a lot of tension to derive from that. The only person actually chasing the IMF agents is a Russian from some undisclosed law enforcement agency – since there’s no KGB now, it’s apparently left to the viewer’s imagination to actually come up with a name or a motivation for the pursuer – and he is so lacking in manpower and resource that his few appearances do little to add anything approaching tension.
Even disavowed, the IMF seems to have infinite reach and resources, ignores all boundaries and jurisdictions, and has zero accountability. They live in a magical fairy land where the international reputation of the US isn’t being ceaselessly eroded by the kind of black-bag hijinks the agents get up to. The mission dialogue at the very end of the movie is worthy of a special mention, as the cool, robotic voice informs Ethan that persons unknown are hacking into US unmanned drones – presumably the tip-off was a sudden drop in the number of awkward questions Hilary Clinton had to ignore about civilian deaths in Pakistan?
So, yeah. Between the blithe assumption that the viewing audience has no greater grasp of world affairs other than the cast-off historical assumption that the Red Menace is still lurking out there somewhere and a necessary reliance on the events of a largely forgettable precursor, Mission: Impossible isn’t worth the cinema queue.