Love him or hate him (I'm, personally, of the former persuasion), but Tom Cruise has a star power some actors strive for their entire careers. While his death-defying stunts in his wildly popular--though many recently condemned--action movies have helped catapult him to the A-list, it shouldn't be forgotten that he's no slouch in the dramatic or comedic departments either.
But with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Cruise proves that he still has a firm grip on one of the coolest action franchises of all time. While this fourth installment, which follows agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise), Benji (Simon Pegg) and newbie agent Jane (Paula Patton), on their latest dangerous assignment in India, isn't nearly as slick as the original 1996 film, it still manages to keep audiences at the edge of their seats. In fact, the visual eye candy in the movie ups the ante for the series. Director Brad Bird really really uses the gorgeous landscape in the country to create spectacular scenes.
For instance, we've all seen Cruise straddle the world's tallest mountains and jump out of burning buildings, but, in Ghost Protocol, the star tackles one of mother nature's most vicious elements--a sandstorm. While chasing after the ominous villain, Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), in one of the movie's epic pursuit scenes, Cruise battles harsh winds and spinning gravel (while probably getting a terrific facial) as the rest of the scene literally, and beautifully, gets swept away.
With the addition of newcomer Patton, the movie takes a more emotional turn than we've seen earlier in the series. Without giving too much away, Jane (Patton) is on her own revenge kick, which ends up softening her stride while hardening her blow. And Ethan still pines for his long-lost wife. The losses felt by both characters further fuels their efforts.
What's interesting about this movie is the unexpected comic relief not only from the effortlessly hilarious Pegg, but also from Jeremy Renner, who joins the franchise as Brandt, a shady chief analyst. Pegg's spot-on hilarity as the silly yet genius geek spy is perfect, especially alongside Renner's fish-out-of-water corporate schmuck turn accidental action hero. When Ethan becomes too recognizable to remain anonymous, Renner reluctantly falls into the role of his action replacement, with flying colors.
So, will there be another movie in the series? I hope so, but it has to be the same team. Patton, Renner, and Pegg have great chemistry with Cruise, who still spearheads the massive franchise with simultaneous elegance and brute force, which is what the movie calls for. One of the great mainstays of the franchise has been its strong female characters, like Jane and Sabine Moreau (a simply mesmerizing uber villain played by Léa Seydoux), who are both sensitive and frightening at the same time. They may be stunning to look at, but they are anything but predictable. Remember Emmanuelle Béart from the first movie? Yeah. Like that.
Although it lacks some of its original slickness and more surprising twists, Ghost Protocol really breathes new life into the franchise. It will interesting to see where this takes off next, and whether Patton and Renner will be there for the ride.