The first thing I will point out in my comments about the newest installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise is that the above image is not green-screened. Tom Cruise really did this.
SO THAT'S COOL I GUESS.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is easily the best installment of the franchise and I find it hard to believe any upcoming sequels will top it. Brad Bird - one of my all-time favorite filmmakers - has revived a franchise I would have considered dead with an excellent action movie that I would never have expected to enjoy as much as I did.
The thing about Brad Bird is that he makes good movies. Stepping out of the animation world into his first attempt at live-action, the three features he directed before this (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille) stand in my favorite animated movies of all time. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is an excellent action movie with well-developed characters and its emotion in the right place. Bird leads a talented and likable cast to a revival of the Mission: Impossible franchise.
The plot is extremely complicated, so I won't bother with it. Essentially, Ethan Hunt is back for more, and the stakes are raised as any good sequel knows to do. There are moments here when you can truly tell that Brad Bird comes from a background of animation (watch as Miraj Grbic's character falls out of one van and is pulled into another), and the movie is more fun because of it.
The thing with a Mission: Impossible movie is that I wasn't ready to judge the emotion or the strength of the characters at all. When I expect Mission: Impossible, I expect beautiful women, fun gadgets, and good action. Bird's newest installment has more emotion, more beautiful women, better gadgets and better action than any previous film. The rest of the aspects of the movie are handled adequately as well. Michael Giacchino - collaborating with Bird for the third time - lays down an outstanding score full of Lalo Schifrin's memorable theme. I don't think I've ever heard Giacchino screw up. This guy might be one of the all-time greats. Cruise does well, though a bit too serious at moments, and the rest of his cast shine as well. Paula Patton, while insanely gorgeous, manages to be taken seriously as a female agent and not just eye candy. Jeremy Renner does an excellent job as well, but it's Simon Pegg who shines the brightest here. Glad to see him out of the van and into the action.
I mentioned that the sequence in the image above was completely real. This is true. This is the type of thing that not only blows my mind in terms of the guts it must have taken Cruise to perform it but also in terms of courage to move beyond special effects. Christopher Nolan has stated that he likes to do as much as he can in camera as possible, and Bird seems to understand the importance of that. Movies are meant to draw you in. Special effects are an incredible way to enhance visuals, but when you rely on them, movies lose their magic. In completely unrelated news, Avatar 2 is slated for a 2014 release.
I didn't see the second Mission: Impossible, but I don't particularly care. The first one isn't great, and the third one is even worse. My only negative comments about this movie lie in the last 2 minutes. It's awkward and strange. However, Brad Bird has managed to take a franchise that was the definition of washed up and bring it back to life. I can't wait to see his next live-action project. With three of the best animated movies ever and one incredibly solid action movie under his belt, it seems that for Bird there's no filmmaking mission that he would even consider impossible.