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AP Photo/Paramount Pictures
In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Tom Cruise reprises his role as Ethan Hunt in a scene from “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.”

Buzz is all good on 'Ghost Protocol'

Posted: December 22, 2011 - 9:52am

Paramount Pictures
2 hours, 13 minutes

Buzz, in this day and age, is inevitable and, for a movie of any scale, omnipresent. It's unavoidable, and I, being and unabashed movie lover, often get swept up in it just like anyone else.

But it can be annoying, too. For example, and I apologize for the digression -- we'll soon return to Tom Cruise and his impossible mission -- there's a sci-fi extravaganza coming out this spring called "John Carter." "John Carter" is based on a series of books known collectively as "John Carter of Mars," written by Edgar Rice Boroughs in the nineteen-teens and twenties. These are pulp fiction, no doubt, but an enduring and classic science fiction series nonetheless. Despite the books' popularity, however, the buzz on this film is nearly universally bad, and why? The title. The geeks and fanboys don't like that Disney dropped "of Mars" from the title. Apparently girls won't go see a movie with the word "Mars" in it.

Granted, I too think the name change was a dumb idea, but what does it have to do with the movie itself? As far as I know, no one who claims this film, which has a pretty entertaining trailer, will suck has actually seen it.

Similarly, the buzz on the latest "Mission Impossible" was all bad, despite no one actually having seen the film. From what I could tell, most of the complaints seemed to be that the poster was lame and that Tom Cruise is washed up.

Well, I'm happy to report that the haters are going to have to eat their words because not only does "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" not suck, it is one of the most enjoyable entries of the entire series.

One of the smartest decisions producer/star Cruise made with these films is to have them stand alone, even while continuing a narrative through-line. The connections between films are fairly unimportant, really only there so continuity nerds won't rail on their blogs about the fact that Ethan Hunt had a wife in the last one and is seemingly unattached in this one. Much like a James Bond movie, the MI movies start with a thrilling action set-piece and then dive into the plot after the opening credits.

"Ghost Protocol" is no different, throwing us into a daring prison break right off the bat. From there it's one amazing action set-piece after another as Ethan (Cruise) and his rag-tag team hopscotch the globe trying to head off a madman with a bunch of Russian nuclear launch codes and the ideological madness to use them.

"Ghost Protocol" refers to the fact that the IMF force has been forced underground by a devastating frame-up job. Normally, if any member of the team is captured or killed, the Secretary will simply disavow all knowledge of their actions. And you thought that was bad; now they get branded a terrorist and charged with treason. Hunt and crew are on their own, playing blind in a deadly game where the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Just what you want out of "Mission: Impossible."

I've never been one to jump on the "I hate Tom Cruise" bandwagon. I personally like almost everything I've seen of his, and his personal eccentricities don't bother me in the least. As long as he's not hurting anyone, what do I care what church he goes to? And you wonder why the guy has a reputation as being notoriously media shy and reticent to get personal. Whenever he does open up, the media and the public fall on him like a ton of bricks.

And yet, as a performer, Cruise is amazing. He's a great actor, though these movies don't require it, and for being almost 50, is in remarkable shape. And, he does a lot of his own stunts, one of which occurs in Dubai, hanging off the side of the world's tallest building. I saw this in a pretty big theater, but the movie was screened in select IMAX theaters around the country this week, and that would have been something to see. Talk about vertigo.

In addition, this film also stars current it-action boy Jeremy Renner, of "The Hurt Locker," "The Town," and coming soon, "The Avengers." Renner is great at intense drama that quickly revolves into fast-paced action, which is probably the reason he's also taking over the "Bourne" franchise. He's fine here and plays well off Cruise.

Also starring, and returning from MI-III (continuity!) is Simon Pegg as Benji the lovable tech-nerd who has finally gotten his promotion to full in-the-field status. Pegg is proving himself equal to any task, whether it be shuttling an alien around New Mexico or running the engineering room of an entire starship. He's funny, but you can take him seriously as well. I don't like every movie he's in, but I always like him.

The other smart decision Cruise and Co. make is in their choice of directors. The "MI" movies have turned into a boutique for hip, smart directors, and each one is just a little different. The original, done by mood and noir expert Brian DePalma, has his signature all over it, as does "MI-2," the only one I haven't liked because of John Woo's idiotic slow-mo's and dove sequences. The third film came from J.J. Abrams, of "Lost" and "Star Trek" fame, and this time out, the movie's directed by Brad Bird, in his live-action debut. You know Bird's work, even if you don't know the name. He directed "The Iron Giant," "The Incredibles," and "Ratatouille." Interestingly, the previously mentioned "John Carter" is also being directed by a Pixar alum, Andrew Stanton, making his foray into live-action for the first time.

I had a blast with "Mission: Impossible" this weekend. By now, luckily, the buzz, thanks to preview screenings, has completely turned around, so Cruise and Paramount should have no trouble making their money back. The success of this will probably also ensure another sequel, and I'm just fine with that. Go ahead and grouse, Tom Cruise-haters, you'll end up in line just like the rest of us.
Grade: A-

"Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" is rated PG-13 for some intense action, mild sensuality, and language.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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