A Look Back: ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ (2011)

Every day this week we will recap each film of the Mission: Impossible franchise, leading up to our review of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to sit back and enjoy as we look back at nearly 20 years of the Mission: Impossible film series!

And if you missed any other entries, you can start here:

Day One: Mission: Impossible (1996)

Day Two: Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Day Three: Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Today, we look back at…

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

mission impossible ghost protocol

Which one was this again?

The one where JJ Abrams decided not to fully ruin the franchise by producing the films but hiring more talented directors. ‘Ghost Protocol’ sees Ethan Hunt imprisoned abroad, seemingly forgotten by the IMF — before the IMF breaks him out because the world is once again in danger. Why was Ethan in prison? It’s not exactly that easy. But then, nothing in this film series is. If this sounds like the same old song-and-dance, you’re wrong: the Secretary has been killed (which shouldn’t be an issue since he’s played by a different actor each time) and the entire IMF has been disavowed. The entire world’s hopes hinge on Ethan and his team who are acting virtually on their own (this is where the phrase “Ghost Protocol” comes in) to stop a madman from invoking a war between the United States and Russia. This was also Brad Bird’s live-action directorial debut. Prior to this, Bird’s only experience was directing animated fare like The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Despite how that sounds, it’s not a slight. All three of those were classics so it isn’t surprising that his live-action maiden voyage is also great.

Best Scene:

The opening jailbreak at the Russian prison. It’s just plain awesome. It contains little to no dialogue and the action is choreographed like a Buster Keaton set piece rather than a balls-out action extravaganza. Additionally, the entire scene is set to Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”, which just adds style points.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5s44A8uIEQ?ecver=2]


Best Line:

Benji Dunn: Why am I Pluto? It’s not even a planet anymore.

William Brandt: Well, Uranus is still available.

Benji Dunn: Ha, it’s funny ‘cuz you said “anus”.

Actual Best Line:

Sabine: How good is your back-up?

Brandt: The best.

Sabine: [laughs] I’ve killed “the best”.


Personal Recollection:

I liked this film the second time around. The first time I saw it, I was entertained but I thought it lost its way once the action shifted to Mumbai for virtually no reason except the bad guys were using one of the city’s broadcast stations to launch a missile. The second time around (me sitting on my couch watching it), I felt that it flowed a little better and I think it’s because the film relies on its outrageous action scenes to distract you from the overall plot. I also thought there were three interesting things about this film: first, Ving Rhames (who had starred in each of the first three films alongside Tom Cruise) was nowhere to be found until the end of the movie where he and Ethan hang out at a Seattle bar, discussing Ethan’s latest mission success. Apparently, Rhames wanted a pretty sizable amount of money to star in the film. Initially, it was reported that Paramount wasn’t going to pony up the dough Rhames was asking for (somewhere around $7 million dollars). It would appear that they changed their minds. Second, Jeremy Renner was introduced as “William Brandt”, the IMF Secretary’s “analyst”. It was thought that Renner would take things from here…except that Cruise was the main star of the film and continued as such in the fifth film. Lastly, rather than just let us assume that Ethan moved on from Julia, the woman he married in the last film, we actually learn why she isn’t in this film — and we get a touching finale which sends her off in truly nice fashion. Whereas James Bond goes from girl to girl with no continuity (except in the Daniel Craig era), It’s great to see that the producers and writers reward loyal fans of the series (such as myself) and doesn’t treat them like morons.

Other interesting things you might not have known:

  • Tom Cruise performed his own stunts at the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai and, at one point, hung from the tower at an altitude of 1700 feet.
  • The long, blonde-haired man who asks Ethan to put the modified ski mask over his head is the same “enforcer guy” who worked for Max in the original Mission: Impossible film, another nice callback and great bit of continuity. The other callback in this scene was the use of a lighter to get Ethan’s attention. This was similar to when Ethan had to light a match to signal a secret car to pick him up in the original film.
  • The Mumbai palace sequence was actually also shot in Dubai at a hotel called Zabeel Saray Palm Jumeirah. At the time, the hotel was still having a soft opening.
  • Ethan uses call sign “Alpha 113” a callback to “A113”, a famous room number at Cal Arts. Director Brad Bird has worked this reference into each and every one of his films.
  • Despite having a lot of control over the film, Brad Bird was hampered by creative changes put in motion by Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams. An example of this was when Bird shot the van scene (following the prison break-out) where Ethan’s “escape team” had no idea what was going on. It was re-shot where the team was more “in the know” when the script had a more specific plot. This was due to the fact that Abrams and Cruise were using several different script drafts as a final script had yet to be written.

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