Flashback: ‘Star Trek’ (2009)

In 2009, the ‘Star Trek’ franchise made a bold return to the big screen…

Star Trek 2009 a

The cast of J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ (c. Paramount Pictures).

Year:  2009

Starring:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana

Directed by:  J.J. Abrams / written by:  Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman

What’s it about?

A young James Kirk and Mr. Spock meet for the first time aboard the newly commissioned U.S.S. Enterprise where they soon find themselves tasked with saving the universe from a vengeful out-of-time Romulan…

Retrospective/review

With the underwhelming box office and tepid critical reception of Star Trek Nemesis in 2002 and the cancellation of television series Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005 due to declining ratings a creative refresh of the Star Trek franchise was needed in order to rekindle fan interest and bring in a whole new audience that would help carry Gene Roddenberry’s creation into the future.

Whilst Star Trek would remain dormant on the small screen until the arrival of Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, it’s theatrical voyages would recommence just four years after the conclusion of Enterprise.  Enlisting J.J. Abrams (together with his Bad Robot production company) to produce, direct and help craft the story – with screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (co-creator and executive producer of Discovery) – Paramount Pictures commissioned Star Trek for the big screen.

Released in May of 2009, received to favourable reviews and a healthy worldwide box office of around $385 million (a fairly respectable figure at a time when $1 billion grossers were few and far between and comparable to Marvel’s Iron Man), Star Trek would prove to be a rollicking action adventure that, although favouring popcorn spectacle and Star Wars-style visual grandeur over the deeper philosophical explorations of previous iterations, excels in its characters and engaging story.  In order to be free from the burden of decades of continuity whilst still tying into the established universe, Star Trek would employ the popular time travel trope by bringing Leonard Nimoy’s (gifting the project with true Trek royalty) Spock back in time in an event that would create an alternate reality – now referred to as the Kelvin timeline – allowing a new series of Star Trek films to forge their own creative path.

Star Trek 2009 b

Eric Bana as Nero (c. Paramount Pictures).

Star Trek opens with the arrival of the Romulan ship Narada, thrust back in time after the destruction of the Romulan homeworld in the wake of a catastrophic supernova, which Ambassador Spock and the Vulcan High Command pledged, and fail, to avert.  The Narada, under the command of the embittered Nero, is discovered by the U.S.S. Kelvin which is subsequently attacked and its captain killed – leaving Lt. George Kirk (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) in command.  The Kelvin’s crew, including Kirk’s wife (played by Jennifer Morrison) – about to give birth to their son, are evacuated as Kirk sacrifices his life to save others.  Jumping forward several years we meet a young trouble-making James Kirk and an equally troubled Spock, struggling to reconcile his half-human/half-Vulcan heritage.  Little do both know that destiny awaits (which for Kirk includes the captain’s chair of a certain starship), events drawing them together as the fate of both their worlds hang in the balance.

Finding new actors to inhabit the roles of the beloved original series crew was undoubtedly a daunting task and fortunately, the casting of Star Trek is exceptional.  Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are perfect choices for the roles of Kirk and Spock, respectively, both actors bringing respectful and recognisable performances to classic characters whilst making it their own and their chemistry helps drive the core narrative.  Likewise, Karl Urban is a revelation as the cantankerous but loyal Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy – the final component in the celebrated Kirk/Spock/McCoy troika that was such an important part of the original series.  There are equally strong turns from Zoe Saldana as Communications Officer Uhura, John Cho as Helmsman Sulu, the late Anton Yelchin as the incredibly eager Ensign Chekov and Simon Pegg as Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott.  Bruce Greenwood’s portrayal of Captain Christopher Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter in Star Trek’s original pilot episode, “The Cage” and by Anson Mount on Star Trek: Discovery) is also a highlight, particularly in his relationship with Pine’s Kirk as he inspires the bright but directionless young rebel by daring him to be better and enlist in Starfleet.  Playing the part of the villainous Nero is Eric Bana, who had previously starred in Ang Lee’s Hulk.  He’s not necessarily the most complex of antagonists but Bana gives it his all, delivering a decent measure of menace.

Star Trek 2009 c

A slick redesign for the U.S.S. Enterprise (c. Paramount Pictures).

The design of Star Trek is exemplary, from the Academy Award winning make-up, costumes and props (both nifty updates from the original series) to the lavish, brightly lit sets by Scott Chambliss and the sleek redesign of the Enterprise herself, providing viewers with a pleasing new look which respectfully adheres to the overall configuration conceived by Matt Jeffries.  Whilst there’s a comforting sense of the familiar, Star Trek also takes some creative risks – primarily the destruction of Vulcan by Nero and his cohorts in retribution for the failure to save Romulus from its own obliteration in the future.  It’s a shocking and dramatic sequence that establishes the highest of stakes to unite the Enterprise crew and allows for a more emotionally vulnerable depiction of Quinto’s Spock.

As director, J.J. Abrams (who made his feature film debut in 2006 with Mission: Impossible III) brings energy and enthusiasm to Star Trek, keeping the viewer invested whether it’s in his execution of action and visual splendour or the tight and attentive focus in the quieter, more intimate character moments.  A good film is always enhanced by a great musical score and composer Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack is a memorable one, exciting, emotional and wonderfully intertwining cues from Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek theme with fresh themes to take the new big screen franchise forward.

Star Trek may have been divisive so far as the fanbase is concerned but there are those that enjoyed it for what it was, a polished and highly entertaining rejuvenation of an ageing franchise that opened up the universe to a whole new audience which is something that shouldn’t be undervalued.

Geek fact!

The story of Star Trek was fleshed out via tie-in comic books from IDW Publishing (and overseen by co-screenwriter Roberto Orci) with prequel titles Star Trek: Countdown and Star Trek: Nero adding a lot of insightful detail and background to the narrative of the 2009 film.

Image(s) used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

Film Review: ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’

Tom Cruise accepts his next mission with more impossible odds…

 

MI Fallout

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt is ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ (image belongs: Paramount Pictures, used for illustrative purposes only).

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Angela Bassett

Directed and written by:  Christopher McQuarrie / 147 minutes

What’s it about?

Tasked with retrieving three nuclear devices stolen after a botched mission, Ethan Hunt and his team are coupled with a CIA overseer as they race to prevent the death of millions…

In review

As many critics have already cited, it’s rare for a film series to continue to go from strength to strength after so many instalments but the Mission: Impossible franchise once again proves unstoppable and relentlessly enthralling with the newly released sixth entry, Fallout.  Returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie pulls out all the stops as superstar Tom Cruise performs more death defying, pulse-pounding and vertigo-inducing stunts that keep audiences coming back for more.

Serving as a direct sequel to Rogue Nation, Mission: Impossible – Fallout sees Impossible Mission Force Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) called upon to undertake another daring assignment, this time to recover three nuclear devices which have fallen into the hands of a terrorist group that has arisen in the wake of the capture of Solomon Lane (the ever-raspy Sean Harris).  With the mission ending in failure, Hunt and his team – Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) – are forcefully coupled with CIA chief Erica Sloan’s (Angela Bassett) top agent August Walker, played by Justice League’s Henry Cavill, in a race against the clock to prevent global chaos.

As always, the cast is great (although the absence of Jeremy Renner this time out is initially felt) – not in the least Tom Cruise who, bar his passionate and unwavering commitment to the action, also brings that human quality to the character of Ethan Hunt, a man who will stop at nothing to protect everything – and everyone – he cares about.  Mission: Impossible really is nothing without him.  As Agent Walker, Henry Cavill is a force to be reckoned with pulling no punches (often literally) in his scenes with Cruise and is quite a powerful asset to the film and the ‘interference’ of the CIA in the IMF’s operations facilitates some neat dramatic moments, between Cruise and Cavill as well as Bassett and Alec Baldwin, who reprises the role of Secretary Alan Hunley.

Hunt’s mission becomes all the more personal as he crosses paths with some old faces.  Harris’s Lane notwithstanding, we see the return of Rebecca Ferguson’s MI6 spy Isla Faust and Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s ex-wife Julia.  Ferguson in particular is a highlight (as she was in Rogue Nation) and again has strong chemistry with Cruise but the inclusion of all three returning actors, coupled with call-backs to the earlier films and homages to Bruce Geller’s original television series provides a sense of history that’s rewarding for fans of the franchise.

Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay provides Mission: Impossible – Fallout with plenty of intrigue, spectacle and drama that’s enhanced by numerous twists and turns that will keep viewers on their toes and the edge of their seats.  Tonally, there’s a bit of a darker edge to Fallout that gives it a slightly different flavour from previous instalments which helps keep things fresh and ensures the tension remains high throughout.

The action is truly first class and easily meets expectations from a brutal bathroom fight to rival Casino Royale to set-pieces that range from a sky diving jump, chases on foot, by motor and by river to the incredible and prolonged helicopter pursuit that forms part of the breathlessly exciting finale.  Spread across locations including Paris, London and Kashmir, it’s all handled with relative ease and skill by director McQuarrie, deftly executed by Cruise and the rest of the cast and made all the more appealing by the exemplary cinematography.

If you’re a fan of these films and the action genre in general then it’s a no-brainer so strap yourself in for one hell of a ride.

The bottom line:  The Mission: Impossible series continues to thrill in an exciting, intelligent and arresting action blockbuster that’s a cut above the rest.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is in cinemas now.

Fim Review: ‘Star Trek Beyond’ (spoiler free)

Star wreckin’…

Starring:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella

Directed by:  Justin Lin / Written by:  Simon Pegg & Doug Jung / 120 minutes

What’s it about?

Attacked during a rescue mission in uncharted space, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise find themselves stranded and fighting for survival against Krall, an enemy who seeks to destroy the Federation and the way of life its citizens hold dear…

In review

Arriving as the beloved science fiction franchise approaches its 50th anniversary, Star Trek Beyond is the third (with a fourth already confirmed) cinematic instalment set in the rebooted ‘Kelvin Timeline’ featured in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009) and sequel Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).  Directed by Fast & Furious veteran Justin Lin, Beyond proves a worthy continuation of this new series of Star Trek films that’s crowd pleasing fun if not as wholly cerebral as some of the franchise’s highpoints.

Whilst Abrams is arguably the better filmmaker, Lin is a credible successor who does a commendable job of crafting a commercially viable summer blockbuster, his affection for the franchise and its characters clear as he deftly balances an eclectic ensemble with large scale action and jaw dropping visuals.  Although this is a Star Trek for the era of serviceable billion dollar blockbusters, Beyond offers something a little more with a script (by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung) that delves into themes of unity and the strengths found in diversity, reflecting on the social concerns of today.

Via the two J.J. Abrams outings, audiences have grown to love the characters of Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al thanks to a wonderful cast, melding nuances of their own personalities with the legacies of these established characters.  Thankfully that continues here and we get some great character moments amongst the spectacle and social commentary where everyone (albeit some more than others) gets an opportunity to shine.  Zoe Saldana, John Cho and the late Anton Yelchin (as Enterprise crewmembers Uhura, Sulu and Chekov respectively) all feature in the action and have relevance in the story (Simon Pegg’s Scotty is also served better beyond being mere comic foil).  Idris Elba makes an imposing villain with physicality and gravitas, although the character of Krall could have warranted further exploration he delivers a fair measure of menace and threat.  Fellow guest star Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) also provides a memorable and enjoyable turn as Jaylah, the alien ‘badass’ that a stranded Kirk and company enlist for help against Elba’s Krall.  Once again, though it’s the three main stars that compel the most with numerous standout moments for Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban.  Through Pine we get a universe weary Kirk, with Quinto a contemplative Spock and Urban a McCoy who’s irascible as ever and provides both humour and the supportive conscience Kirk and Spock need as they face their respective emotional dilemmas.

Against the backdrop of story and character, Justin Lin brings his Fast & Furious credentials to the fore during the action of Star Trek Beyond with big budget CGI and explosive pyrotechnics marrying to produce some jaw dropping spectacle (most significantly the decimation of the poor old Enterprise, as already depicted in the film’s pre-release trailers).  It’s a little frantic at times, but no different from what you would experience in any modern blockbuster.  In addition to all of this, there’s a plethora of references, tributes and respectful call backs to the history and legacy of Star Trek that all in all make for a pleasing and fitting celebration of one of pop culture’s most beloved and enduring franchises that will most definitely continue to go boldly.

The bottom line:  Star Trek Beyond is an enjoyable and fun blockbuster that has something to offer both fans and casual viewers alike and proves a fitting tribute to the legacy of the franchise on the eve of its 50th anniversary.

Star Trek Beyond is in cinemas now.

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) prepares to lead the fight in Paramount Pictures' 'Star Trek Beyond'.

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) prepares to lead the fight in Paramount Pictures’ ‘Star Trek Beyond’.

Film Review: ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (spoiler free)

Mission accomplished?

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris

Directed by:  Christopher McQuarrie / Written by:  Christopher McQuarrie (story by Christopher McQuarrie and Drew Pearce) / 131 minutes

What’s it about?

With the IMF disbanded, Ethan Hunt and his teammates must evade capture by the CIA whilst they seek to thwart the plans of the mysterious rogue organisation known as The Syndicate…

In review

Rogue Nation is the fifth instalment of Tom Cruise’s popular action film franchise based on the classic television series which ran during the late sixties/early seventies (and resurrected briefly in the 1980s).  With 2011’s Ghost Protocol proving a huge critical and financial hit, the pressure was surely on to make the IMF’s latest adventure as big and good as, if not better than their previous outing.

Rogue Nation largely succeeds and is undoubtedly a strong and reliable addition to the series, whilst there may be a touch of the familiar the filmmakers have deftly straddled the line of delivering everything that made Ghost Protocol work so well whilst ensuring that there are enough fresh elements to complement the overall ‘package’.

Director/screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (who has worked with Tom Cruise previously on Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow) succeeds Brian DePalma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird as creative master of this newest Mission: Impossible and demonstrates a talented ability to skilfully stage the adrenalin infused large scale action set-pieces audiences have come to expect from the M:I series and present a labyrinthine spy narrative that never ceases to surprise with its numerous twist and turns.

Of course, the star of the show is Tom Cruise himself bringing the same relentless drive that has aided in the success of the Mission: Impossible film series.  Cruise injects the character of Ethan Hunt with the usual charisma and skill but as always it’s his extraordinary commitment to the film’s action and stunts that makes much of Rogue Nation so exhilarating, from clinging to the side of a cargo plane as it goes airborne, to trading heavy blows with Jens Hulten’s henchman through to the intense motorbike and car chases.  Yet, it’s actually a novel twist on the computer vault-data theft plot device from the first Mission: Impossible that stands out as one of the most exciting and daring action sequences in Rogue Nation.  Once again there are beautiful and varied locations, this time including Vienna, Morocco and London with some striking imagery provided by cinematographer Robert Elswit.

Returning from duty in Ghost Protocol are Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames.  Although Renner and Rhames are a little sidelined, Pegg’s role as Benji Dunn is once again significantly larger than his cameo in J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III and, as with Ghost Protocol, Pegg proves able to play both the comedic and the dramatic (and moments of both feel well balanced and well executed in Rogue Nation) effectively.  Alec Baldwin brings some decent star power to bolster proceedings as the CIA man charged with apprehending Hunt and his team and whilst Sean Harris’s raspy-voiced main antagonist isn’t as well defined and as menacing as some of the greatest Bond villains, he’s non-the-less suitably psychotic.

Aiding Hunt is Isla Faust (played by Rebecca Ferguson), a character with torn loyalties upon which much of the mystery and intrigue of Rogue Nation centres on.  The character of Faust and the manner in which she is played by Ferguson is a huge asset to the film and it would be welcome to see the series break trend and have her return for the already mooted sixth Mission: Impossible.

All in all, Rogue Nation is another mission safely and solidly accomplished.

The bottom line:  Rogue Nation is another successful big screen Mission: Impossible venture for producer/star Tom Cruise and his various collaborators with high stakes action combined with an intriguing and twisty spy plot.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is in cinemas now.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of spies return to action in Paramount Pictures' 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of spies return to action in Paramount Pictures’ ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’.

Blu-ray review: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

This review contains SPOILERS

 

please don’t read on if you haven’t yet seen Star Trek Into Darkness

 

A bold new future for the beloved and enduring science fiction franchise…

 

Starring:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller

Directed by:  J.J. Abrams / Written by:  Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof / 132 minutes

What’s Star Trek Into Darkness about?

Captain James T. Kirk takes the U.S.S. Enterprise into Klingon space in pursuit of rogue Starfleet Officer John Harrison…

Film review

Into Darkness is the long awaited sequel to producer/director J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009).  Since its theatrical release earlier this year it has gone on to become the most financially successful of all of the franchise’s big screen adventures and despite overall critical acclaim has proven divisive among the fans (but isn’t this always the case?).

As a life-long Star Trek fan (since the early eighties) I can safely say that although it may not quite have the impact of the 2009 prequel/reboot, Into Darkness is one hell of a ride that acknowledges the hallmarks of Gene Rodenberry’s vision whilst providing plenty of the rollercoaster excitement that modern summer blockbuster audiences expect.

Into Darkness continues to further explore the characters of the original Star Trek series and films with a well-chosen cast who, beyond merely channelling the performances of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy (who appears in a short cameo) et al give fresh, yet familiar interpretations of those iconic characters.

Although each of the characters is given their moment in the spotlight (Scotty resigns, Chekov reluctantly dons a red shirt, Sulu takes command and Uhura tries to reason with Klingons), the film’s focus is really, rightfully, on the burgeoning friendship between Kirk and Spock with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto both proving their worth as successors to Messrs’ Shatner and Nimoy.  Sadly Karl Urban’s McCoy is a little side-lined as a result but hopefully future sequels will explore and develop the infamous Kirk/Spock/McCoy troika.

The Enterprise crew face a more complex villain this time out in Benedict Cumberbatch’s enigmatic John Harrison (more on him shortly) as well as Starfleet Admiral Alexander Marcus (the ever superb Peter Weller) and are joined by Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) – a character that fans will of course be aware of.

Just as the original Star Trek television series provided commentary on issues and concerns of the 1960s (such as the Vietnam War and Civil Rights), Into Darkness addresses topics relating to terrorism through Harrison’s vendetta against Starfleet and Marcus’ push for militarisation in the wake of Vulcan’s destruction.

Gladly the screenwriters understand the characters and core concepts of Gene Rodenberry’s vision for Star Trek.  Following atrocities committed by Harrison (including the death of Admiral Pike) we see Kirk set out on a mission of vengeance, a basic human reaction, tempered by Spock’s sense of logic and morality.  With the Enterprise carrying a complement of long range torpedoes (Scotty all too aptly reminding Kirk that their mission is that of peaceful exploration), which mirrors the real world drone strikes carried out in the Middle East.  It’s all played out as Gene Rodenberry would have intended, presenting our heroes with ethical dilemmas that they must face and overcome to do what is morally right.

One of the most divisive points of Star Trek Into Darkness is the true identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain.  I’m still surprised that Khan was chosen (even with all the prior speculation) and despite my initial trepidations I feel it worked out well, Cumberbatch is a powerful presence and although physically dissimilar from Ricardo Montalban makes the character his own.  Another bone of contention for some of the fans is the homages to Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan.  They do work – the reversal of the Kirk/Spock roles from the finale of Wrath of Khan being a key example.  It’s relevant to the story and character arcs of the film, bolstered by heart-wrenching performances (complemented by another great score from Michael Giacchino) by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto.  I’d say it’s permitted this time around so long as future films don’t make a habit of it.

The screenplay holds together rather well although it’s a shame that Khan’s back story wasn’t fleshed out a little more, perhaps via a short series of simple flashbacks.  It wouldn’t have bloated the run time or slowed down the pace yet would have added more weight to the villain’s motives (I look forward to IDW Publishing’s forthcoming comic book mini-series then).

Aside from being a Star Trek film, this is also a popcorn summer blockbuster and the action is riveting and epic with many standout moments, from the Enterprise emerging from the bottom of an alien ocean (during the film’s Indiana Jones-esque opening) and Khan’s attack on Starfleet Headquarters to a tense encounter with the Klingons, the Enterprise’s plummet Earthward and Spock’s climactic edge of the seat chase of Khan through (and above) the streets of San Francisco.  It’s also not as dark as the title suggests with some welcome levity via McCoy’s persistent metaphors and Scotty…well Scotty in general!

J.J. Abrams directs proceedings with reliable aplomb, the more intimate dialogue heavy character scenes flow at an appropriate pace, balanced with the large scale effects-laden action sequences.

By the end of the film there’s a true sense that the Enterprise crew have become a family, Kirk has grown and earned his command and the respect and trust of his crew, ready to set forth and seek out new life forms and new civilizations.

Standout moment

A crippled Enterprise plummets to Earth, with the crew literally hanging for life – their only hope for salvation is the re-initialisation of the ship’s warp core.  Despite Scotty’s protests Kirk decides to sacrifice himself for the needs of the many…

The Blu-ray

Star Trek Into Darkness is presented in its entirety in 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen meaning that unfortunately Paramount have opted not to preserve the IMAX scenes.  This aside the transfer is as flawless as you would expect from a modern production.

Extras are light with only a series of interesting, albeit short, production featurettes included (there’s no commentary).  By comparison the 2009 Star Trek release came with a separate Blu-ray disc full of extras.  It’s a massive shame and sadly a continuing trend with Paramount Home Entertainment releases.

The bottom line:  Star Trek Into Darkness is a solid second entry in the new cinematic Star Trek universe with moral issues balanced with good characterisation, strong cast performances and breath-taking action and excitement.

Star Trek Into Darkness is out now on Blu-ray (2D and 3D editions) from Paramount Home Entertainment (also available on DVD and digital download).

Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) confront the captured John Harrison (the superb Benedict Cumberbatch).

Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) confront the captured John Harrison (the superb Benedict Cumberbatch).

Have you seen…’Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’?

The films you may not have seen that are definitely worth a look…

Year: 2011

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist

Director:  Brad Bird

What’s it about?

On a mission to prevent the terrorist Kurt Hendricks from acquiring Russian nuclear launch codes, Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) team are framed for the bombing of the Kremlin.  Disavowed by the U.S. government, Hunt and his team must rely on their own resourcefulness and stop Hendricks from launching a nuclear attack against the United States.

In review

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the fourth and most recent entry (and certainly not the last – a fifth instalment is currently slated for a 2015 release) in the blockbuster Tom Cruise ‘Spy-Fi’ action franchise (based on the classic television series created by Bruce Geller) and safely qualifies as the best.

The plot is relatively uncomplicated yet smart with some neat twists and turns and allows for a number of exciting and tense action sequences, the obvious highlight being Hunt’s vertigo-inducing excursion outside the 830m high, 163 floor Burj Khalifa (all the more effective given Tom Cruise’s commitment to doing most of his own stunts) as well as the final face off with Hendricks (played with appropriate villainy by Nyqvist) in an automatic high rise car park.

Cruise, like him or loathe him (forgetting issues of his personal life, I happen to think he’s a good actor and a top action star), puts in another reliable performance as Ethan Hunt and is joined by new teammates Agent Jane Carter (the beautiful Patton) and Brandt (Renner, star of The Hurt Locker) and re-unites with pal Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, enjoying a rightfully enlarged part following his cameo in Mission Impossible III).  The group have great chemistry and is a key part of the film’s success.

Brad Bird, director of Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille makes his live action feature film debut here and it doesn’t show as he handles proceedings with skill and expertise.  Bird keeps things flowing at an appropriate pace, never becoming overwhelmed with the big scale action set-pieces.

Tying things together nicely is another exciting score from Michael Giacchino (who also scored Mission: Impossible III), incorporating Lalo Schifrin’s original themes from the television series.

Why you should watch it

Ghost Protocol is the best in the Mission: Impossible film series, it features engaging characters, edge of the seat thrills and even a measure of humour.  Seeing it is a mission you should definitely choose to accept.

Standout moment

Planning to intercept the launch codes from Hendricks the IMF team arrive at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  Part of their plan requires access to the building’s servers which they can only reach undetected from the outside – the team volunteer Hunt as the man for the job…

Did you know?

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is not only the most financially (as well as critically) successful in the series but is Tom Cruise’s biggest hit, grossing almost $700 million world-wide.

Watch it if you like…

Mission: Impossible III, The Bourne Legacy

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Tom Cruise's commitment to his own stunt work adds to the excitement of the Mission: Impossible film series.

Tom Cruise’s commitment to his own stunt work adds to the excitement of the Mission: Impossible film series.