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"Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol": Tom Cruise Lives Another Day 

Wednesday, Dec 21 2011
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Like a Hindu's rejuvenating bath in the Ganges, a dip in the Mission: Impossible series serves to wash away perceived doubts about its star's enduring clout. The sustained box office of the M:I series must have something to do with its balance of the familiar and the new. Tom Cruise is the through-line, while each film has introduced its own gadgets and a distinct new authorial identity. The latest director to be called up, Brad Bird has helmed hugely successful animated features (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), and so freely embraces the "impossible" rather than staking his action in a world of physical limitations. As Ghost Protocol begins, Cruise's agent Ethan Hunt, undercover in a Russian jail, is busted out by Impossible Missions Force operatives for another mission. When this, a Kremlin break-in, puts the team under suspicion of terrorism, the resulting international incident leads the American government to disavow the IMF. Hunt & Co. are forced to go it alone, tracking a rogue "specialist in nuclear end-game theory" (Michael Nyqvist) who's busily acquiring launch codes. About a half-hour of Ghost Protocol is IMAX-shot, intended to be projected on screens the size of the USS Nimitz. Among these monumentally inflated scenes is the movie's literal and figurative high point, which has Cruise scaling the stratospheric upper reaches of the 163-story Burj Khalifa skyscraper. There is no denying that this can be exhilarating, though when Ghost Protocol stoops to deal in emotional rather than physical expression, the movie goes flaccid, as if trapeze artists had paused in mid-air to emote.

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Nick Pinkerton

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