Cold War Reboot

MY OTHER CAR IS A KIA: Tom Cruise hits the ground running in 'Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol.'

SHOW UP early and get into the center-back sweet spot at a full-size 15/70mm IMAX Theater. Not only will you be the first person on your block to see, via the preview for The Dark Knight Rises, Bane's inadvisable method of catching a plane, but you will also get the full effect of Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol's money sequence: a technical marvel of cinema.

Given no other alternatives, Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt crawls up the side of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, wearing some sort of futuristic electric climbing gloves—and then the right one fritzs out on him a bit. Whatever you say about Cruise, and however braced and harnessed he was, he was insanely brave to do the actual stunts on this. The climb is a physically painful, palm-sweating ordeal to watch; it certainly clears out the chakras.

Calling Ghost Protocol a good movie on this basis alone would be like describing This Is Cinerama as an unforgettable classic. See the film on a tinier screen, and it is only mildly diverting. Longtime Pixar talent Brad Bird builds two other ingenious, silent-comedy quality sequences. One is a car chase in a blinding haboob; such a monstro dust storm justifies itself in a movie about nuclear terror, since it looks so much like what happens when an atomic bomb goes off. Also pleasurable: the Impossible Missions Force hoodwinking a guard in the Kremlin using a digital screen.

The matchbook version of the plot has it that the Cold War is rebooted by an attack on the Kremlin, leaving the IMF in the cold. But the minimum coherency gets tangled, even without the series' combination of masks-and-treachery. It's a New Austerity Mission: Impossible. The joke here is that nothing works as it is supposed to do. Cell phones break up, messages refuse to self-destruct and the rubber-mask-making apparatus malfunctions, oozing vanilla-colored muck like a broken waffle iron.

Cruise, strange man-without-qualities that he is, is supposed to be darker here, vengeful because of a dead wife. That darkness is harder to believe than 1.) a nuclear missile could behave like the one we see here, 2.) that Jeremy Renner's magnetic suit wouldn't lobotomize the electronic gizmos he carries, or 3.) that human beings would actually say something like "Failure for a terrorist is just a rehearsal for success."

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

PG-13; 133 min.

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