There isn’t much suspense in this big-boned, sprawling spy film from former cartoon director Brad (The Simpsons, The Incredibles) Bird, who delivers a lighter take on the formerly overwrought franchise starring the too-intense Tom Cruise. Don’t worry too much about the West Coast’s chance of getting incinerated by yet another rogue Soviet who believes the world would be better post-apocalypse, because the world is not the case here. The point of this film is the gadgetry. Now that James Bond has become humanized, Mission Impossible has gone tech-y with a vengeance; we’ve got gloves that climb glass windows, electronic invisibility background screens, and even a few good rubber masks. The opening credits sequence previews the whole plot, as if the filmmakers were daring us to care, so just sit back and enjoy the fun.
What Bird does add to the mix is a long-overdue sense of humor. Simon Pegg becomes part of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), and the geeky-credentialed actor (Scotty in the latest Star Trek and fanboy Graeme from Paul) is the film’s chief delight as a cowardly wonk who manages to get in a few good fights and has a tense moment with gun trained on the sexy Lea Seydoux. But even funnier are the moments that allow Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) to be goofy, like when a safe-house train car — impossible to explain — won’t open until he types in the right code and then gets his pupil examined, all while the train is rolling. It undercuts pomposities while paradoxically producing one of the movie’s few actually suspenseful moments.
As for the plot, here Hunt is on his own with some ragtag agents, the IMF has been disavowed (for the millionth time), and the bad guys are hanging out in fine hotels in exotic locales. There’s a cool chase through a sandstorm and a great fight between old guys in an automated parking lot. It goes on too long and nothing bad ever happens, even when they claim Earth’s survival is in the balance. If ghost protocol means nothing much is at stake, then this fun little romp is aptly titled, too.