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The "Mission: Impossible" Films

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission: Impossible Films
Mission: Impossible (1996) | Mission: Impossible II (2000) | Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
| Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) | Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

The "Mission: Impossible" Films - Part 4
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
d. Brad Bird, 132 minutes

Film Plot Summary

The film's prologue opened in Budapest (with a fly-over), where IMF (Impossible Missions Force) agent Trevor Hanaway (Josh Holloway) was pursued by three agents, whom he shot and killed (two were shot as he fell backwards from a building's roof). On assignment, he had successfully intercepted a satchel with classified files from a courier. However, as he was about to receive a phone alert about an ASSASSIN, he was shot and killed in an alleyway by the identified French killer for hire named Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux), who then took the satchel of files from the slain agent.

The next scene was set in Moscow at Rankow Prison, where veteran IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) (pretending to be a Russian named Sergei) was incarcerated. [Hunt had been imprisoned for vengefully murdering in cold-blood six Serbian nationals he thought were responsible for his wife Julia Meade's (Michelle Monaghan) vicious murder, considered an "unsanctioned hit" by IMF.] As he was being extracted and rescued by IMF cohorts, including Hanaway's team leader Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and newly-promoted high-tech wizard Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Hunt risked the mission by backtracking to search for his intel source and fellow prisoner Bogdan (Miraj Grbic). Dunn had locked the security office and opened cell gates to obstruct the guards and cause a prison riot, while Carter was in an underground sewer awaiting Hunt's arrival - timed to the end of the broadcast of Dean Martin's crooning of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head." When the rescue mission succeeded, the credits began to roll with Lalo Schifrin's familiar theme music - with a lighted fuse providing continuity through a series of images foreshadowing the film's action sequences.

As the IMF team in the back of a van driven by Dunn sped away from the Russian prison, Carter described Hanaway's failed IMF mission ("a simple intercept"), seen again in flashback. At the last possible moment, the courier was identified on an arriving Budapest train as Marek Stefanski. With a quick stabbing of his spiked signet ring marked A113 (also Hunt's code number), Hanaway easily drugged Stefanski and stole the files in a satchel, although he was pursued by other "armed hostiles." The triggered warning about the identity of the assassin on Hanaway's cellphone came too late. Contract killer Sabine Moreau, who often worked for diamonds, shot him and he died in girlfriend Carter's arms.

More importantly, the files contained Russian nuclear launch codes, desired by an "emerging extremist" - a person of interest code-named Cobalt, who was "determined to detonate a nuclear weapon however he can." It was thought that Moreau would deliver the launch codes to Cobalt, who was a Level-1 nuclear strategist for Russian intelligence. The only way to learn Cobalt's real identity was to infiltrate the secret Moscow Kremlin archives and locate files identifying him. Hunt would impersonate a military officer, Russian intelligence operative General Anatoly Fedorov (Vladimir Mashkov), to get past security checkpoints, while Dunn served as his attache aide. It was reported that Cobalt was already en route to destroy any records of his identity, and the IMF mission to counteract him had to occur within the next 5 hours.

In an elaborate setup within the Kremlin, Dunn and Hunt created a diversionary tactic. They fooled the Kremlin's hall guard into thinking that the Archives Room hallway was shorter than it was, employing a lightweight screen that acted as a hologram projecting the illusion of the hallway behind it into the guard’s eye. After gaining access to the file room cabinet, Hunt discovered that the tapes to identify Cobalt were empty - stolen by Cobalt himself, who was "piggybacking" on the IMF's own frequency to broadcast their whereabouts and alert the Russians - thereby implicating Hunt and the IMF team as the cause of the break-in. As the mission aborted, Hunt fled from the scene, passed Cobalt in the hallway (who was carrying a steel briefcase containing the Russian nuclear launch-control device), changed into tourist garb outside, and was stunned by a detonated bomb that destroyed the Kremlin. [Cobalt had set the bomb to cover his tracks.] Suffering from a mild concussion, Hunt awoke handcuffed to a hospital stretcher, and learned that the official explanation for the bombing was a gasline explosion underneath Kremlin Square (although it was speculated that the bombing a "targeted attack" and "undeclared act of aggression"). Russian agent Anatoly Sidorov (Vladimir Mashkov) identified the framed Hunt as the leader of the attack. Hunt picked his cuffs, and fled to a building ledge, where he evaded capture by ziplining onto the back of a moving van and then tumbled to the ground unharmed.

At a rendezvous point, Hunt (code-named Alpha 113) was extracted by the IMF and picked up in a van. While being transported, Hunt was briefed by embarrassed IMF Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) and his Chief Analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) (who was actually a former IMF field agent). The Secretary was bound for Washington to turn in his resignation, after the blame for the Kremlin's bombing was firmly planted on the IMF. However, after Hunt described Cobalt's facial features, he was identified as a Swedish-born Russian nuclear endgame strategist and fired professor of physics at Stockholm University named Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist). The deranged physicist was accompanied by his right-hand man, a known operative named Marius Wistrom (Samuli Edelmann). Now implicated by the Russians in a global terrorist nuclear bombing plot, the White House had disavowed that the covert IMF agency existed, by invoking and initiating a dreaded black-ops contingency measure called "ghost protocol." It meant "no satellite, safe house, support, or extraction." Although Hunt could be returned to Washington to be punished as a "rogue extremist" by the DOD, he would be allowed to escape from government custody - to operate and track down Cobalt on his own. If caught or killed, any member of his team would be branded as terrorists.

Suddenly, the van was hit by gunfire from Russian security forces led by Sidorov, and the IMF Secretary and driver were killed. The vehicle plunged into a river, and Brandt and Hunt escaped underwater after floating the Secretary's corpse (lighted by a flare) as a decoy to draw the bullets away from them. They boarded a green freight train car numbered 47, a control center manned by Carter and Dunn, where they viewed a video of a speech delivered by Hendricks. The psychotic nuclear extremist preached nuclear annihilation, vowing that it would initiate a new stage of human evolution:

And what little remains is made stronger. Put simply, world destruction is an unpleasant, but necessary part of evolution. What happens then, I wondered, when mankind faces the next end of the world. I looked to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, thriving cities rebuilt from the ashes, monuments to the unimaginable, dedicated to the concept of peace. It occurred to me here that nuclear war might have a place in the natural order. But only if it could be controlled. Only if it touched every living soul equally.

Sabine Moreau had in her possession the nuclear launch activation codes (stolen from IMF's Hanaway and the Budapest courier), and was planning to rendezvous with Wistrom in about 36 hours at the Burj Hotel in Dubai. With the codes, Hendricks could launch a nuclear missile attack on the United States. [Meanwhile, Polish-born cryptographer Leonid Lisenker (Ivan Shvedoff) was kidnapped from his apartment by a menacing Cobalt and Wistrom, while his wife Anna (Petra Lustigova) and son Alex (Daniel Clarke) were killed.] Now off the grid, Hunt described the objective of their unsanctioned IMF mission to his three rag-tag rogue team operatives, to clear the organization's name: "Our objective is to intercept the sale, replace the authentic codes with counterfeits, and follow Wistrom to Hendricks." Carter was pleased to be able to have the opportunity to seek revenge by murdering Moreau, but Hunt stressed that their prime target was Hendricks, not Wistrom or Moreau.

In a complicated arrangement in their 119th floor hotel room in Dubai set up as a control room, Hunt's team-members were planning to construct a duplicate decoy room to fool Wistrom into believing that he was meeting with Moreau (impersonated by Carter), while in one room lower on the 118th floor, Dunn would double as Wistrom and meet with the real Moreau. The main requirement, however, was that they had to control the elevators and security cameras. This meant that Hunt had to access the hotel's server room on the 130th floor ("eleven stories up and seven units over" from their location) - from the outside - within 30 minutes. After they cut open a large pane of glass in their own room, Hunt thrillingly scaled up the outside panes of sheer glass, assisted by bonding, magnetic-adhesive gloves (one of which failed), then cut the server room glass eleven stories higher, and broke through the opening to access the hotel's servers. Rooms on the 119th floor were renumbered as 118 as part of the clever plan, but their precise plans were upset when Moreau arrived early, and Wistrom was unexpectedly accompanied by Linseker, who was there to authenticate the launch codes. To return to the 119th floor, Hunt raced or abseiled down an unfurled rope-line which unfortunately didn't extend long enough. He had to make a spectacular freefall jump back into the open window. The team was forced to improvise when the facial-mask making machine failed. In a quick change of plans, Hunt decided that the real launch codes had to be exchanged with Wistrom, and that he and Brandt would daringly impersonate Wistrom and Linseker.

On floor 119 (in room G), Carter (impersonating Moreau) met with the real Wistrom and Linseker, while below on floor 118 (in room G), Hunt and Brandt (impersonating Wistrom and Linseker) met with the real Moreau and her three body-guards. Both IMF teams were separately able to convince Moreau and Wistrom that the exchange of codes and diamonds could be made, while Benji (acting as room service with tea was replacing Wistrom's real diamonds with fake ones, and delivering the real diamonds to Moreau for authentication). After the launch codes were confirmed as real by Linseker, Wistrom hurriedly left the room and shot Linseker in the elevator corridor. In the other room after a successful exchange, Moreau skillfully identified Brandt as an agent when she noticed a contact lens (functioning as a document scanner) over his left eye - and she fled.

Two chases occurred simultaneously:

  • Carter gladly went after Moreau one floor below, apprehended her, and led her at gunpoint into the team's control room on the 119th floor, where Moreau attempted to kill Dunn; after a struggle, Carter kicked Moreau out the open window to her death a mile below on the ground
  • Hunt chased after Wistrom (with the codes), who descended in the hotel elevator; in the lobby, Hunt was waylaid for a few moments to fight off Russian agent Sidorov before pursuing Wistrom, as a sandstorm engulfed the entire hotel complex and city; the foot race evolved into an exciting car chase, which ended in a collision and Wistrom's escape on the back of a truck

As he successfully got away, Wistrom removed a face mask, revealing that he was Hendricks in disguise.

When the IMF team rendezvoused again, Brandt accused Carter of compromising the mission by killing Moreau, and Hunt accused Brandt of being more than an "analyst" with his display of IMF agent skills. While Hunt was gone, Brandt described his background to the others: he had been on a "protection detail" in Croatia providing security for Hunt and his wife Julia, when a Serbian hit squad killed Julia (her body was found three days later) and he decided to leave the IMF as a field agent: "I couldn't face another life-or-death situation after that." He still felt guilty and responsible for the incident (for not warning Hunt of known danger), and only recently learned that Hunt had been imprisoned by the Russians for his revenge-killings of six Serbian nationals.

Meanwhile, Hunt contacted his intel Russian informant Bogdan and his arms-dealing cousin, to gather information about Kurt Hendricks and his location. He asked: "He has a case, he has codes, but they're worthless without a tactical satellite. I want to know where he'd get it." Although the Dubai arms dealer declined to help, he mentioned that "Russia quietly sold an obsolete tactical satellite to a certain telecom in Mumbai," and that it would take "special skills" to shut it down. After speaking to Hunt, the cousin tipped off Sidorov by phone, and offered (for a price) to retrieve both the stolen Kremlin launch codes and the American - Hunt.

On their way on a jet to Mumbai, India, the IMF team identified their target - rich, playboyish, Indian telecommunications and "multimedia tycoon" Brij Nath (Anil Kapoor), who had built his seemingly state-of-the-art media-based business with Cold War cast-offs, including a Novosti satellite. Hendricks needed the defunct Soviet military satellite to launch a nuclear strike. The team had to acquire from Brij Nath the access code to the satellite in order to shut it down before Hendricks programmed it to fire a nuclear missile. According to Dunn, that would require manually tapping into the central server to take it offline. Brandt (wearing a special anti-gravity suit under his clothes that was controlled by a robotic rover below him) was called upon to enter the server room by dropping down a narrow tunnel above a large turbine server ventilating fan, navigating through the central server's exhaust vent, floating in mid-air above the computer array, and jacking into the panel to disarm it. Hunt would then feed him the stolen access code (from Nath) to deactivate the missile, and also use it to pinpoint Hendricks' location.

During a lavish black-tie party while Hunt quarterbacked (or engineered) the team's plans, seductively-dressed Carter (code-named Venus) in a breast-accentuating silk green dress acted coyly to attract Brij Nath's attentions. She allowed Hunt to kiss her in full view, and then let entranced Nath lure her to view his private art collection in his bedroom. At the same moment, however, the wily Hendricks (who had anticipated Hunt's plan) and cohort Wistrom entered the headquarters of SUN Network, a state-run television station in Mumbai with a broadcasting tower, where he uplinked to the satellite, rebooted to original military specs, and downloaded a virus from the satellite to kill the central server where Brandt and Dunn were working. Hendricks effectively took the server offline before the IMF could kill the satellite. Then, after reprogramming the satellite, Hendricks successfully acquired nuclear missile launch capability within five minutes. In Nath's bedroom, Carter with a neck-breaking head-lock coerced the playboy to reveal the satellite's access code over-ride sequence (46, 82, 93), which was relayed to Dunn. The information also unlocked Hendricks' signaling location 6.7 miles away from Hunt. With Sidorov on his tail, Hunt (with Carter) left the party and sped away in a vehicle toward the broadcast TV station ("the rallying point"), where they hoped to delay Hendricks' nuclear missile launching, and meet up with Brandt and Dunn.

However, they had only about three minutes to counteract Hendricks, who had already weaponized the restored, online satellite and uploaded new authentication codes to lock Russian Central Command out of the system so that the launch couldn't be verified. He sent a signal to fire only one nuclear warhead from a Russian nuclear submarine submerged in the Central Pacific, code-named Operation "Iron Fist," and aimed at San Francisco. He hoped it would be interpreted by the US as Russian retaliation for the destruction of the Kremlin ("That should start the ball rolling"). Hendricks also contacted the submarine commander and told him to cease verification efforts. Hunt knew that their only remaining option, with time running out, was to abort the warhead. They had to hurriedly get to the launch device in the steel briefcase - in Hendricks' possession.

When Hunt and Carter drove up to the front of the TV network building, Hendricks fled on foot (with Hunt in pursuit), while Wistrom reentered the building (followed by Carter) and attempted to disable the relay from the TV station by ripping out computer cables in the network control room. He also fired upon Carter and wounded her in the abdomen, and then turned off the main power switch to the building. Dunn and Brandt suddenly appeared as back-up, and while Dunn struggled to bring the station back online to transmit the abort codes, Brandt pursued Wistrom into the electrical power room to restore the power, as Hunt chased after Hendricks for possession of the launch-control device (in the case) within a nearby multi-tiered, fully-mechanized, circular parking garage. After a fight to the death against Hunt on a series of moving car ramps, Hendricks made a fatal jump to his death with the case, hoping to ensure the launch's success.

Worried about his fellow agent Brandt's long absence, Dunn followed after him, confronted Wistrom choking Brandt - and killed him. This freed Brandt to flip the main power switch, to reactivate the broadcast relay to the satellite, and allowed Hunt to transmit a deactivation signal to the satellite and missile - just in time. With only one second remaining, Hunt cried out "Mission Accomplished" as he pushed the launch device button to disarm the missile. In flight, the deactivated missile still struck and damaged part of the top of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco before plunging harmlessly into SF Bay. Hendricks lived long enough to witness his plan's failure. [Later, the DOD explained the missile impact as a possible meteorite.] At that same moment, Sidorov arrived with armed support and suddenly realized that Hunt had aborted the nuclear missile, and had purposely allowed the Russians to track him: "So, we are not enemies. The phone call from that arms dealer in Dubai. You wanted me to find you. How else to believe this?"

Eight weeks later, the surviving four IMF team members, some still healing from wounds, reconvened for beers in Seattle, where Hunt was speaking to his former colleague Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). After meeting the other three agents, Luther departed, promising Hunt: "I'll see you in Kandahar." Hunt then offered the eager agents a new assignment - delivered on individual cellphones, but Brandt was the only one to reject the new mission. He reasoned that he had failed in his previous mission in Croatia when Hunt's wife Julia was murdered.

The film's twist was Hunt's revelation that her death was secretly staged - as a pretext for him to kill six Serbians and be imprisoned in Russia, where he could use Bogdan as an informant to get to Hendricks. Relieved by the surprise admission, Brandt shook Hunt's hand ("We're good") and accepted the new mission. At the same time, Hunt watched Julia as she walked off in the distance, turned, and smiled at him. He disappeared in a cloud of smoke on the way to his next mission, to confront an "emerging terror organization known as the Syndicate." The new challenge was that the terrorist organization had control of the US' entire drone fleet, although their targets were unknown.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

This was the fourth film in the loosely TV-based blockbuster franchise-series of sequels, a supplemental addition that revitalized the action genre. The time period was approximately 5 years since the previous installment, about the same time that had elapsed in the meantime, while it retained continuity with plot elements from the end of the third film.

This was famed Pixar director Brad Bird's live-action directorial debut film. It was the first film in the series to be released in IMAX.

The film's running gag was that many of IMF's high-tech gadgets didn't work as expected: the mission message delivered in a decrepit Russian phone booth that didn't self-destruct, unreliable glass-scaling suction gloves, the facial latex mask-making machine, etc.

With a production budget of $145 million, and box-office gross receipts of $209.4 million (domestic) and $694.7 million (worldwide) - and the second highest-grossing film of the first four films in the series.

Set-pieces: Hunt's prison break from a Moscow prison, the daring undercover failed break-in at the Kremlin, Hunt's ascent and descent of Dubai's towering Burj Khalifa skyscraper (the tallest building in the world), the duplicate exchange of diamonds/codes sequence, and the subsequent chase during a Dubai sandstorm, and the final one-on-one struggle between Hendricks and Hunt in a fully-mechanized, circular parking garage.

Trevor Hanaway
(Josh Holloway)

Sabine Moreau
(Léa Seydoux)

Ethan Hunt
(Tom Cruise)

(Miraj Grbic)

Benji Dunn
(Simon Pegg)

Jane Carter
(Paula Patton)

Anatoly Sidorov
(Vladimir Mashkov)

Leonid Lisenker
(Ivan Shvedoff)

Kurt Hendricks
(Michael Nyqvist)

Marius Wistrom
(Samuli Edelmann)

IMF Secretary
(Tom Wilkinson)

William Brandt
(Jeremy Renner)

Brij Nath
(Anil Kapoor)

Luther Stickell
(Ving Rhames)

Julia Meade
(Michelle Monaghan)

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