Face-Off: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol vs. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Bonjour, you depraved cinephiles! This is the Face-Off, and I assume you're here to witness another bout of cinematic carnage. The last two have been quite horrific, with the last session featuring the two Pennywises (Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgard) going at it for supreme clown glory. This week we're going down an adrenaline-pumping road to get you jacked for the rest of 2018, as we compare two of the most acclaimed action movies of the decade: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION

While MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 got solid critic reviews the movie failed to meet the standards of the first two at the box office, putting the series on a bit of a hiatus. But the franchise came roaring back with the fourth installment, GHOST PROTOCOL, with director Brad Bird giving the series new life. The fifth movie, ROGUE NATION, kept the fire burning with yet another exhilarating installment that proved star Tom Cruise is a god among mortals. A lot of new goodies have been coming out for the sixth installment, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT, and so now it's time to revisit these action giants.

The stunts are off the hook and The Crusie is off the chain, but which movie accomplished the impossible mission the best? Take a look below to find out!

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Paula Patton as Jane Carter
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn
Jeremy Renner as William Brandt
Lea Seydoux as Sabine Moreau
Michael Nyqvist as Kurt Hendricks
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn
Jeremy Renner as William Brandt
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickwell
Sean Harris as Lane
Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley
Brad Bird, the director of animated hits like THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE, seemed like an unlikely choice to direct an entry in such a big spy-movie franchise, one starring Tom Cruise no less. What, was he gonna make the villain an angry terrorist who as a child looked up to Ethan Hunt until Hunt told him, "Go home, I work alone"? Turns out, the man proved to be an exceptional action director and was able to completely retool the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series. He gave a greater breadth to the set pieces (while filming them with detailed precision), injected a new level of slickness into the series and made the best use of an ensemble of any MI film to date. While the other films are fun action flicks, he elevated the franchise to an artistic level of blockbuster filmmaking.
Christopher McQuarrie had even less experience as a director than Bird, but he at least worked with Cruise before on the action thriller JACK REACHER. But Bird did an excellent job setting up the new style of the MI series, and McQuarrie was able to take it and run with it to the next level. His action pieces are ferocious and fast-paced and he works the characters through more complex dynamics. In short, he had a high bar to meet, and he succeeded in spades

After a batch of nuclear launch codes gets into the wrong hands (as they always do), the IMF busts Ethan Hunt out of a Russian jail to get him back in the game. Sadly, the plan goes haywire, and soon the IMF is forced to go into Ghost Protocol, now disavowed by the U.S. government. Working with a bundle of expensive resources, Hunt and his small team must do everything they can to save the day before a nuclear is war is incited by an evil Swedish-born Russian madman (as they always are).

Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec handled scripting duties, and though the story goes down the similar path of other spy movies it seems totally fresh thanks to the inclusion of some new characters and giving Cruise deeper material to work with. It takes on a lot, but the character interactions are great and they concocted some ingenious set pieces, which were brought to life by Bird. A great piece of writing, which sadly cannot be said of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movies they went on to write

Much like the Avengers in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, MI5 finds the IMF having to deal with the fallout of their actions, no matter how epicly awesome and world-saving they may be. The IMF is effectively shut down while Ethan Hunt inches closer to discovering the presence of The Syndicate, an evil organization of former spies. In order to stop them, Hunt must damn the politics and go rogue - with the help of some friends. He's dealing with conflict at all sides, and the danger he faces has never reached such heights. He literally has to hang off the side of an airplane at one point!

McQuarrie brought his Oscar-winning screenwriting skills (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) to the MI franchise and delivered a script that delivered all the hallmarks of the series, brought more characters into play and was often quite funny. Like GHOST, the story revolves around Hunt and the team going rogue, but McQuarrie gives the story more layers by having not only a more interesting villain but also the mysterious Ilsa Faust, both of whom give Hunt a run for his money. The script juggled more than GHOST did, and was able to come out the other end a seamless, incredibly fun summer flick.


Agent Down

Prison Break

Hunt: "Light the Fuse."

Infiltrating the Kremlin

Decoy Wall

Kremlin Goes Boom

Escaping the Hospital

Sudden Attack/Underwater Decoy

Last of the IMF

Climbing the Building

Benji: "A good way to remember is 'Blue is glue.'"

Hunt: "And red?"

Benji: "Dead."

The Broken Glove

Running Down the Building

Doing the Deal

Jane v. Sabine

Sandstorm Chase

Finger Pointing

Party in India

Jane the Seductress

Brandt Makes the Leap

Hunt: "Did you jump?"

Brandt: "Should I have not jumped? Cuz I jumped!"

The Final Chase

Car Factory Fight

Kurt Flings Himself to His Death

Hunt: "Mission accomplished!"

The Gang Relaxes

The Lost Love

Ethan Hunt Rides a F**king Airplane

Ethan Kidnapped

Committee Hearing

Brandt: "I can neither confirm nor deny details of any operation without the Secretary's approval."

Hunt/Faust Team Up

Hunt: "We've never met before, right?"

Bearded Hunt

The Woman in the Yellow Dress

Opera House Rumble/Shoot Out

Ilsa's Identity Revealed

Establishing the Plan

Underwater Mission

Rescuing Ethan


Benji: "Are you okay to drive? A minute ago you were dead!

High-speed Pursuit

Hunt: "You have your seatbelt on?"

Benji: "You're asking me that now?!

Motorcycle Chase

Warehouse Arguement

Benji Taken

Borrowing the Prime Minister

Benji the Bomb

Faust v. Janik

Lane in a Box

Hunt: "Gentleman, this is Soloman Lane. Mr. Lane, meet the IMF."

Seperate Ways

IMF Reinstated

Going into this movie, Bird wanted to film the movie with a sense of scope he felt was being lost in movies in favor of massive CGI set pieces. This is also why he filmed the movie in IMAX and not 3D, which was all the rage in 2010-2011. The result is some breathtaking action and one helluva main stunt. I mean, Cruise just throws caution to the wind and crawls up the world's tallest building like he's f**king Spider-Man. But we also shouldn't overlook the killer fight scenes, Jeremy Renner's time to shine with his big stunt and that awesome sand storm bit. The mission was to bring scope back to action movies, and Bird accepted and accomplished the task.
Yes, the building scaling scene in GHOST PROTOCOL is top-notch. Clearly, though, the crew wanted to top that this time around and holy shit did they ever. We got Cruise not only holding onto the side of a plane as it took off, but he also filmed a huge underwater scene wherein he actually had to hold his breath underwater for three minutes. That scene was filmed all in one shot (though in the movie it's broken up a bit), and those bits alone make this some of the most impressive stuntwork in all of action movie history. And that's not even all of it! There is some terrific choreography (the opera house scene), sick vehicle chases in both car and motorcycle, and general bouts of ass-kickery. This movie cranks everything up to 11 while retaining a sense of grandeur that seems lost in a world of CGI.
Michael Nyqvist is a fantastic actor and has made a great villain before in JOHN WICK. But here he is probably the weakest element of the film. He's one of those villains who are just sort of "around". He doesn't get an opportunity to do much other than show up during some sort of action bit, and his malicious personality isn't quite fleshed out. He brings some pedigree to the "maniacal baddie bent on nuclear war" archetype, but he's a better performer than the role lets him be.
Sean Harris is an improvement over Nyqvist's villain and brings a serpentine, quiet, sinister evil to his role. He's not physically imposing, but there's an intellectual aspect to him that juxtaposes the chaotic action quite nicely. He's a puppeteer, playing both Faust and Hunt's team like they were marionettes. I'm glad McQuarrie found a place for him in FALLOUT, because there's plenty of room to explore the character, and that includes allowing him to prove why he's the best damn villain ever to wear nothing but black sweaters.
With these last two MI films, we get two sides of Cruise/Hunt coin. In GHOST PROTOCOL we get the dramatic Cruise. Still as charming as ever, the Ethan Hunt in this movie is still dealing with the inner turmoil of having to say goodbye to his wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan, who is coming back for the new movie, FALLOUT). He acts like a man with nothing to lose, a mad sense of determination burning behind the eyes. Cruise has the acting chops to match the showmanship, turning in his most complicated work as Hunt yet.
On the other side of the coin, we have Crusie the showman, the entertainer, the man who will strap himself to an airplane and barrel down the highway on a motorcycle, all for our enjoyment. In ROGUE NATION he proves he is an unparalleled action superstar who remains so goddamn entertaining to watch. He commands the screen at all turns and even wrings out a few laughs here and there. At one point Hunt was brought back from death after drowning, and Cruise plays up the drunk/dazed state to pure comic perfection, all while performing some amazing stunt driving. ROGUE NATION makes use of all of Cruise's skills and reminds us why we are grateful to have him in our lives.
The past MI films featured Hunt assembling his team to go hunt bad guys, but the roles in GHOST PROTOCOL's team are much more pronounced than before. Each character has a role to fill. Benji is the tech-guy/comic relief; Jane is the sexy, capable, tough woman spy and; Brandt is the black sheep, the one element with an air of secrecy around him, and who must prove himself. This is still Cruise's story, but the characters around him are more interesting and involved this time around, marking another major step forward for the franchise.
Many of the characters in MI4 returned for MI5 (sans Paula Patton), and they each get new elements to play with. Benji is itching to prove himself in the field and grows closer to Hunt; Brandt deals with the political aspects of the movie against Alec Baldwin's Hunley and; Faust is an excellent addition, testing Hunt as a bit of a femme fatale. Also factor in some improved villain work, and ROGUE NATION makes for a more crowded canvas that makes use of all the additions.
Golden Schmoes:
    Best Action Sequence: "Climbing the Dubar Building"
    Best Director: Brad Bird
    Coolest Character: Ethan Hunt
    Best Trailer
    Most Memorable Scene: "Climbing the Dubar Building
    Best T&A of the Year: Paula Patton
Praise Money:
    $209 million domestic ($694 million global)
Golden Schmoes:
    Best DVD of the Year
    Best T&A of the Year: Rebecca Ferguson
Praise Money:
    $195 million domestic ($682 million global)

Doing this feature has been an interesting experience for me. Several times I have gone in favoring one movie, but when going through the individual pieces upon revisiting I found myself favoring the other side. Such is the case here. I always touted the GHOST PROTOCOL as being my favorite MI film, with ROGUE NATION a close second. The stunts were incredible, the cast was great, and the whole experience made the series fun again. But in rewatching both movies I find myself falling in love with ROGUE NATION all over again. Everything GHOST PROTOCOL set up in terms of character and style NATION was able to honor and improve upon in almost every way. The stunts are bigger without being bloated; the character dynamics are richer with several new, interesting additions and; Cruise turns in one of his most show-stopping efforts yet. Both movies are tremendous action films, with ROGUE NATION doing everything just a bit better. But, hey, this is the closest I'm ever going to come to picking the favorite of my children. My actual children will always know who I love more.



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