A series of films based on the classic Mission: Impossible series. The movies were made as continuations of the original, meaning they were not repeats of the same characters but mostly new characters working for the same agency.Tom Cruise headlines each film as ace IMF agent Ethan Hunt and Ving Rhames plays Luther Stickell, Ethan's go-to guy for Mission Control and computer hacking. Each film outlines an Impossible Mission Collapse of varying kinds and it usually involves the heroes trying to fix the mess that has developed (often with regular violence, something the original show purposefully avoided).Because of the higher action quotient, dominant focus on Cruise rather than the entire team and some liberties taken with previously existing characters, there has been a sizable backlash regarding fans of the original series. Still, the films have been embraced by general audiences and elements unique to them alone have become embedded in modern popular culture. They all have different themes and tones, too; they don't simply use a Reset Button and each film isn't mere Sequel Escalation.Mission Impossible (1996) - Jim Phelps is called upon for a new assignment dealing with very sensitive information regarding IMF agents and their cover IDs. He brings in his standard crew, including point man Ethan Hunt, and they plan out how to recover the info. Unfortunately, their mission was compromised horribly and Ethan finds himself the lone survivor and the top suspect as a traitor. The discovery of two other survivors doesn't alleviate his paranoia, so he goes into the list of blacklisted former IMF agents to put together another team to get to the bottom of their original mission and the conspiracy behind it. Directed by Brian DePalma (yes, thatone), the movie became well known for the interweaving and complicated plotting. (And the signature image pictured above) This is the least violent Mission Impossible film, by far. And given that you can clearly see an eye gouging for a few frames and that DePalma is the one helming this one, that's saying something. The film however was (and remains) very divisive among long-time fans of the TV series (due to who the villain is, and the fact the story tends to focus on a single character, rather than a team), and was publicly disowned by at least two cast members of the original series.Mission Impossible II (2000) - Ethan is snagged out of a vacation to track down a rogue IMF agent who has stolen a very dangerous virus and has malicious plans for it. He is sent to recruit a Classy Cat-Burglar and ends up falling for her. That is made all the more complicated when he learns that she is an ex-girlfriend of the rogue agent and the agency wants her to infiltrate his group. Ethan has to put aside his personal feelings as he tries to stay one step ahead of his rival. Directed by John Woo and it is plain to see, as this film is far more stylized and action-packed, with less cloak and dagger than the first film or the franchise as a whole. It was more financially successful than the first film and had some favorable reviews, but was several steps further removed from the premisenote For that reason a lot of people don't feel it has aged as well.Mission Impossible III (2006) - Ethan is in semi-retirement, only training new agents, and is engaged to Julia Meade, a nurse who thinks he works for the Virginia Department of Transportation. He is convinced to come out of retirement when he learns that one of his students has been captured. After the simultanous success and failure of that mission they learn that she was tracking down the whereabouts of an elusive arms dealer named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and that he is looking for an unspecified item known as the "Rabbits Foot." The big-screen directing debut of J. J. Abrams (who also co-scripted and did a bit of digital work), this film falls back to cloak-and-dagger tricks, with the action being more through time-frame constrictions or compromised missions, and even takes time to develop its characters. It got better reviews than the first two and is considered more faithful to the concept of the original series because of its focus on a team instead of Tom Cruise.Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) - A mission to infiltrate the Kremlin goes awry when a massive bomb goes off, Ethan's team being framed for the act and the resulting political backlash ends up shutting down the entire IMF under operation 'Ghost Protocol'. Basically the only ones left, they must operate without their normal resources and backup while clearing their names and stopping the real culprit's darker goal. Directed by Brad Bird in his live-action directorial debut, J. J. Abrams stayed on as a producer, Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg return joined by Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton with Josh Holloway and an unbilled Tom Wilkinson in supporting roles. The film has received very positive critical reviews for the deft action sequences and a strong return to the team-focused nature of the series. This film is less about Ethan Hunt than the previous three (hence the lack of sequel number). It also did a lot to redeem both the Mission Impossible movies and Tom Cruise in the eyes of the public.This series is also the Trope Namer for the famous "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop.
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This series as a whole provides examples of:
Badass Crew: All of them are the very best at what they do & are also trained for tactical & close-quarters combat in case the mission goes to hell(which often does).
California Doubling: Averted in that for the most part they film on location: Prague in the first film, Utah and Australia in the second, China in the third and Dubai in the fourth. Although except for the Kremlin scenes, Moscow in the fourth film was filmed in Prague.
Dead Star Walking: Almost every installment features instances of this - Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott Thomas in the original film, Keri Russell in the third film, and Josh Holloway and Tom Wilkinson in Ghost Protocol.
Disney Death: Julia does this once each in both the third and fourth installments!
Fanservice: It's remarkable how many IMF operations involve their female operatives wearing revealing cocktail dresses (especially noticeable in the third and fourth films). On the other side of the coin, Tom Cruise's physique usually gets some sort of exhibition, whether it's going sleeveless, or tight shirts, or both.
Jeremy Renner joins in Ghost Protocol, wearing very fitting suits, and doing a whole series of stretches and bends to accentuate his physique.
Guile Hero: The team, like actual spies, tries to accomplish their missions with as little fuss as possible, preferring to infiltrate and deceive. While typically this goes drastically wrong, this is most notable in the first movie; No firearm is fired by Ethan or any good guy, which makes for a jarring change in M:I-2 when he's dual-wielding pistols.
In Ghost Protocol Team Hunt expends less than ten rounds of ammo for the entire film.
Hero Insurance: In three of the four films, Ethan is forced to become a rogue agent and perform all sorts of criminal actions, but since he brings in the bad guy he's exonerated. (This is Played With in Ghost Protocol - he deliberately leads the Russian spy to him right after he kills Hendricks so that his name will be cleared.) It might be also that IMF is an extremely secret organization, so much that the agents themselves don't explain everything they do to the agency, so Ethan is not acting entirely different than if he wasn't cut off.
Hero with Bad Publicity: Ethan gets framed and chased by the government in three of the four films. You would think they would trust the guy a little more.
Subverted in the fourth film. The machine making the masks (of Sabine and Wistrom) breaks down most of the way through, forcing Carter to go into her meeting with Wistrom as herself. While their enemies use those masks a few times, none of the team members do (though Ethan does use some make-up effects to impersonate a Russian General, but it is still recognizably Ethan).
Made of Iron: In every installment, Ethan sustains from pretty cringe-inducing hits, but always gets right back up again.
Mission Control: Stickell, although he gets some action (some more about suspense than actual bullets flying) in each of the films.
In Ghost Protocol, all four team members either discuss or are depicted on-screen as being in the Mission Control position.
Just like the series, every movie has a mission briefing that ends with the device giving them their orders self-destructing. Jokingly played with in the fourth, where one device fails to detonate and Ethan has to slam it to get it to work.
Also Foreshadowing since from that point on, pretty much anything than can go wrong with the mission, does.
Every movie has somebody (usually Ethan) doing a "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop. While the first movie has a reason for the sprawled position (making sure not to touch the weight sensitive floor) the other films don't have any such justification except as an internal homage. Played with in Ghost Protocol: Brandt is seen in the signature pose, but no cables are involved; instead he is actually being pushed up by a large magnet below him and a magnetic suit he's wearing.
Outrun the Fireball: In the first film, Ethan outjumped a fireball (specifically, he used the explosive force to throw him back to a train).
Subverted in the third film, as Ethan tries to outrun a fireball only to be blown sideways into a car.
In Ghost Protocol once Ethan catches on that the bomb was about to go off he started running, only to be caught in the outer edge anyway and knocked out. The explosion was unique in that it wasn't a fireball, just concussive.
In the first film, Ethan turns to a list of disavowed agents to assemble a new team to strike back against the conspirators, both of whom have dirty records that explain their blacklisting. One of them, Stickell, ends up being acquitted of his previous charges, becomes one of Ethan's best friends and is the only other character to be in all the films.
In the second, Ethan is directed to recruit a Classy Cat-Burglar, but assumes it's for her skills - and gets egg on his face because she's actually the Big Bad's Old Flame, recruited to spy on him.
In "Ghost Protocol", Ethan is the Criminal who gets Recruited, as he's in prison for killing the group of Serbian spies who slew his wife.
Extends to behind the camera when you throw in the fact that all four films have different directors using completely different styles.
The transition from III to Ghost Protocol is a little less jarring, as there is less turn-over in characters (Benji stays), and plot and staff (J. J. Abrams).
Rule of Cool: The films regularly chuck logic and physics out the window.
The Spook: Kitridge in the first film has a nice monologue about how all the IMF agents are trained to be ghosts, such that even if they cut them off from agency support they can still operate with little concern. All of their most dangerous enemies are the same way.
Took a Level in Badass: Ethan Hunt through the first three movies. He never fires a single firearm in the first film, dual-wields pistols and does some Rule of Cool martial arts in the signature Woo style in the second, and goes full tactical-gear and firearms in the opening setpiece of the third film.
Two-Part Trilogy: In a surprising aversion, each film stands completely alone with only a bare connective thread between them. They have distinctive plots and have different directors, giving each film it's own "flavor" of sorts. As well each movie has a 4-6 year gap between them, which is very unusual with the common practice of 2-3 year maximum gaps for sequels.
Acoustic License: Features a climax where hero and villain are hanging off a speeding helicopter. Following just behind a TGV Bullet Train traveling hundreds of kilometers per hour. In a tunnel. Given this it's probably just as well Ethan Hunt uses visual aids while shouting so that Phelps can properly recognize things are about to get a little 'splody.
Adaptational Villainy: Jim Phelps, the main protagonist of the original TV series, is the mole. It seems almost like a deconstruction of what the movie thinks is the 'idea' of Jim Phelps. He's a Cold War agent who ran his own show, but when the conflict is over he finds himself in a low-paying job without a say in policy and a lousy marriage to a woman he doesn't love, so he throws his morals out the window by selling out his country to work for money. Ethan Hunt works as a reconstructed successor to the antiquated "old spy" Jim Phelps, reaffirming his loyalty to his country after they turn on him and ushering in a new era of espionage.
All There in the Manual: The novelization of this film explains more in-depth about how some of the devices actually work (like the RF meter used by Max's crew when seeing if the NOC list they got from Job was a fake) as well more UST between Ethan and Claire that got left on the cutting room floor.
Badass Boast: After Ethan lays out what awaits his crew at CIA HQ, depicting arguably the most secure vault ever conceived:
Blindfolded Trip: The 'price of admission' for meeting Max is wearing a full-face balaclava with the eye-holes sewn shut.
Blofeld Ploy: At the end, Jim shoots his wife instead of killing Ethan when he had the perfect chance.
Book Ends: At the end, Ethan is offered another assignment in the same manner as Jim.
Broken Pedestal: Ethan greatly admires and respects Jim (and is implied to have romantic feelings for Claire) and is devastated at the realization of their treachery.
Butt Monkey: The CIA vault employee, who gets tagged with a liquid that makes him sick to his stomach long enough for Ethan's rogue team to make a copy of the NOC list and leave. Despite his spotless record, Kittridge has him relocated to a different job and how.
The Cameo: Emilio Estevez's role is unbilled, though it's quite a bit more than a cameo.
Challenge Seeker: Luther takes on the CIA job because, in addition to the money, the idea of trying to hack the most secure server out there is tantalizing. Ethan tells him "this is the Mount Everest of hacks", knowing that's all Luther will need to hear to accept (that, and being able to keep all the computer equipment when they're done).
Chekhov's Gun: The Bible in the Prague hideout, which leads to another use with the mention of the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Also, an attentive viewer will be able to know that Kreiger is a villain due to carrying the same distinctive-looking knife as the one found on Sarah's body.
Did You Actually Believe?: When Krieger says that he has leverage to be a part of whatever deal Ethan has with Job because he holds the NOC list, Ethan reminds him that he had two discs with him at the vault and shows off some sleight-of-hand tricks. He then tells him, "Did you actually think I'd let you have the NOC list?", causing Krieger to toss out his disc in disgust. This was actually a con by Ethan to get Krieger to give up the disc he was holding, which actually was the real list.
Double Caper: Basically the entire film: Jim Phelps' IMF team thinks they're shadowing a traitor in Prague who plans to sell the NOC list to an arms dealer. Only it's actually a molehunt headed by Kittridge and a second team to expose a traitor on Jim's own team, the traitor is actually an IMF agent himself, and that "NOC list" is actually a tracking program to hone in on whoever tries to load it, with the real list safe at CIA HQ. Since Ethan is the lone survivor, Kittridge thinks he has his man. So now Ethan has to go rogue with a team of disavowed agents and get the real and complete NOC list so he can expose The Man Behind the Man and true mole ("Job") and clear his name.
Face-Heel Turn: The infamous - Jim Phelps the hero of the original TV series turn out to be the Big Bad in the end.
This is why Peter Graves, who played Jim Phelps in the TV series, refused to do a cameo.
Foreshadowing: In the elevator scene at the beginning, the team panics when Golitsyn suddenly takes the elevator down, blocking off Ethan and Sarah's escape route. Jack can't get the elevator doors open so Ethan and Sarah can hide beneath the box, but fortunately Jim saves the day from his hotel room. This shows that Jim has superior access over the elevator. So when Jack dies minutes later in a freak elevator 'accident', it becomes rather obvious who the actual mole is.
Also, in the opening briefing scene, the team ribs Jim about him being put up in the posh Drake Hotel in Chicago during a recruiting trip. This becomes important as Ethan is able to link Jim as "Job", when he finds out the Bible he took from Jim's safehouse was taken from the Drake Hotel.
When the team is being ambushed, you can clearly see the assailant's arm crooked around so that the gun is facing Jim's camera. The flashback where Ethan puts it together in his mind shows Jim doing precisely this to fake his death.
When Ethan gets ready to copy the NOC list, he initially takes out two discs from his suit, then shelves one. The audience doesn't know why he has two discs on him, but in the next scene, Kreiger boasts about having the NOC list Ethan handed him, only for Ethan to bluff him with a Good For Bad con with the other (blank) disc in order for Kreiger to toss away the real one for Ethan to retrieve.
Funny Background Event: Krieger is spooked into dropping Ethan when he sees a rat crawling towards him in the vault's air duct. Krieger is able to re-secure the rope before Ethan hits the ground, and when the scene cuts back to Krieger getting Ethan up to a safe level, the rat behind him is belly-up dead.
Good All Along: Disavowed Luther. Although Ethan is leery of Krieger, he's fully trusting of Luther despite his non-IMF status and even hands him the NOC list to control. By the end of the movie, Luther has been taken off the disavowed list and is back with IMF.
Ethan: So how does it feel to be a solid citizen again?
Luther: I don't know, I'm gonna miss being disreputable.
Ethan: If it makes you feel better, I'll always think of you that way.
Good For Bad: Krieger is given the NOC list upon pulling Ethan up from the Langley vault (in the novelization, he explicitly tells Ethan to give him the list or he won't be pulled up). He thinks he has leverage by controlling the disc but Ethan shows him the other disc he had on him in the vault and claims it's the real one, saying he'd never trust Krieger with the actual list. Krieger buys it and throws the other one away, only for Ethan to switch the discs in the garbage once he leaves, since Krieger really did have the NOC list.
Helicopter Blender: Near the end of the film, a baddie flies a helicopter into a train tunnel and attempts to blend the protagonist. The rotors even bounce off the walls with no ill effects, only some pretty sparks. The Rule of Cool is in full force: we are not concerned with the low-pressure area behind the train making flying difficult or the top speed of choppers being too low to follow the pictured train.
Here We Go Again: Ethan takes a plane ride home at the end and is approached with the exact same code that Jim Phelps began the movie with.
Hero Antagonist: Kittridge is chasing Hunt because he really does believe that Hunt is the mole.
Hyper Awareness: Tom Cruise's character meets his IMF superior for a debriefing after a botched mission. He looks around the cafe and recognizes around him another IMF team that had also been present at the botch.
The novelization gives us another good example: When he's been hooded and is sitting in the room with Max, he is able to determine the number of doors, material the walls are made from, the direction of airflow, height of the room, and number of people in the room with him before they remove the hood.
I Have Your Mother And Uncle On A Trumped Up Charge: Kittridge tries this in order to get Ethan to turn himself in, but Ethan is Genre Savvy enough to see through it and even slightly mocks Kittridge on the ruse (which is part of Ethan's own ploy to keep Kittridge on the line long enough to trace Hunt to London.)
Hunt: If you're dealing with a man who has crushed, stabbed, shot, and detonated five members of his own IMF team, how devastated do you think you're gonna make him by hauling Mom and Uncle Donald down to the county courthouse?
Inspector Javert: Kittridge. Unusual for this trope, he provides vital support to Hunt once he realizes the truth.
It's Pronounced Tro-PAY : When Krieger and Ethan start to argue about who has the real NOC list, Claire gives him an exasperated "Krieger", pronouncing it 'Kray-ger'; he corrects with 'Kre-ger'.
It's A Small Net After All: After realizing that "Job 314" actually refers to the Book of Job chapter 3, verse 14, Ethan is able to track down the elusive Max on Bible sites online. While it does take him some time, even if he had used the most relevant search terms and stuck to the larger sites in reality it would have taken him at least days to find the right one.
Self-Serving Memory: A subversion in that the Consummate Liar isn't the person with the flashbacks, but rather the person he's speaking to. When Jim calls out Kittridge as the mole, Ethan already knows Jim is, but Ethan verbally plays along while we see flashbacks to the Prague mission where Ethan puts Jim in position to kill every team member and stage his own death. When he muses that the mole must've needed help to blow up Hannah in the car, he first thinks of Claire as the culprit (and he'd be right), but he doesn't want to believe it, so he imagines the scenario again with Jim blowing it up with a detonator at a specific time.
Ship Tease: Jack and Sarah flirt with each other before and during the Prague mission. The ship is quickly sunk when both are killed before the first act is over.
Shoe Phone: Jim Phelps builds a gun from components disguised as a stereo.
Smug Snake: Kittridge is practically giddy at the restaurant when he not-so-subtly implies to Ethan that he's in big trouble. He gets a rare heroic version of the trope at the end of the film when Ethan reveals to him that Phelps is alive.
Time Marches On: In the opening, Jim Phelps smokes a cigar so that the people sitting around him don't notice the smoke caused by his briefing tape self-destructing. Nowadays commercial flights are strictly non-smoking.
Traintop Battle: The finale occurs atop a speeding TGV inside the channel tunnel. Unusually for the trope, they can barely move because of the enormous wind resistance.
Tranquil Fury: Ethan goes into this when Kittridge accuses him of being the IMF mole.
Kittridge: I can understand you're very upset.
Ethan: Kittridge, you've never seen me very upset.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The team successfully catches the mark possessing the NOC list and leaving to meet his buyer. Then the team (sans Ethan) and the mark are killed one by one and the list is in the hands of the assailant. Only the mark wasn't a mark, the list wasn't the list, and the mission wasn't a mission.
Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible II provides examples of:
Artistic License - Engineering: To steal the MacGuffin by staging an air crash, the pilot simulates a loss of pressure and deploys the oxygen masks, which knocks out the passengers, co-pilot and flight engineer with sleeping gas. The problem with this is that, in real-life airliners, while the flight crew have a shared oxygen supply, the passenger masks are fuelled by individual chemical generators.
Brief Accent Imitation: The second movie shows little throat patches that are able to alter their voice into the voice of whoever they are imitating through Latex Perfection. The third film not only shows how said latex masks are made, but also the voice strips; they require voice samples of the target making various commonly used syllables.
Carrying the Antidote: Turned inside-out. A scientist creates the ultimate flu vaccine - also producing the ultimate superflu in the process. Of course things are the right way around once the villain gets his hands on the suitcase. The villain also had an interesting way of selling the vaccine, as surprisingly, he did not ask for a ransom.
Chekhov's Gun: A somewhat obvious (after the fact) example: Luther accidentally pulls up the location of the final part of the movie on display, before moving to the actual building of interest at the time.
Hugh's bandaged finger, which Ambrose had mutilated earlier
Evil Counterpart: The Big Bad in this film is literally this; he would oft be disguised as Ethan in previous missions when working for IMF due to their similar facial structure, and would explain why he'd also have the masks and voice strips of Hunt once he went rogue. Word of God labels this as one of the reasons he turned traitor in the first place, as he was sick of so many of his missions involving impersonating another agent, rather than being trusted himself.
For the Evulz: Ambrose loves nothing more than taking time to gloat before sadistically killing people and he is mentioned as having been unstable long before his betrayal. It's even a Fatal Flaw as Ethan uses the time he takes to gloat over a double he murders to get away with the virus.
Hammerspace: Where else could Ethan keep the latex mask he somehow had of the Big Bad's Dragon in the climax of the second film?
Hoist by His Own Petard: Ethan disguises himself as The Dragon, tricking the Big Bad into shooting the real dragon, who's disguised as Ethan. The real Ethan takes the MacGuffin and leaves. The movie started with the bad guy imitating Ethan in the same fashion.
Kiss of Distraction: Nayah distracts Ambrose with a kiss while stealing the envelope containing the memory card from his pocket. She tries something similar when she returns the envelope (sidling up against him), but this time it doesn't work—(a) he realizes it instantly, and (b) even if not, she puts it in the wrong pocket, which would have tipped him off eventually.
Large Ham: Ambrose loves to have his head tremble and his eyes bug out whenever he's angry.
Smug Snake: Ambrose. He spends half of the film with a smug look of self-satisfaction on his face and the other in a ballistic rage when things don't go according to plan.
The Sociopath: Ambrose is the second biggest in the series after Owen Davian.
Title Drop: When Ethan says convincing Nyah to go along with the plan to plant her with the Big Bad may be "difficult", his boss retorts that their assignment is not Mission: Difficult, it's Mission: Impossible, so "difficult" should be "a walk in the park".
Tracking Chip: The good guys put a chip in Ethan's head which transmits his location to a satellite. They tell him "this chip is completely untraceable." Which kind of defeats the purpose, when you think about it.
Typhoid Mary: The villain's plans for Nyah; he even mentions Mary by name. Nyah, until the team arrives, plans to kill herself to save everyone.
Visual Pun: The camera quickly cuts to another scene right before Ambrose uses the cigar cutter on Ambrose.
Whole Plot Reference: The premise of the second film—spy falls in love with girl, but the mission requires the girl to fake getting back together with her boyfriend, a Bad Guy who is trying to get a dangerous weapon—is lifted from the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Notorious. They even both have a scene where the spy meets the girl at a racetrack.
Air-Vent Passageway: Ethan escapes the IMF headquarters via an air vent. The vent Ethan crawls out of is in a room with pamphlets for the Virginia Department Of Transportation, his cover job, implying that he uses that room frequently and either knows of — or set up — that opportunity, should he ever need it.
Theodore Brassel: [Looking down at Ethan from atop] Now I am not a stranger to disrespect, you don't get to where I am without developing a thick skin. But what I won't stand for. What I will lose sleep over - and I love my sleep - is the idea of an irresponsible, rogue Agent working in my office. So Im going to slow things way down here.[draws his face nearer] You can look at me with those judgemental, incriminating eyes all you want, but I bullshit you not. I will bleed on the flag to make sure the stripes stay red.
Bash Brothers: Once Ethan brings Farris back up to cognitive shape using adrenaline in a syringe, they proceed to fight off the opposition in this manner (including Farris reloading Ethan's gun for him without any vocal communication).
Brief Accent Imitation: The third movie reprises the little throat patches that are able to alter their voice into the voice of whoever they are imitating through Latex Perfection, and shows how both are made.
Camera Spoofing: The classic "Polaroid Punk" version, with a printed picture in front of the lens.
Character Development: As 'M:I III' broadens its focus beyond the mission at hand to include Ethan's personal life, Ethan is a far more rounded (and motivated) character here than in the previous films. Luther gets a little of this too; rather than just another appearance as one of Ethan's agents, his genuine friendship with Ethan is central to his role in the movie.
Chekhov's Gun: The "brain bomb" countdown used in the first act lets us know about how long Ethan has in the third act.
Chekhov's Skill: A long-term example - Ethan's ability to lip read and his wife's training as a nurse comes in handy near the end of the film, then it shows up again in Ghost Protocol when Ethan finds out how badly injured he is at the Russian hospital.
Contrived Clumsiness: An accidental-on-purpose spill is used to force a kidnapping victim into the bathroom, where he can be abducted through the vents.
Cutting the Knot: The third mission has most everything set up as typical cloak-and-dagger style, but Ethan didn't have time to plan out a more complex escape method and so he just had to fight his way out.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: It doesn't work out, but give credit to Owen Davian. He has Ethan handcuffed to a chair in a hideout, has a gun, and has Ethan's wife bound and gagged as a hostage. He knows that after a quick interrogation, he'll be allowed to kill Ethan. Yet he still takes the time to implant an explosive charge in Ethan's brain just in case he escapes, which he does. Then he even leaves the hideout and goes to where Ethan's real wife is being kept, where he knows Ethan will go if he escapes, so in the event that an escape happens he gets the satisfaction of beating and killing a weakened Ethan in front of his wife. In hindsight it's almost as if he planned for Ethan to escape. However, he's just barely careless enough to get killed in the end.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Davian is killed very suddenly in the final fight by a speeding truck crushing his head. Deliberately done as J. J. Abrams felt that Ethan trying to save his wife and himself was the bigger conflict.
Elevator Action Sequence: Ethan Hunt, after being slipped a pocket knife, waits until his restraining gurney enters an elevator to make his escape. He disables three guards, one with a telephone, while still strapped to his stretcher.
Evil Counterpart: The bad guys here seem to have all the resources and tech IMF has. Presumably because Musgrave is supplying or at least helping them, though they are high-class arms dealers...
Explosive Leash: The first words spoken are: "We put an explosive charge in your head." (unless Ethan screaming in pain counts as a word).
Foreshadowing: Brassel's very first scene establishes him as an intelligent, driven man. So why on Earth would he contact Davian from the computer in his own office? The movie deliberately interrupts both Ethan and the audience before they have time to think about it.
Genius Bruiser: Davian, while not exactly trained, is very strong and capable of throwing Ethan around.
High-Altitude Interrogation: In an airplane, after Ethan's initial interrogation of Davian fails, he opens a hatch in the floor and hangs his hostage down the hatch such that he feels the massive winds in his face, meanwhile cutting the zips holding him in his seat. Davian doesn't crack and, worse, he learns Ethan's name from the others shouting at him to stop.
Indy Ploy: Offscreen, but when Ethan goes to retrieve the Rabbit's Foot, we hear over the frequency that he needs pickup ASAP. In the commentary, Cruise and Abrams noted that the audience has seen that sort of thing twice alreadynote And, technically, in this film as well, if you count kidnapping Damian so they didn't need to show it.
Ethan: LOOKUPLOOKUPLOOKUP! *quick pan to Ethan hurtling out of a skyscraper window*
In Medias Res: Combined with How We Got Here, the opening sequence of the third movie is one of the best scenes of the series. Note the subversion of the Action Prologue. No stunts, no explosions, and two or less gunshots, but the tension is higher than comparable scenes in most other movies.
Instant Sedation: Hunt's girlfriend is kidnapped by a stranger who casually places a transdermal patch the width of a pencil eraser onto the back of her hand between her thumb and forefinger. She barely has enough time to ask what the stupid thing is before she drops like a sack of potatoes.
Jitter Cam: The camera jitters around quite a bit in action scenes and at few other tense moments, but stays still otherwise.
MacGuffin: The "Rabbit's Foot" is a classical MacGuffin, lampshaded by the fact that nobody will ever tell Ethan what it actually is or does, although Simon Pegg's character's cryptic speculation is almost better than a briefing. The only clue is a biohazard label.
Benji Dunn: It's interesting - I used to have this professor at Oxford, okay? Doctor Wickham, his name was and he was, like, this massive fat guy, you know? Huge, big guy. We used to call him - you know, well, I won't tell you what we used to call him. But he taught biomolecular kinetics and cellular dynamics. And he used to sort of scare the underclassmen with this story about how the world would eventually be eviscerated by technology. You see, it was inevitable that a compound would be created which he referred to as 'the Anti-God.' It was like an accelerated mutator or sort of, you know, like a, an unstoppable force of destructive power, that would just lay waste to everything - to buildings and parks and streets and children and ice cream parlors, you know? So whenever I see, like, a rogue organization willing to spend this amount of money on a mystery tech, I always assume... it's the Anti-God. End-of-the-world kinda stuff, you know. ...But no, I don't have any idea what it is. I was just speculating.
Oh Crap: Ethan after crash-landing into an office only for the parachute to re-engage and suck him back out into a freefall.
One Bullet Left: In the rescue mission that opens the third film, Ethan and Farris have nearly escaped with only one Mook in front. Farris asks Ethan how much ammo he has left, to which he responds with "Enough." He then fires a single round that knocks the Mook out the window, to which Ethan then discards his weapon.
She's Got Legs: The camera admires Zhen exiting the Lamborghini from the bottom up.
The Sociopath: Owen Davian, moreso than any other bad guy in the series.
The Stoic: Davian. He doesn't even show any emotion when Ethan dangles him out of an airplane.
This Is Gonna Suck: A non-physical version when the team has to blow up the Lambo at the Vatican. Zhen doesn't like destroying such a nice car, and cringes as she presses the button.
True Companions: Ethan's team, who risk their careers and freedom to help him. Dunn in particular is a tech guy who works at IMF headquarters and even cracks that he hopes they share a cell together while helping him.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Enemy soldiers in direct a UCAV... By surveilling the situation with a Sniper Rifle. However: they were trying to frame Ethan, and the rifle was presumably for point defense, not the distracting explosions they really wanted.
You Have Failed Me: The gagged "Julia" Davian shoots at the beginning / end of the film is actually his Italian translator from the Vatican sequence- it turns out she was also his head of security disguised via Latex Perfection, so the fact that he got kidnapped on her watch means she failed him big time- and she pays for it big time.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The team successfully rescues Farris from her captors and finally escape the area via helicopter... only the implanted bomb in her head goes off right before the defibrillator is ready to deactivate the bomb. Understandably, they are chewed out by their boss.
Julia is shot dead in front of Ethan, but that wasn't the real Julia. The real Julia is in a similar building one mile away.
The Atoner: Brandt, to some degree. He has some personal demons regarding what he thought to be a mistake he made in the field.
Awesome, but Impractical: The device Ethan and Benji use to disguise their presence in the hallway can only accommodate a single person's viewpoint. Once a second person enters the room, the device constantly switches back and forth between the two viewpoints.
Brandt: He was asked to resign because...well, because he's crazy.
Batman Cold Open: We see the IMF team finishing up a job (which goes wrong), and Ethan being busted out of prison, before the title sequence.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The film opens with Hunt having spent an indeterminate amount of time in a Russian prison, implied to be several months. He still has gorgeous, presumably high-maintenance hair.
Big "NO!": Ethan when Kurt Hendricks jumps off the parking garage holding the nuclear trigger.
Biting-the-Hand Humor: At the end of the film, the director's previous employer, Pixar, has a very close brush with destruction. This can be seen in the trailer.
Call Back: Andreas Wisniewski, who played one of Max's henchmen in the first film, shows up in Ghost Protocol as a henchman of The Fog. He smiles when he and Ethan recognise each other. He even hands Ethan a bag mask similar to the one used in the first film for the meet with Max.
Ethan employs the "phone call to intentionally find me" trick to this film's Inspector Javert in the same way he did in the first film, in order to get them to the scene and get his name cleared.
The Cameo: Tom Wilkinson. A more traditional cameo has Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and Michelle Monaghan as Julia - again, all three are uncredited.
Camera Spoofing: A kind of in-person version, with a television screen as thin as fabric used to hide Ethan and Benji walking up a hallway.
In fairness, he is still maintaining his "harmless analyst" cover at this point. His Captain Obvious tendencies evaporate with The Reveal.
Car Fu: Chasing after his target in a dust storm that gives him zero visibility, Ethan uses his Tracking Device to tell when the other car is driving towards him, then jumps out seconds before impact.
Car Cushion: Justified when it happens in a multi-level parking garage.
Chekhov's Gun: The goggles Ethan uses when he climbs to the server room in the Burj Khalifa (and which he puts in his suit jacket during the meeting with Wistrom) are used a few scenes later when he chases Wistrom during the sandstorm. He also makes a big deal about rescuing a friend of his in the Russian prison, who comes back to help him later on.
Chekhov's Skill: Brandt is a senior analyst for IMF, and his first major moment is identifying a face Ethan drew up without having to consult the database. As the team loses that database connection, his knowledge of people of interest became more valuable.
Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: Ethan has to climb up the outside of the Burj Khalifa using adhesive gloves, cut his way in through a window, then come back down again. And this isn't part of a mission he's had time to psych himself up for either, but an Indy Ploy when something goes wrong.
Combat Breakdown: happens very quickly in Ethan's final fight with the Big Bad. Both of them are trained to use disablers like broken limbs, and both of them land those disablers, leading to Ethan hopping around with a useless leg for much of the fight. A tense aversion of the typical "Made of Iron" approach to movie brawls.
Combat Stilettos: You know Sabine is about to get her ass thrashed when Jane kicks off her heels in a rare aversion of this trope.
Could Say It But: When the IMF secretary is taking Ethan into custody, he says "Now I've been ordered to take you to Washington where they will hang the Kremilin bombing on you and your team. Unless you were to escape after assaulting Brandt and me."
Later in the film, an arms dealer explicitly does not tell Ethan where he can intercept the Big Bad.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Brandt was established to be just an analyst and he repeatedly reminded them, even to being dumbfounded to some of Ethan's action hero ploys. But when things got rough he instantly displays combat skills to rival Ethans', hinting towards some field work background. Even then, his prior behavior was legitimate, it takes a good deal of psyching himself up to perform a stunt Ethan would do naturally.
Designated Girl Fight: Jane Carter has a grudge against Sabine Moreau for killing her previous team member. As has become the norm, when they fight it is less of a scratch and slap event and a lot more brutal.
Destination Defenestration: How said fight ends. And it should be noticed that it's a defenestration in the tallest building of the world!
Diabolus ex Machina: Practically everything goes wrong in this film. The latex machine breaks, Ethan's climbing gloves and cutting laser malfunction, bad timing consistently forces them to think on the fly, and the villains come within a hair's breadth of succeeding.
Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: Played With. After the Kremlin bombing, Ethan wakes up in a Russian hospital with a concussion. He focuses on a local news report, and the movie displays helpful subtitles... in Cyrillic. They gradually resolve themselves into English as Ethan's faculties return.
Everybody Owns A BMW: Many of the vehicles the characters use are BMWs. Unusually for this trope, many of them end up getting smashed rather badly. Fortunately, the i8 concept car used in India is not one of them.
Fire-Forged Friends: Ethan's team are not very familiar with each other, Ethan and Benji know each other but Benji is pretty new at field work and Brandt is apparently very green. By the end Ethan compliments the entire group that for all of their troubles (malfunctioning equipment, lack of IMF resources and running the entire thing practically blind) they all performed at their best and you could feel the camaraderie between them.
The phone booth console near the beginning of Ghost Protocol doesn't self-destruct until Ethan applies some Percussive Maintenance, presaging the technical problems plaguing the IMF team throughout the movie.
In Dubai, Winstrom orders someone over the phone to release a scientist's wife and kids. Except that Hendricks' organization is basically just him and Hendricks. Hendricks is his boss, so he can't order him to do anything. As it turns out, "Winstrom" is Hendricks in disguise.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Ethan and Benji get through the checkpoint in the Kremlin, Cobalt has already gotten through and is standing by a door that makes it appear as he is just leaving an office. Waiting for the IMF team to arrive before making his move.
Gas Leak Coverup: Half the Kremlin blowing up is put down to gas lines exploding, and an unexploded nuclear warhead plunging down on San Francisco is a meteorite. When half the planet believes in Conspiracy Theory, why bother coming up with a plausible explanation as long as you can disavow it officially.
Indeed, the way the civilain news reports are phrased indicates that pretty much no one believes the "accident with the gas mains" coverup.
Genius Bruiser: Kurt Hendricks/Cobalt - he's both a nuclear strategist and a former Swedish special forces member, and although he's no longer in full fighting trim, he almost keeps Ethan at bay in the climactic end fight long enough for the nuclear missile he launched to destroy San Francisco. Counts doubly because all the stunts pulled off by his dragon Wistrom during the Dubai chase turn out to be Hendricks himself wearing a latex mask.His dragon Wistrom could count also.
Giant Mook: Ethan finds himself face-to-face with one after opening the prison cell. Fortunately after staring Ethan down for a few seconds, he wanders off to join the more interesting fight with the guards.
Debatably, Ghost Protocol runs on this. The disavowed IMF team has to work without official support. Instead of meticulous planning, the group practically thinks on its feet throughout most of the film.
In Medias Res: Ghost Protocol has this in two folds. The tail end of a mission is seen where an agent was killed and the package he was carrying stolen away, then it shows Ethan being broken out of a Russian prison, all before the opening credits. The complete opening mission is later shown in full including the contents of the package, and the exact reason Ethan was in a prison wasn't fully explained until the end.
Inspector Javert: Anatoly Sidorov. Verges into Friendly Enemies when he finds Hunt contemplating a Trash Landing. His professional interest in his Eagleland counterpart's escape tactics overshadow his actual mission, and it's only after Ethan has escaped that he remembers his gun. He also shows up at the worst possible moment mid-film, permitting Cobalt to escape without a glance.
Unusual for this trope but not without precedent for the franchise, Sidorov casually gives up the chase once he realizes his target is innocent.
Instant Sedation: In a flashback the opening mission is shown to have an agent poking the target on the back of the hand with a tiny needle hidden in a ring. The target starts feeling groggy nearly immediately, and is out in ten seconds.
Given how the agent covers the target's eyes with a hat, it may have been a paralytic drug rather than a sedative one.
Kinda Busy Here: Benji starts commiserating with Ethan about him breaking up with his wife as they're trying to sneak up on a guard in the Kremlin.
Laser-Guided Karma: When Hendricks commits suicide in an effort to seal the success of his Evil Plan, he lives long enough to see Ethan foil it and be unable to do jack squat about it after hitting the ground.
Latex Perfection: Benji whines during the Kremlin job that they're not wearing masks, but when the mask-making machine breaks down minutes before the bad guys turn up for a meeting in Dubai, the team have to go in wearing their own faces and hope both sides haven't met each other before. A nice touch after Ethan Hunt is rescued from prison is him being retinal-scanned and DNA tested by the others to make sure he really is Ethan Hunt.
Lighter and Softer: Though the stakes are higher than ever and though it still features roughly as much action and death as the rest of the series, the fourth film has a lot more comedy and the villain is genuinely a Well-Intentioned Extremist (albeit one plotting nuclear war) rather than a ruthless, untrustworthy bastard out for himself; also while all four films feature themes of paranoia and treason, in this movie only, it turns out to be nothing. The violence, at least compared to the rest of the franchise (especially the previous two) leans more towards Bloodless Carnage (bar one or two exceptions). While none of the films are really "gritty", this one has the least grit of all. Also, less swearing.
Lzherusskie: Averted. Anatoly Sidorov is played by Russian actor Vladimir Mashkov.
Less significantly, after Ethan deactivates the SLBM's warhead, the missile knocks off a small chunk from the Transamerica Pyramid's spire before harmlessly plunging into San Francisco Bay.
Mutually Assured Destruction: Cobalt's plan for a nuclear holocaust only requires him to launch one nuke because, as he explains, it'll be enough to 'start the ball rolling'.
My Greatest Failure: Brandt retired from active field duty and became an IMF analyst after a woman he was supposed to protect was killed. Specifically, Julia, Ethan's wife.
Mythology Gag: When Ethan gets out of the IMF van to receive the Kremlin mission at the beginning of Ghost Protocol, the device doesn't self-destruct until Ethan goes back and smacks it (as opposed to the instances from the prior movies and original series, which always worked).
At the end of the movie Ethan gets a new mission involving a new organization called "The Syndicate". In later seasons of the television series, the IMF became less involved with Cold War missions in Eastern Bloc nations to those stateside against organized crime and a Mafia-like organization called "The Syndicate".
"Light the fuse." Roll the opening credits.
Never Found the Body: Brandt explains that Ethan's wife was kidnapped and that the body was found three days later or rather 'what was left of it'. Ethan's wife is actually alive and well.
Not Quite Dead: Subverted; Kurt Hendricks is shown to be stirring next to Ethan as he tries to deactivate the nuclear missile, but his injuries are too severe to try some last minute attempt to kill Ethan.
Oddly Small Organization: Big Bad Hendricks/Cobalt has an organization that seemingly consists solely of himself and his Dragon (and as it turns out, half the time The Dragon is simply Hendricks himself wearing a latex mask). He also hires an assassin and her men for one job, and kidnaps a scientist whose family he's holding hostage for another. Even counting the extended group, that's less than half a dozen people. Which makes sense, because it can be hard to find professional employees when your organization's stated goal is literally to destroy the world.
The prison guard sees an inmate outside his cell and starts getting in his face. Then the other cell doors open behind him...
Emotionless Girl Sabine openly panics when she realizes Carter, whose partner she killed, was running toward her with murder in her eyes.
The Dubai mission is one long line of Oh Crap moments.
Omnicidal Maniac: Hendricks, who believes nuclear war strengthens the human race (citing Japan's growth after Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a primary example).
One Steve Limit: Averted, though slightly since one of them is a disguise. The Russian general Ethan impersonates to infiltrate The Kremlin and the Russian agent trying to apprehend Ethan following its bombing are both named Anatoly.
Percussive Maintenance: Paradoxically used to make a device work that is intended to break something. The iconic "this message will self-destruct" fails to actually destruct, so Ethan has to walk back and give it a thump with his fist to trigger it.
Perspective Magic: Used in the Kremlin to hide Ethan and Benji as they sneak down a hallway.
Poor Communication Kills: This could have been so averted if Ethan didn't follow his instincts and just got the Russian Cops that were sent to investigate him on board.
But it's not like they'd believe him right away without proof.
Precision F-Strike: There are no serious swears except when Brandt points out that Ethan is out of rope hanging off of a building. Ethan's response? "No shit!"
When Ethan busts out of the Russian prison, one of the guards says "yob t'voyu mat", which, literally translated, means "f*cked your mother" but is here used as a sort of generic "f*ck it" expression. A subversion - it is actually illegal (though practically never enforced) to say in Russia, but is included in the film, while the subtitles render it as "%@#!"
Prison Riot: One is organized in the russion prison holding Ethan so that he can be broken out.
Product Placement: The team uses iPads, iPhone 4s, MacBooks, driving BMWs, deals with Dell servers (complete with otherwise pointless closeup), and drink Dos Equis beer.
Sequel Hook: In contrast to the other installments (which usually cut off after the "Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." bookend scene), Ghost Protocol ends with Ethan walking in Seattle and listening to the first part of his mission briefing, which mentions an emerging terrorist group named The Syndicate, based (in name at least) on the recurring organized crime gangs from the television series. Whether or not this plays into future installments remains to be seen.
Sequel Non-Entity: Played with. At first it seems Julia and Ethan broke up off screen in a throw-away line to justify her being out of the picture, like sequels often awkwardly do to romantic leads despite having spent so much attention and development and them. It then actually gets a surprising callback gag, then it turns out Julia actually died and Brandt was partially responsible, so she hasn't been just thrown away with one line. Then it turns out she's alive and Ethan set up a whole deception so that she can be safe, as she can't be married to him. She appears at the end after all.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Invoked by Benji during the opening. Ethan is escaping a Russian prison filled with aggressive prisoners engaged in full-on riot mode. Benji's choice of music to play through the prison PA system during this festival of fists, feet and general anarchy? The Dean Martin jazz song, "Ain't That a Kick in the Head".
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Brij Nath thinks Jane is into this — the first time she instinctively sunk her nails into his arm because she thought Brandt had been injured, and the second she twists him into an arm lock only for a servant to walk in and interrupt them.
Spanner in the Works / Didn't See That Coming: Trevor's death failing the mission in the beginning of the movie, Ethan not leaving without Bogdan in the prison, Wistrom showing up at the Dubai with someone that can see through the fake launch codes, and the nuclear missile being launched sooner then expected.
Stealth Pun: After getting seven colors of shit kicked out of him in the final fight sequence of Ghost Protocol, Ethan scrambles to the Big Red Button to save the day and yells "Mission Accomplished!" as he hits it. It doesn't work. He has to hammer it for about half a minute, while his team finishes their own jobs, before it works.
Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Revealed to have happened to Ethan's wife before the start of Ghost Protocol. But by the end of the film it turned out to be a subversion as Ethan faked her death to protect her from his enemies, and she appears alive and well in a brief cameo in the final scene.
Symbology Research Failure: Of sorts—:the bombing of the Kremlin consists largely of the obliteration of the actual geography of Red Square, Spasskaya Tower, and maybe some buildings on the edge of the Moscow Kremlin, but not the Grand Kremlin Palace, Kremlin Senate, or State Kremlin Palace. A news broadcast in the immediate aftermath displays this.
Tempting Fate: Benji says that there's no way their next mission will be as bad as this one...right?
Thanatos Gambit: Cobalt grabs the Russian football from Ethan's hands and makes a several-story jump. In his plans, he would fall to his death, but Ethan wouldn't be able to stop the Russian missile on time, and his plan would still go through.
The Secretary: The president has initiated Ghost Protocol. The entire IMF has been disavowed.
Took a Level in Badass: Simon Pegg's lab-rat character Benji from the third film returns for Ghost Protocol and has graduated to field agent, although he is nowhere as competent as the other agents away from his hacking. He does get a very Badass gunplay moment, shooting The Dragon to save Brandt's life towards the end of the film.
Uranus Is Showing: While the team are using names of planets as code names, Brandt decides to tease Benji.
Utopia Justifies the Means - Hendricks/Cobalt's excuse for trying to set off a nuclear war - he figures the survivors will rebuild a stronger civilization.
We Need a Distraction: Ethan attaches a flare to a body and floats it downriver to distract the mooks shooting at them. The success of this tactic makes no sense at all, as is lampshaded later, but the mooks were too fired up to stop and think about why someone would be swimming downriver under fire with a light source attached to them.
Kurt Hendricks: How will the world finally end? It is my job to predict the unthinkable. To treat the deaths of billions as a game. After 20 years of this, I was numb. Until a new question crossed my mind. What happens after the end of the world? Every two or three million years, some natural catastrophe devastates all life on Earth. But life goes on. 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. May there be peace on Earth.
In other words, Cobalt believes that a planetwide Hiroshima would initiate a permanent Nuclear Weapons Taboo. The question of his sanity is left open-ended (Brandt just thinks he is insane), but oneDeleted Scene makes him sound a lot less like a sociopath and a lot more like a man who's just broken from the stress of his job.
Wolverine Publicity: That's what Anil Kapoor has been doing at public appearances in India and abroad, for his role in this film. Those who eventually saw the film, and his role in it, will have something to tell.
Women in Refrigerators: Ethan Hunt was in a Russian prison after he killed the Serbian nationalists who killed his wife, and the analyst with him left field duty because he felt he failed his mission. In a subversion, it turns out her death was faked to protect her from any such attempts in the future; the Serbians only kidnapped her and died when Ethan went to her rescue.
World of Pun: Not the film itself, but its soundtrack, which has titles like "From Russia With Shove" and "Moreau Trouble Than She's Worth". Par for the course for Michael Giacchino.
Xanatos Speed Chess: Ethan is apparently a master of this, as he demonstrates a remarkable ability to set-up long term plans that pay off. Or maybe he's working off his "hunches". His ability to improvise probably helps explain why the Secretary of Defense considers him his best man.
This turns into a pure Indy Ploy once the the missile gets launched and everyone is racing against the clock.