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Film / Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

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"The President has initiated Ghost Protocol. The entire IMF has been disavowed. Now, I've been ordered to take you back to Washington, where the DOD will label you as a rogue extremist and hang the Kremlin bombing on you and your team. Unless, you were to escape somewhere between here and the airport, having assaulted Mr. Brandt and me... you would then illegally scrounge whatever material you could from a backup supply cache that I've overlooked...You will then disappear..but if any one of your team is caught or killed, they will be branded terrorists, out to incite global nuclear war. Your mission, should you choose to accept it."
IMF Secretary

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a 2011 American action spy thriller film and the fourth entry in the Mission: Impossible film series, starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt.

A mission to infiltrate the Kremlin goes awry when a massive bomb goes off. Ethan's team is 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, Léa Seydoux and an unbilled Tom Wilkinson in supporting roles. This film is less about Ethan Hunt than the previous three (hence the lack of sequel number). It also has by far the most continuity of the series, with four whole characters returning — twice as many as any previous film has featured — and some actual acknowledgement of prior events.

Followed by Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Jane Carter, who fights along with the boys.
  • Actionized Sequel: Inverted. Although not without action scenes, there's a much higher emphasis on stealth and infiltration than the previous two entries.
  • Actor Allusion: Teddy Newton, one of Brad Bird's friends and an artist at Pixar, makes a cameo as a voice over the phone that gives Ethan Mission instructions. He also voiced a literal phone in Toy Story 3.
  • Air-Vent Passageway:
    • There's an offhand comment that "infrared sensors" prevent Ethan from infiltrating the server room in the Burj Khalifa, so he has to get there by climbing up the outside of the world's tallest building.
    • Played straight later on in the movie when Brandt has to enter another server room through the heat vents, which of course are rather hot and contain a Deadly Rotary Fan he has to leap onto and hope his metallic suit will keep him suspended above a remote-controlled robot with a large magnet. As a Running Gag in the movie is the failure of the various gadgets the IMF team is equipped with, this plan does not fill him with confidence.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: Hendricks believes this, thinking that causing World War III and having the U.S. and Russia nuke themselves back to the stone age will make a better society rise from the ashes (he explicitly quotes the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki having become large anti-nuclear monuments in the aftermath of their nuking, although it is mentioned that he might just probably have gone crazy from his work as a "nuclear warfare" game theorist/analyst).
  • Artistic License – Military: A few examples, naturally:
    • The SLBM missile is shown reentering the atmosphere as an intact, firing upper stage and payload. This is about as silly as cartoon bullets, flying through the air with as intact cartridges. The reality is that the rockets are firing only during a brief boost phase. During most of the trajectory, the payload coasts by itself, in some cases deploying decoys. What reenters the atmosphere — the warhead — is packaged into a slim conical casing, which enters blunt end first. Missile is impossible to disarm in its terminal phase or (in fact) at any point after the launch. So once it is launched, it is bye-bye Dorothy, Kansas and all points to the east, west, north and south. Truly a mission impossible for Ethan.
    • In the immediate beginning of the infiltration of the Moscow Kremlin, Ethan and Benji, disguised as Russian Army officers, make belligerent with an FSO major working security at the first checkpoint to buy some time. Rather than staying quiet, what's the most surefire way to cast extreme suspicion on a Federal Protective Service officer who not only belongs to a completely different organization (with different superiors), but has taken an oath to put the security of the Kremlin over any petty military etiquette (especially to someone acting like an unreasonable jerk)?
  • 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.
    • A safehouse located within a moving train makes sense, but having its biometric security on the outside of said moving train where your agents have to run alongside it just to get their irises scanned isn't really helpful.
  • Ax-Crazy: A possible interpretation of Cobalt:
    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 years. He still has gorgeous, presumably high-maintenance hair.
  • Big Bad: Kurt Hendricks, a.k.a. "Cobalt"; a disillusioned world affairs analyst swayed by the belief that the only way to avert a true nuclear apocalypse is to trigger a lesser event in the hopes whatever survives the ensuing war will vow never again to use nuclear arms.
  • 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.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: Hunt's team gatecrashes a party thrown by a telecommunications entrepreneur who owns a satellite capable of firing a missile. While Brandt and Dunn infiltrate the server room to take the satellite offline, Carter attends the party as a Honey Trap to get the entrepreneur to reveal the satellite code.
  • Brick Joke: Zig-Zagged/Downplayed: After Ethan has thrown a broken glove down, it's blown back up by the wind — only to fall down again.
  • Brig Ball Bouncing: Ethan Hunt throws a rock around his cell to overcome boredom.
  • The Cameo:
  • Camera Spoofing: The team uses an extensive projector screen setup to pull off eyeball spoofing. It works perfectly (when Benji isn't sticking his head into the camera pickup) until a second guard shows up, causing the confused projector to constantly swap between their viewpoints, tipping them off that something is up.
  • Captain Obvious: Brandt, big time, possibly to maintain his cover as "harmless analyst":
    Brandt: Your line's not long enough!
    Ethan: NO SHIT!
  • Captured on Purpose: We are introduced to Ethan Hunt in prison. It was all a part of a previous mission he was taken out of.
  • 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:
    • Ethan uses the roof of a passing van to cushion his fall from an impromptu zipline.
    • Ethan gets in a car to cushion his fall from about seven stories.
  • Catchphrase: The one used in most if not all films in the series: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it,..."
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Bogdan, Ethan's Russian "friend" he insisted on extracting from the Russian prison both of them are staying in. After getting out, Ethan tranquilizes him and transfers him to another van, after which he disappears for 2/3 of the movie before showing back up just before the finale. Bogdan is actually Ethan's contact to a Russian arms dealer who knows how to hack a satellite to transmit the nuclear launch codes and where to do it, allowing Ethan and his team to figure out Cobalt's location after the failed mission in Dubai.
  • 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 (the world's tallest building, no less) in Dubai 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.
  • Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb: This happens to Ethan Hunt while climbing the Burj Khalifa with adhesive gloves, one of which fails.
  • Combat Breakdown: Happens very quickly in Ethan's final fight with Hendricks. 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, and Cobalt cradling his dislocated arm. A tense aversion of the typical "Made of Iron" approach to movie brawls.
  • Combat Stilettos: Averted. Jane hears on the radio that Sabine has escaped the trap set up for her, tears off her high-heeled shoes and races out of the room to inflict a major asskicking.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • 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 recognize 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.
  • 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 Kremlin bombing on you and your team. Unless you were to escape after assaulting Brandt and me," followed by telling him there's a cache of supplies that he happened to have overlooked.
    • 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 Ethan's, hinting towards some field work background. Even then, his prior behavior was legitimate, and it takes a good deal of psyching himself up to perform a stunt Ethan would do naturally.
  • Dead Star Walking: Josh Holloway shows up and gets killed less than a minute into the film (although he gets more screen time in flashbacks later on), while Tom Wilkinson (who isn't credited) appears as an IMF handler who gets killed at the end of his single scene.
  • Deadly Dust Storm: There's a ten to fifteen minute chase sequence in Dubai involving Ethan and a huge dust storm. By having him run away on foot.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: Brandt has to infiltrate a computer server room via the heating vents, which involves leaping 25 feet into a vertical shaft at the bottom of which is a large cooling fan, and hope his metallic suit will keep him suspended above a remote-controlled robot with a large magnet trundling beneath it. As a Running Gag in the movie is the failure of the various gadgets the IMF team is equipped with, this plan does not fill him with confidence.
  • Dead Star Walking: Josh Holloway, fresh off his run on Los, appears as the doomed IMF agent at the beginning of the film. A flashback later on gives him a few lines.
  • Demoted to Extra: Luther and Julia, allegedly due to budget constraints. Luther is essentially The Artifact at this point.
  • 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: What happens to Sabine after her fight with Jane. 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.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Ethan's escape plan from the hospital, which only involves picking the hancuffs holding him to the bed then winging it out a nearby window, where he's found perched on the precipice by the man assigned to secure him. He does a bit of contemplation about his poor escape attempt before a van leaving the area gives him the opportunity he needs and employs an Improvised Zipline escape to surface level.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Sabine Moreau is kicked through a window of the Burj Khalifa. For those not in the know, that's the tallest building in the entire world.
    • Kurt Hendricks does this intentionally in the final battle, when he jumps off high platforms of the car factory that Ethan and Hendricks are fighting in to ensure the nuclear missile hits its target.
  • Disposable Woman: 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.
  • Erotic Eating: Jane has to Honey Trap an Indian playboy. She first gets his attention by staring at him while biting into a cherry.
  • 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 Russian. They gradually resolve themselves into English as Ethan's faculties return.
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: 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.
  • Fast-Roping: Ethan has to free-climb up the outside of the tallest building in the world to get to its well-secured server room. He uses adhesive gloves which stop working, so to get out of the room he improvises a line and does an Australian rappel down the side ... stopping ten metres short of the window he climbed out of.
    Brandt: The line's not long enough!
    Ethan: NO SHIT!
  • Final Battle: Ethan pursuing and fighting Hendricks in a high-tech parking garage to get the briefcase to stop the nuclear missile. Brandt also has to deal with Wistrom at the station to get the relay back online.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The phone booth console near the beginning doesn't self-destruct until Ethan applies some Percussive Maintenance, presaging the technical problems plaguing the IMF team throughout the movie.
    • In Dubai, Wistrom 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, "Wistrom" is Hendricks in disguise.
  • Foreshadowing: Before revealing his training, Brandt dives after the falling Ethan and snatches his leg to save his life even though Carter has to grab his leg to save both of their lives. While this could be explained as just some foolhardy heroics for an analyst, it foreshadows that Brandt is more than he appears.
  • 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.
  • Fun with Subtitles: The movie is set in Russia, and at one point, Agent Hunt gets caught in the middle of an explosion. As he regains consciousness, he overhears a TV broadcast... and, momentarily, the subtitles displayed to the viewer are in Russian. As Hunt becomes less disoriented and begins to remember the language, the subtitles begin to seamlessly fade from Russian into English.
  • Funny Background Event: For a brief moment, Benji's face appears distorted on the television screen he and Ethan use as a disguise. The Russian guy they're fooling is on the foreground, looking away.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: 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 theories, why bother coming up with a plausible explanation as long as you can disavow it officially. Indeed, the way the civilian news reports are phrased indicates that pretty much no-one believes the "accident with the gas mains" coverup.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Kurt Hendricks has a generic doomsday agenda (provoke nuclear war, destroy planet) without a motivation deeper than being some sort of insane A-bomb mystic. His Motive Rant plus a deleted scene indicates he believes mankind will eventually keep building more and more powerful WMDs until it destroys itself completely, therefore he wishes to create a "survivable" nuclear conflict to scare the remains of mankind into never doing it again.
  • 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.
  • Get into Jail Free: The film starts out with the team breaking Ethan Hunt out of a Russian prison. To their surprise, he tells them off as he was put in there by IMF in order to get information from another inmate (he improvises by breaking out the inmate with him).
    Jane: This wasn't a rescue mission?
  • 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.
  • Hand Wave: The Kremlin infiltration scene is too long for Ethan to be wearing a Latex Perfection mask because he'd have to be played by someone else. Instead, Ethan uses regular makeup to impersonate a Russian general, and Benji simply mentions that they don't have access to masks this time for some reason.
  • Heads-Up Display: The concept car driven by the IMF team has a road map displayed on the windscreen as they race to stop The End of the World as We Know It, and even warns of pedestrians crossing the road.
  • Hero Antagonist: Anatoly Sidorov, Russian intelligence agent.
  • Hidden Depths: Brandt, who only reveals his training when the meeting with Sabine goes south.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Leonid Lisenker tells his wife in English that they need to get out of the country after the Kremlin bombing. His son, who's in the room, asks them why they're talking in English.
  • Hollywood Glass Cutter: Ethan has to enter a room in the Burj Khalifa from the outside. His laser glass cutter malfunctions though before he can finish cutting the hole and he has to break the glass with his feet to get into the building.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: Although not actually a hologram, the projection screen used in the Moscow Kremlin mission is sophisticated enough to create a false 3D image of the corridor in front of the real corridor of one of the guarded rooms — so good that it fools the guard patrolling the area despite Ethan and Benji being right behind the other side of the screen. The machine even had recognition sensors to track the movement of the person's eyes so that the illusion of the empty hallway could be maintained even while the guard was moving and watching the screen from different visual perspectives. The illusion only gets broken when more than one of the guards occupy the area, confusing the machine into projecting the image from multiple viewpoints back and forth.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Brandt feels responsible for the death of Ethan's wife because it happened on his watch.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: An IMF agent shoots two mooks while falling backward off a building.
  • Improbably High I.Q.: The data file Ethan Hunt pulls up on Hendricks matter-of-factly states his IQ as being 190. While real people have achieved scores that high or higher, the margin of error is huge enough to render them practically meaningless. The computer would have done better to say that he's among the five hundred smartest people on the planet, which is a bit less sketchy a figure.
  • Improvised Zipline: How Ethan escapes the hospital following the Kremlin bombing, using his belt to slide down a power line and land on top of a passing van.
  • Indy Ploy:
    • Lampshaded, when Brandt tries to understand just how exactly they escaped death 5 minutes ago. Also serves as deft Character Development for him and Hunt, contrasting his intellectualism with Hunt's instinctiveness.
    • Debatably, the film 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. As a result, contingencies they'd normally be aware of become hindrances (the biggest one being that they need to turn over genuine nuclear codes in place of faked ones because "Wistrom" brought along someone who can properly validate the information being sold).
  • In Medias Res: Twofold. The tail end of a mission is seen where an agent was killed and the package he was carrying stolen, then it shows the team breaking Ethan 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 isn't fully explained until the end.
  • In the Hood: Ethan uses hooded sweaters a few times, which is portrayed on the poster.
  • 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 Hanaway 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.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Used when breaking into the Archive Room.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: After the Kremlin explodes, Ethan is taken to hospital and is suspected to be responsible for the explosion. The Russian cop Sidorov is sent to the hospital to investigate, but Ethan manages to free himself and climbs out of the window to jump down into a refuse container, but realises that it's way too high.
    Sidorov: Not a good idea.
    Ethan: Seemed like one a minute ago.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Jane Carter performs an impromptu field interrogation by knifepoint in a flashback, although the results are not shown on screen.
  • 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.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • Brandt lampshades Ethan's method of diverting enemy fire, which saved their lives and should not have worked.
    • Luther laughs at Ethan for saying the words "mission accomplished" out loud.
  • 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 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 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 the first four films all have 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.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: The villain blows up the goddamn Kremlin to provoke Russia in a nuclear war with the US.
  • Masquerading As the Unseen: Ethan and crew pretend to be arms dealers in order to stop the Terrorists Without a Cause. When the Latex Perfection machine malfunctions, the group is forced to do an Indy Ploy and go in unmasked, hoping that whatever contact the terrorist and the dealer have done didn't involve meeting face-to-face. It goes okay, until the terrorist brings out an assassin that gets overtly suspicious at the wrong time.
  • Mickey Mousing:
    • Russian guards are marching to the music as the Kremlin is introduced.
    • A subtle version can be heard during Ethan's breakout from the prison, where some of the blows are in time with the music.
  • Monumental Damage:
    • A significant part of the Kremlin gets blown up.
    • 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 credits.note 
    • When Brandt hovers above the big server fan which has a dangerous-looking spike in the middle, his situation looks similar to Ethan Hunt's who dangles above a pressure-sensitive floor in the first movie.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Closer than any other installment up to this point: Hendricks has already launched the warhead before Ethan even gets to his location. Ethan's team splits up with Ethan going after Hendricks and the case and Benji, Brandt, and Jane having to reestablish an uplink to the satellite. However, Hendricks has Wistrom disable the relay, forcing the team to reassemble it to reconnect to the satellite, and then also cuts the power to the entire server room. Meanwhile Ethan and Hendricks end up in a violent brawl at a car park for control of the nuclear briefcase and Hendricks even willingly jumps to his death in an attempt to keep it out of Ethan's hands. Ethan manages to fudge a solution by jumping into a nearby car and driving off the edge to reach the bottom of the car park. However, with the rest of the team still dealing with Wistrom back at the server room, even when Ethan gains possession of the briefcase he can't shut down the missile without the satellite uplink. Only when Benji dispatches Wistrom, allowing Brandt to repower the server room and Jane can finish reassembling the relay, with mere seconds to spare can Ethan successfully neutralize the warhead, which comes so close to San Francisco that it pings the edge of the Transamerica Pyramid before falling into San Francisco Bay.
  • 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.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: At the climax, everything works out smoothly for Hendricks and his goon Wistrom in the road to getting the missile launched — no computer issues, they know the passwords to the transmission equipment, nobody inside of the Russian submarine questions the request to launch a nuclear missile at San Francisco in any way, shape or form because Hendricks is using their version of the Nuclear Football, the bad guys don't even run into bad traffic — all of which are obstacles that Ethan and his team run into, one after the other in a borderline ridiculous barrage, in their race against time.
  • 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.
  • A Nuclear Error: Hendricks' plan to launch just one missile to provoke a full on nuclear holocaust might have worked a few decades ago, but in these days of consistent second strike capability and communication such a strike would likely just be seen as an act of terrorism rather than the opening shot of World War III. A much more convincing move would have been multiple missiles at key positions, if the sub he communicated with was capable of it.
  • Oddly Small Organization: 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 most of the world.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • 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.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The rather punny and particularly memorable Ominous Russian Chanting piece entitled "Kremlin with Anticipation."
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Hendricks, who believes humanity can only be turned against nuclear weapons' existential threat by starting a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, which would probably wipe out most of the world. He thinks the survivors will forever renounce nuclear weapons in the aftermath, citing Hiroshima and Nagasaki's effects on Japan.
  • 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.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Ethan kisses Jane after she stuffs up trying to Honey Trap an Indian playboy, in order to get his interest again.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Hunt is running from the explosion of the Kremlin, only to be injured in the explosion and hospitalized.
  • Painting the Medium: When Ethan wakes up in the hospital after the Kremlin bombing, the subtitles for the Russian dialogue start out in Cryllic, then gradually shift to English as Ethan regains his mental faculties.
  • Parking Garage: The automated multi-story parking garage where the final fight between Ethan and Hendricks/Cobalt takes place.
  • 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: Using an extremely hi-tech television screen that's as thin as fabric, and a camera that tracks the eyes of a viewer, IMF agents can sneak down a hallway in "plain sight." Aside from the obvious necessary advancements in screens and cameras, it's actually pretty realistically handled: the trick works on one viewer, but when a second enters, the system can't handle it and switches back and forth between their two perspectives, breaking the illusion.
  • Plummet Perspective: Played With, as Ethan Hunt has to climb up the side of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (and he's starting over 100 floors up). The climbing sequence opens with Hunt standing on the edge of a window that has been cut away, and the camera tilts down to show just how high up he is. One of his adhesive gloves malfunctions and he discards it for a better grip with his bare hand. The wind actually carries it up, and Ethan finds it stuck to the glass, apparently working perfectly. Then it malfunctions a second time and falls. As Ethan is only being held up by the other similar glove, he isn't happy.
  • Pluto Is Expendable: During the climatic caper, the team uses planets in the solar system as their callsigns. Benji, the local Butt-Monkey, ends up as Pluto.
  • Poison Ring: Hanoway uses one of these to poison a mark.
  • 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 "fucked your mother" but is here used as a sort of generic "fuck 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 incited in the Russian prison holding Ethan so that he can be broken out.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Not shown explicitly, but Ethan is noticeably more muscular in this installment as he spent some time in the prison, prior to the events of the film.
  • 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.
  • Punctuated Pounding: "Jane, she's an asset! I need (hits mook) her (hits again) alive!"
  • Put on a Bus: Ethan and his wife split up offscreen. Then it turns out she was killed, and Ethan killed those responsible. Then it turns out she's alive and well, but in protection and Ethan can never see her again.
  • Repeated Cue, Tardy Response: Lampshaded when Ethan Hunt shouts, "Mission Accomplished" just before hitting a button which would ensure the villain's plans were defeated. His teammates had gotten tied up dealing with The Dragon, leaving Ethan to frantically push the button until they could do their part. In the end scene, he and his teammates have a good laugh about this.
  • Retcon: In-universe. Ethan's wife is implied to have split up with him. Then it turns out she was murdered. Then it turns out she isn't dead, they decided to split up for her safety.
  • Retirony: The Secretary didn't help his case when he mentions that he's due to resign his post due to the Kremlin incident.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Jane is accused of this when she kills a "valuable asset," who earlier had shot and killed Hanaway.
  • Rogue Agent: Ethan's whole team is declared rogue agents after a mission gone wrong, and they have to catch Hendricks on their own to clear their names.
  • Running Gag: The repeated failure of the IMF gadgetry.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: The Russians get hit really hard when the Kremlin is destroyed, while later the team is able to stop a nuclear attack on San Francisco. In the meantime, the Russian agents after Ethan get their butts kicked by him, until they realize they're on the same side at the end.
  • Russian Reversal: The title of one of the songs on the OST: "In Russia, Phone Dials You."
  • Sequel Hook: In contrast to the other installments (which usually cut off after the "Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." bookend scene), the film ends with Ethan walking in San Francisco 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. And in the next film, their next conflict is truly them.
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Played with. Julia is nowhere to be seen, and a throwaway line indicates that she and Ethan suffered an Offscreen Breakup, the way 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.
  • Shout-Out: During the Kremlin infiltration, Ethan disguises as a Russian general, whose ensemble could be quickly flipped inside-out to turn him into a tourist, which he does when he escapes Kremlin once the mission is botched. James Bond himself did the inverse of this in the opening sequence of Octopussy, initially wearing tourist clothes that he quickly turns into an enemy general disguise ensemble, complete with the fake mustache!
  • 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 is 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: 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: Numerous elements in the film parallel The Incredibles — nefarious diabolical plan, in-team arguing, paralleling action and a fondness for gadgets. It's done by the same director, Brad Bird.
  • Spotting the Thread: Sabine is canny enough to know that IMF is after the intelligence she stole (killing IMF Agent Hanaway to do so), and realizes that Ethan and Brandt are IMF agents when she sees Brandt's hi-tech contact lens, which Hanaway had been wearing when she killed him at the start of the film.
  • Start X to Stop X:
    • Hendricks is a nuclear weapons specialist who is convinced that mankind will keep building more and more powerful weapons until it inevitably wipes itself out in nuclear war. So he seeks to prevent this by... starting nuclear war right now while weapons are not powerful enough to completely wipe out mankind in the hopes that human civilization will be so traumatized that they will never do it again.
    • And, as per usual, Ethan ends up employing this strategy (albeit on the fly due to the buyer of the nuclear launch codes bringing along an analyst who could validate the codes they were buying, forcing the team to use real nuclear codes to make sure the plan goes through). Notable in that it very nearly backfires, moreso than the usual danger that comes with the plan.
  • Stealth Pun: After getting seven colors of shit kicked out of him in the final fight sequence, 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. Luther later mocks him for saying that.
  • Stock Shout-Outs: The sequence A113 shows up quite a few times.
  • Stopped Numbering Sequels: Ghost Protocol is the first installment in the series to not be numbered, instead using a subtitle.
  • Spiteful Suicide: Hendricks jumps to his death in the car garage in a last-ditch attempt to keep Ethan from foiling his plans.
  • 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.
  • Super Window Jump: Played for tension rather than Dynamic Entry. Ethan Hunt has to free-climb up the outside of the highest building in the world to get to its well-protected server room. He does so using adhesive gloves, but as he's cutting his way through the glass, one of the gloves malfunctions. Cue Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb sequence, but Ethan's dropped his laser cutter so has to smash his way through the partly-cut window. It won't break, so he has to swing outwards (hanging by his one remaining glove) and kick his way through.
  • Switching P.O.V.: A rare non-literary example. The entire first hour of the film is about Putting the Band Back Together and focuses almost exclusively on Ethan: there's exactly one scene (concerning the Big Bad's machinations) that doesn't depict him and isn't about him. It isn't until after Dubai that the film depicts something Ethan isn't aware of; not coincidentally, it's also one of the first moments that Team Hunt really starts becoming Fire-Forged Friends.
  • 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.
  • Symbol Swearing: The subtitles when the Russian prison guard swears at Ethan during the prison break at the start.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: Hendricks has a cause (to force a total nuclear disarmament and get people closer to total peace on Earth), however his plan includes triggering World War III between Russia and America and hope that whatever is still alive after the nuclear exchange sees what happened as something so horrific that they will try and prevent it from happening again (he explicitly mentions on a recorded speech that the IMF team sees the example of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki becoming big anti-nuclear monuments after their reconstruction). The Big Bad is explicitly mentioned to have been driven insane to some degree after many years working as as a big-shot game theorist and his Oddly Small Organization is only him and a very loyal minion (and half of the time he's impersonating the minion using Latex Perfection) because understandably not many people would band behind a plan that would annihilate much of the world.
  • This Page Will Self-Destruct: Parodied (see Mythology Gag). Plus the IMF Secretary being shot in the head moments after he's given the briefing might well be an extreme take on this trope.
  • 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.
  • Throwing the Distraction: The high-tech version occurs. The IMF team use a sound projector to make a Kremlin guard leave the corridor he's guarding and go into the next room.
  • Time Bomb: The nuclear warhead is cancelled 1 second before detonation. Good thing there is no transmission latency.
  • Title Drop:
    The Secretary: The president has initiated Ghost Protocol. The entire IMF has been disavowed.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Benji returns and has passed the field-agent exam, although he is still the least capable of the foursome when it comes to anything besides tech work. He does get a very badass gunplay moment, shooting The Dragon to save Brandt's life, towards the end of the film.
    • Played With in the character of Brandt. Despite being what Benji used to be — a member of the Armchair Military — he shows superb field-agent skills, and is unquestionably the most qualified not-Ethan on the team. Finding out how and why he was Kicked Upstairs is a big part of his Character Development. The problem is that all of this is accomplished over the course of half a movie, not two.
  • Tracking Device: Hendricks is being given papers impregnated with a unique radiation signature (in case he's smart enough to throw away everything else, they can still track him). The only problem is that Ethan Hunt needs to keep the target in visual range, which is nicely ironic when he ends up chasing the target through a zero-visibility dust storm in Dubai. Ethan uses the tracking device to manoeuvre his car into the path of the oncoming vehicle, leaping out moments before the cars crash into each other.
  • The Unfettered: Kurt Hendricks is willing to go to any lengths to ignite a global nuclear war for the sake of "peace." This includes bombing the Kremlin in Russia to make off with a nuclear "football" communications set and putting the blame on the IMF, kidnapping the family of a nuclear code expert so he would cooperate with their schemes before dying when he was no longer useful, and even jumping off of the top floor of an automated multi-story vehicular garage and mortally wounding himself to keep the launch control device from Hunt's hands.
  • Unflinching Walk: Subverted. Ethan tries this in the opening moments of the film when he gets his latest assignment from a phone booth that is supposed to self-destruct after disbursing its information. However as he's walking away nothing happens so he ends up having to return to the phone, mess with it, then it properly fizzles while he's still looking at it.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Played Straight, when three detailed missions by Ethan to stop Hendricks fail miserably.
  • Uranus Is Showing: While the team are using names of planets as code names, Brandt decides to tease Benji.
    Benji: Why do I have to be "Pluto"? It's not even a planet anymore.
    Brandt: I think "Uranus" is available.
    Benji: Ha, ha. It's funny, 'cause you said "anus."
  • 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.
  • Wall Crawl: Ethan has to scale the outside of the Burj Khalifa using gloves. It would normally be out of the question, but this is Mission Impossible.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Cobalt, a.k.a. Kurt Hendricks, is a "nuclear strategist" who lost his mind after twenty years on the job.
    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 one Deleted 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. He also makes the reasonably solid argument that a planetary nuclear holocaust now is still more survivable than one brought about by the next generation of Weapons of Mass Destruction currently in development, a claim given some credence by the bio-terrorism themes of the previous two films and Benji's own "the coming of the Anti-God" speech from MI:3.
  • 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.
  • Wolverine Publicity: That's what Anil Kapoor has been doing at public appearances in India and abroad, for his role in this film, which is all of ten minutes long.
  • 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 missile gets launched and everyone is racing against the clock.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Jane's response when she discovers Ethan is climbing up the outside of the world's tallest building.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Subverted. The villain keeps his word, ordering the scientist's family to be released, but then immediately kills the scientist so he can't tell anyone about what they were planning.


Video Example(s):


M:I - Ghost Protocol

In a Once per Movie fashion in the Mission: Impossible film series, IMF agent Ethan Hunt receives a pre-recorded message that provides details on his latest assignment, usually ending with the message initiating a self-destruct sequence.

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / MissionBriefing

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