What’s a spy to do when he knows what’s right and his government disagrees? His only option is to go rogue. Whether that spy is the urbane James Bond or the decidedly more American Ethan Hunt, the result is the same—action, action and more action.
Both Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Quantum of Solace offer plenty of eye-candy in the form of high speed chases, exotic locations and beautiful women wearing dresses that are tight in all the right places.
What more could a spy or an action movie buff want? But which high-octane entry in these two enduring spy franchises delivers the most thrills?
The beginning of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) cooling his heels in a Russian prison. Of course, he’s not there for long. Pal Benji (Simon Pegg) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton), a newcomer to Hunt’s Impossible Missions Force team, manage to spring him from jail. But before he can catch his breath, he’s told there’s a new mission—an assassin has made off with a briefcase filled nuclear launch codes. (There’s always a briefcase in these types of films, and it never contains anything good.)
The team must then infiltrate the Kremlin. No problem, right? But when they do, they find they’re not alone. Bad guy Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) has also broken in and planted a few bombs along the way. Hunt and his team are blamed for the resulting explosion and are disavowed along with the rest of the agency when the President initiates “Ghost Protocol.” Now fugitives without backup or resources, Ethan and his team must track down Hendricks and stop him from starting a nuclear war.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is back, and boy is he pissed. Quantum of Solace picks up right where Casino Royale left off. Not only did Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), the love of Bond’s life, die right in front of him (and in a spectacularly Bondian way—by drowning in an elevator), she also apparently betrayed him. Now Bond is looking for answers, and he’s out for revenge. He’s in desperate need of anger management.
His quest to uncover the truth about Quantum, the super-secret international organization he blames for Vesper’s death, leads him on a globetrotting, action-packed adventure, in which he crosses paths with Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a beautiful Bolivian spy who is on her own revenge mission. She is involved with Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) a French philanthropist who is actually a Quantum baddie attempting to restore a Bolivian dictator to power and corner the market on the country’s water supply. As Bond pursues Greene, the bodies start piling up, and Bond finds himself being hunted, not only by dangerous bad guys but by the “good guys” as well.
Quantum of Solace is not the typical James Bond movie. It offers little to none of the cool gadgets, flippant humor and sex that audiences have to come to expect. And that’s okay for the most part. I can do without the gadgets and the sex and even the sex gadgets, but I really did miss those zingy one-liners. This film is so action-packed that it’s hard to catch your breath, and in those rare moments when the film does slow down, Bond is so cold and brooding that it hardly feels like a breather. There’s not much dialogue and few memorable moments between characters.
Mission: Impossible offers far more laughs than Quantum (mostly because Quantum has so few) but the script, written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, is not as funny as it thinks. It also has an endless supply of awesome gadgets that would make Q jealous, ranging from the futuristic to the ridiculous. Quantum has plenty of impressive stunts, but none of them can top Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa skyscraper—the tallest building in the world—with only a pair of malfunctioning suction gloves to keep him from falling 130 stories. It’s a thrilling sequence, especially if you see it in IMAX, though if you are afraid of heights, it’s likely to send you staggering up the aisle for sanctuary.
Mission: Impossible’s plot is hardly original, but it doesn’t really need to be. Plot isn’t really the point of this film. The point is to throw one insurmountable obstacle after another at Tom Cruise and company and watch them struggle to succeed. Quantum’s story is much harder to follow, and in this film, plot is important because it doesn’t feel as though it was intended to be just another vehicle for action sequences.
In Quantum, Daniel Craig once again does an excellent job as the haunted Bond whose steely determination to get answers borders on obsession. Kurylenko is effective as the new Bond girl, but she doesn’t have much to work with. Judi Dench is, as always, wonderful as M.
Paula Patton stacks up nicely as the IMF team’s Bond-girl counterpart, though she also doesn’t have much to do besides kick a little ass now and again and look sad about the death of her boyfriend, an agent who was shot during the beginning of the film. Simon Pegg is the film’s comic relief, which he manages quite nicely, though he is funnier than the script. Tom Cruise pretty much plays Tom Cruise-as-action-star and does it well, as the role doesn’t exactly call for emotional depth. Rounding out the cast is Jeremy Renner, who is quite charming as well as lethal.
While Bond is certainly a more compelling character than Ethan Hunt, Quantum had far fewer memorable moments than M:I and in the end just wasn’t as entertaining. Mission Impossible is stylish, upbeat and action-packed. If you want character, go see something else. These two films are about thrilling, edge-of-your-seat adventure, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the better choice.