Pop quiz. "Ghost Protocol" is:
A. The subtitle of the new Mission: Impossible.
B. Something that sounds too much like the names of 100,000 video games.
C. What your acting career goes into when you marry Tom Cruise.
D. The name of the Ghostbusters' ray gun that zaps spirits.
I will never reveal the answer, because to do so would be a violation of Ghost Protocol. But what I can tell you is that the movie is way better than you think it will be, and that this message will self-destruct and peel off its latex mask to reveal that it wasn't who you thought it was all along and is secretly a guy named… Ghost Protocol.
The characters in the movie enjoy saying "Ghost Protocol," and so do I. You may find yourself walking out of the theater saying "Ghost Protocol" in situations appropriate and not. It's best delivered with a stern look on your face, preceded by an eye-shift, a lean and spoken as a half-whisper. Try it.
What you shouldn't try is the wickety-wickety-wack stunts in the movie, which include using Spider-Man gloves to scale the Burj Khalifa, crashing a spy car into the ground to use its airbag as padding and staring directly into Tom Cruise's blindingly white teeth without sunglasses.
The film opens in a Soviet prison. I use the term "Soviet" because it sounds more Ghost Protocol than boring "Russia." As Ethan Hunt, Cruise breaks out of a prison cell, thanks to the computer program Norton Prison Break 2012, operated by the agent who will come to be Ethan's wisecracking sidekick (Simon Pegg). Pegg, of Shaun of the Dead fame, is usually funny, but in this movie is about as annoying as someone who won't stop saying Ghost Protocol.
The rest of the spy team includes Brandt (Jeremy Renner), who lugs around dark secrets from the past as well as extra consonants at the end of his name, and Jane (Paula Patton), who is part of the Barbie DreamSpy collector set. In what must be a budget-saving maneuver because the spies will not be paid or acknowledged, the government tells the spy crew to go off the grid and complete a rogue mission to stop a Soviet nuclear missile from Ghost Protocol-ing the hell out of America.
The race is on, and this time it's impersonal.
The movie is as fun as it is dumb, and trust me, it's as dumb as it is Ghost Protocol. The stunts are ceaseless thrill rides, the story moves at the pace and rhythm of Cruise's Cocktail-pouring exploits in the movie Cocktail, and Pegg even stops making idiotic jokes occasionally. What I adored most about the movie was its gadgets, as well as its characters' uncanny ability to use them ineffectively. These secret, unpaid spies show that you get what you pay for, and watching them continually screw up and risk their Protocols becoming Ghosts is much more entertaining than watching a Bourne- or Bond-type skate through without a scratch.
The movie makes me feel so good that I've decided to break Ghost Protocol and give you that quiz answer anyway. It's C.
Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg. Written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, based on the TV series by Bruce Geller. Directed by Brad Bird. Rated PG-13. 132 minutes.
My novel, Stormin' Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.