Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Mission impossible ghost protocol.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrad Bird
Written by
Based onMission: Impossible
by Bruce Geller
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Elswit
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Music byMichael Giacchino
Distributed byParamount Pictures[1]
Release dates
Running time
133 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$145 million[4]
Box office$694.7 million[4]

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a 2011 American action spy film directed by Brad Bird (in his live-action debut) and produced by and starring Tom Cruise from a screenplay by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. It is the sequel to Mission: Impossible III (2006) and is the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series. It also stars Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Paula Patton. In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) are shut down after being publicly implicated in a bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team to go without resources or backup in the life-threatening effort to clear their names.

Development for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol began in August 2009, when Appelbaum and Nemec were hired to write the screenplay (which contained uncredited rewrites by eventual series director and writer Christopher McQuarrie). Cruise's return was confirmed by March 2010 after Bird was announced to replace of J. J. Abrams, who directed the predecessor. The film was officially titled in October 2010, after which, principal photography took place and lasted until March 2011, with filming locations including Mumbai, Budapest, Moscow, Dubai, and Canadian Motion Picture Park Studios in Vancouver. Like previous entries in the franchise, the cast completed most of their own stunts, while parts of the film was shot in IMAX.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol premiered in Dubai on December 7, 2011 and was released in IMAX and select large-format theaters on December 16, before being theatrically released in the United States by Paramount Pictures on December 21. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise for the action sequences, Cruise's performance, and Bird's direction. It grossed $694 million worldwide, becoming the fifth-highest-grossing film of 2011 as well as the highest grossing film in the franchise and the highest grossing film starring Cruise until the release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 2018. The sequel, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, was released in 2015.


IMF agent Trevor Hanaway is killed in Budapest by assassin Sabine Moreau, who takes his file containing Russian nuclear launch codes so she can sell them to a man known only as "Cobalt".

IMF agent Ethan Hunt has become incarcerated in a Moscow prison to acquire Bogdan, a source of information on Cobalt. With the help of Jane Carter, Hanaway's handler, and newly promoted field agent Benji Dunn, Hunt and Bogdan make their escape. IMF tasks Hunt to infiltrate the Kremlin to gain information on Cobalt. During the mission, an insider blows their cover, and Hunt's team aborts as a bomb destroys much of the Kremlin. Carter and Dunn escape, but Hunt is captured by SVR agent Anatoly Sidorov and charged with destroying the Kremlin.

Hunt escapes and meets with the IMF Secretary who is in Moscow with his aide and intelligence analyst, William Brandt. The Secretary, reprimanded by Russian authorities, tells Hunt that the President had initiated "Ghost Protocol", disavowing the IMF, but secretly orders Hunt to continue to pursue Cobalt. Sidorov's forces catch up to Hunt, and the Secretary is killed. Hunt escapes with Brandt and they regroup with Carter and Dunn to consolidate their intelligence. Brandt and Hunt identify Cobalt as Kurt Hendricks, a Swedish-born Russian nuclear strategist, who seeks to start a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia. Hendricks used the Kremlin bombing to cover his theft of a Russian launch-control device, and now is planning a trade with Moreau at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai to gain the required launch codes. Hendricks plans to use Leonid Lisenker, a cryptographer who has been kidnapped by Hendricks' right-hand man, Wistrom, to authenticate the codes.

The IMF contingent intercept the launch codes by faking both meetings: Hunt and Brandt pose as Wistrom and Lisenker to receive the codes from Moreau; one floor away, Carter poses as Moreau, passing counterfeit codes to Wistrom and Lisenker. After some preparations, including Hunt climbing the outside of the Burj Khalifa to access a server, the IMF team pull off their plan. However, because Lisenker can actually authenticate the codes, Hunt is forced to pass him real ones, relying on radioactive isotopes in the paper to track Wistrom afterwards. Wistrom murders Lisenker pre-emptively and escapes in a sandstorm while Hunt is apprehended by Sidorov, and Carter, in self-defense and to avenge Hanaway's death, slays Moreau, eliminating their lead.

With help from Bogdan, Ethan finds a new lead by negotiating with arms dealer The Fog, while Carter and Dunn confront Brandt, who fought with unusual skill in Dubai. Brandt confesses that he asked to be removed from field duty after being assigned to a bodyguard detail and failing to protect Julia Meade, Ethan's former wife. Hunt was then imprisoned after the Serbian criminals who killed her turned up dead.

The Fog directs Ethan towards Mumbai, where Hendricks is set to negotiate with Indian media tycoon Brij Nath to gain control of an obsolete Soviet military satellite. The IMF team splits up to stop Hendricks; Carter seduces Nath to get the satellite override code, while Hunt, Brandt and Dunn try to stop Hendricks and Wistrom from using Nath's broadcast station. They are too late as Hendricks has sent the launch codes to a Russian Delta III-class nuclear submarine to fire a missile at San Francisco, and disabled the station's computer systems. Carter, Brandt and Dunn race to get the systems back online to send the override code, during which they engage in a battle of wits with Wistrom, who is eventually killed by Dunn. Hunt pursues Hendricks to a car vending machine where they fight. Hendricks, with the launch device, jumps to his death moments before the missile is set to impact. Brandt's team gets the systems online, and Hunt takes a dangerous fall to disable the missile as the dying Hendricks watches. Sidorov arrives and realizes that the IMF is innocent of the Kremlin bombing.

The team meets in Seattle after Ethan accepts a new mission from Luther Stickell. Brandt confesses to Ethan about his failure to protect Julia. Ethan, however, reveals that her "death" and the murder of the Serbians were part of a plot to give her a new identity, and doubled as a cover story that let him infiltrate the prison to bring out Bogdan. A relieved Brandt accepts his mission, and becomes an agent once again. Meanwhile, Julia arrives at the harbor, and Ethan and Julia smile at each other from afar. Ethan walks away and listens to an IMF debriefing about a terrorist organization known as "The Syndicate".



Despite Mission: Impossible III earning less than its predecessors at the box office, its critical reception was much better than its predecessors and Paramount Pictures was keen on developing a fourth in the series.[8] In August 2009, Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec were hired to write the film's screenplay.[9] Because of other commitments, J. J. Abrams said that it was unlikely for him to return as director but made note that he will produce the film alongside Tom Cruise.[10] By March 2010, director Brad Bird was in talks of directing the film with Cruise returning to star as Ethan Hunt.[11]

The film was originally announced with a working name of Mission: Impossible 4 and code-named "Aries" during early production.[12] By August 2010, title considerations did not include the Mission: Impossible 4 name, and thought was given to omitting the specific term "Mission: Impossible", which Variety compared to Christopher Nolan's Batman sequel film The Dark Knight.[13] In late October 2010, the title was confirmed as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.[14]

Christopher McQuarrie (who later directed Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible – Fallout) did an uncredited rewrite of the screenplay, explaining that:

On Ghost Protocol I came in on the middle of the shoot to do a rewrite of the screenplay, though they had already started the movie. I had to communicate with the entire staff to determine what I could and couldn't change, what sets had been built or struck, what scenes I could or couldn't reshoot. I learned so much about production being right there. ... The script had these fantastic sequences in it but there was a mystery in it that was very complicated. What I did was about clarity. The mystery had to be made simpler. It's like reaching into a sock and pulling it inside out. It's still a sock, still all the same pieces, but all put together in a different order.[15]


The film was partially shot with IMAX cameras, which made up approximately 30 minutes of the film's run time.[16][17] Bird insisted that certain scenes of the film be shot in IMAX, as opposed to 3D, as he felt that the IMAX format offered the viewer more immersion due to its brighter, higher quality image, which is projected on a larger screen, without the need for specialised glasses.[18] Bird also believed that the IMAX format would bring back "a level of showmanship" to the presentation of Hollywood films, which he believes the industry has lost due to its emphasis on screening films in multiplexes as opposed to grand theaters, and vetoing "first runs" in favor of wider initial releases.[18]

When we were first looking at the image of Tom climbing the Burj, in the long shots we could not only see the traffic in the reflections when he presses down on the glass ... But you actually saw the glass warp slightly because of the pressure of his hand. You would never see that in 35mm. The fact that the screen fills your vision and is super sharp seems more life-like.

Brad Bird describing the advantages of filming in the IMAX format[19]

Principal photography took place from October 2010 to March 19, 2011.[20] Filming took place in Budapest, Mumbai, Prague, Moscow, Vancouver, Bangalore, Chennai, and Dubai.[21][22][23] Although Cruise appears to be free solo climbing in the film with the help of special gloves, in reality, he was securely attached to the Burj Khalifa at all times by multiple cables.[20] Industrial Light & Magic digitally erased the cables in post-production. Following Cruise's example, Patton and Seydoux also chose to forgo the use of stunt doubles for their fight scene at the Burj Khalifa where Carter exacts her revenge upon Moreau for Hanaway's death.[20]

Many of the film's interior scenes were shot at Vancouver's Canadian Motion Picture Park Studios, including a key transition scene in a specially equipped IMF train car and the fight between Hunt and Hendricks in a Mumbai automated multi-level parking garage (which was constructed over a six-month period just for the film).[20] The Vancouver Convention Centre was modified to double as downtown Bangalore.[24][25] The film's opening Moscow prison escape scenes were shot on location in a real former prison near Prague.[20]

Bird, having directed several Disney and Pixar films and short films, incorporated the trademark "A113" into the film on two separate occasions. The first is the design print on Hanaway's ring during the flashback sequence, and the second being when Hunt calls in for support and uses the drop callsign, Alpha 1–1–3.[26]


Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: Music by Michael Giacchino
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJanuary 10, 2012 (2012-01-10)
GenreFilm score
LabelVarèse Sarabande
ProducerMichael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino chronology
Monte Carlo
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: Music by Michael Giacchino
John Carter
Mission: Impossible chronology
Mission: Impossible III – Music by Michael Giacchino
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: Music by Michael Giacchino
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Music from the Motion Picture

The musical score for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was composed by Michael Giacchino, who also composed the music for the third film and collaborated with Bird on The Incredibles and Ratatouille. As in previous installments, the score incorporates Lalo Schifrin's themes from the original television series.[27] "Lalo is an amazing jazz writer. You know you can't write a straight-up jazz score for a film like this but you can certainly hint at it here and there," said Giacchino, explaining the stylistic influence generated by Schifrin's history with the franchise.[28] A soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande on January 10, 2012.[29]

All music is composed by Michael Giacchino.

1."Give Her My Budapest"1:57
2."Light the Fuse" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)2:01
3."Knife to a Gun Fight"3:42
4."In Russia, Phone Dials You" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme and "The Plot" by Lalo Schifrin)1:40
5."Kremlin with Anticipation" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme and "The Plot" by Lalo Schifrin)4:12
6."From Russia with Shove" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)3:37
7."Ghost Protocol" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)4:58
8."Railcar Rundown" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)1:11
9."Hendricks' Manifesto" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)3:17
10."A Man, A Plan, A Code, Dubai" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)2:44
11."Love the Glove" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)3:44
12."The Express Elevator" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)2:31
13."Mission Impersonatable"3:55
14."Moreau Trouble Than She's Worth"6:44
15."Out for a Run"3:54
16."Eye of the Wistrom"1:05
17."Mood India" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)4:28
18."Mumbai's the Word"7:14
19."Launch Is on Hendricks"2:22
20."World's Worst Parking Valet" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)5:03
21."Putting the Miss in Mission" (Contains Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin)5:19
22."Mission: Impossible Theme (Out with a Bang Version)"0:53


In July 2011, a teaser trailer for Ghost Protocol was released illustrating new shots from the film, one of which being Tom Cruise scaling the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.[30] Moreover, prior to its release, the studio presented IMAX footage of the film to an invitation-only crowd of opinion makers and journalists at central London's BFI IMAX theater. One of the many scenes that were included was a chase scene in a Dubai desert sandstorm.[31]

During November 2011, the Paramount released a Facebook game of the film in order to promote it. The new game allowed players to choose the roles of IMF agents and assemble teams to embark on a multiplayer journey. Players were also able to garner tickets to the film's U.S. premiere and a hometown screening of the film for 30 friends.[32]



Following the world premiere in Dubai on December 7, 2011,[33] the film was released in IMAX and other large-format theaters in the U.S. on December 16, 2011,[34] with general release on December 21, 2011. This is the first film to use the current Paramount Pictures logo, with the a brand new fanfare composed by Michael Giacchino, who also composed the film, as part of the studio's 100th anniversary.

Home media[edit]

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download on April 17, 2012.[35] The home media releases, however, do not preserve the original IMAX imagery,[36][37] and its aspect ratio is consistently cropped to 2.40:1 rather than switching to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio during the IMAX scenes. Blu-ray Disc releases such as The Dark Knight,[38] Tron: Legacy,[39] and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen[40] will switch between 2.40:1 for regular scenes and 1.78:1 for IMAX scenes. The film was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on June 26, 2018.[41]


Box office[edit]

Ghost Protocol grossed $209.4 million in North America and $485.3 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $694.7 million.[42] It is the second-highest-grossing film worldwide in the Mission: Impossible series,[43] and the fifth-highest-grossing film of 2011.[44] It is also the second-highest-grossing film worldwide starring Cruise, surpassing War of the Worlds from the top spot.[45] It was the franchise's highest-grossing film and Cruise's biggest film at the time of release, before being surpassed by Mission: Impossible – Fallout seven years later.

In limited release at 425 locations in North America, it earned $12.8 million over its opening weekend.[46] After five days of limited release, it expanded to 3,448 theaters on its sixth day and reached #1 at the box office with $8.92 million.[47] The film reached the top stop at the box office in its second and third weekends with $29.6 million and $29.4 million, respectively.[48][49] Though only 9% of the film's screenings were in IMAX theaters, they accounted for 23% of the film's box office.[50]

Outside North America, it debuted to a $69.5 million in 42 markets representing approximately 70% of the marketplace. In the United Arab Emirates, it set an opening-weekend record of $2.4 million (since surpassed by Marvel's The Avengers).[51] In two countries outside the U.S. in which filming took place, its opening weekend gross increased by multiples over the previous installment: in Russia, more than doubling, to $6.08 million[52] and in India, more than quadrupling, to $4.0 million.[53] It is the second-highest-grossing Mission: Impossible film outside North America.[54] It topped the box office outside North America for three consecutive weekends (during December 2011)[55] and five weekends in total (the other two in 2012).[45] Its highest-grossing markets after North America are China ($102.5 million),[56] Japan ($69.7 million), and South Korea ($51.1 million).[57]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol has an approval rating of 93% based on 239 reviews and an average rating of 7.70/10. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads: "Stylish, fast-paced, and loaded with gripping set pieces, the fourth Mission: Impossible is big-budget popcorn entertainment that really works."[58] Metacritic assigned the film a score of 73 out of 100 based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[59] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[60]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of four stars, saying the film "is a terrific thriller with action sequences that function as a kind of action poetry."[61] Stephen Whitty of The Star-Ledger wrote "The eye-candy—from high-tech gadgets to gorgeous people—has only been ratcheted up. And so has the excitement." He also gave the film 3.5 out of four stars.[62] Giving the film three out of four stars, Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe said "In its way, the movie has old-Hollywood elegance. The scope and sets are vast, tall, and cavernous, but Bird scales down for spatial intimacy."[63]

Philippa Hawker of The Sydney Morning Herald gave the film three stars out of five and said it is "ludicrously improbable, but also quite fun."[64] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly opined that the movie "brims with scenes that are exciting and amazing at the same time; they're brought off with such casual aplomb that they're funny, too. ... Ghost Protocol is fast and explosive, but it's also a supremely clever sleight-of-hand thriller. Brad Bird, the animation wizard, ... showing an animator's miraculously precise use of visual space, has a playful, screw-tightening ingenuity all his own."[65] Roger Moore of The Charlotte Observer gave the film three out of four stars; said "Brad Bird passes his audition for a career as a live-action director. And Ghost Protocol more than makes its bones as an argument for why Tom Cruise should continue in this role as long as his knees, and his nerves, hold up."[66]

IndieWire ranked it as one of the best action movies of the 21st century.[67]


Award Category Recipients Result
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[68][69] Kick Ass Award for Best Female Action Star Paula Patton Nominated
Golden Reel Awards[70] Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Buttkicker Tom Cruise Nominated
MTV Movie Awards[71] Best Fight Tom Cruise vs. Michael Nyqvist Nominated
Best Gut-Wrenching Performance Tom Cruise Nominated
Saturn Awards[72] Best Action or Adventure Film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol Won
Best Director Brad Bird Nominated
Best Actor Tom Cruise Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Paula Patton Nominated
Best Music Michael Giacchino Nominated
Best Editing Paul Hirsch Won
Teen Choice Awards[73] Choice Movie: Action Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol Nominated
Choice Movie Actor: Action Tom Cruise Nominated
Choice Movie Actress: Action Paula Patton Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture John Goodson, Paul Francis Russell and Victor Schutz Nominated
World Stunt Awards Best Stunt Coordinator and/or 2nd Unit Director Pavel Cajzl, Dan Bradley, Russell Solberg, Gregg Smrz and Owen Walstrom Nominated


In December 2011, Pegg suggested that he and Cruise were interested in returning for a fifth Mission: Impossible film.[74] Paramount was also reportedly interested in fast-tracking a fifth film due to the fourth film's success.[75] Bird had stated that he probably would not return to direct a fifth film, but Tom Cruise had been confirmed to return.[76] It was revealed in August 2013 that Christopher McQuarrie would be the director of Mission: Impossible 5.[77] Principal photography began in February 2014 in London.[78] Paramount Pictures released the film on July 31, 2015.[79] The plot centers around Hunt's IMF team in conflict with "the Syndicate", an international criminal organization first mentioned at the end of Ghost Protocol.


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