The terrific fourth entry in the Mission Impossible franchise, Ghost Protocol rights all the wrongs of the previous instalments. Directed by animation whiz Brad Bird (making his live action debut), it dispenses with the convoluted narrative of Brian De Palma's effort; ignores the silly slo-mo theatrics of the second; and discards the sappy love interest seen in the third. Sensibly, it takes the series back to its roots: good looking spies, committing hair raising impossible acts in exotic locations. Tom Cruise returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt who is sprung from a Moscow jail by team members Jane (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg). When the IMF is framed for the bombing of the Kremlin, the team must move quickly to expose the real culprit: rogue lunatic Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), who aims to plunge the world into nuclear war. Teaming up with mysterious analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner), the mission takes the team to Dubai and beyond.
The film's stunt work has already achieved notoriety and worldwide acclaim, especially the extraordinary sequence in which Cruise himself climbs Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The star's physical commitment helps pull the audience further into the drama, ensuring the film's status as superior popcorn entertainment. Returning to the franchise is composer Michael Giacchino, and he delivers the best score of the series to date.
It's his third collaboration with director Bird, following The Incredibles and Ratatouille, and it's also the first score in the series to integrate Lalo Schifrin's original TV themes to fully satisfying effect. Danny Elfman's percussive score for the first film flirted with the themes before Hans Zimmer went in completely the other direction for the second, composing a score more befitting his Remote Control studio. Giacchino's work on the third film was a step forward but lacked a memorable identity, a problem he more than solves here. The variations on the theme in Ghost Protocol are manifest and give the score a sense of backbone and context, whilst proving enormously entertaining in their own right.
More than that however, Giacchino successfully meshes his own voice with that of Schifrin's. He's always been brilliant at adapting the styles of his contemporaries (John Barry in The Incredibles; John Williams in the Medal of Honour scores), but here, his own voice also shines through. The end result is a thrilling, dynamic listen. Things kick off with the familiar, rhythmic Giacchino strings in Give Her My Budapest, before Schifrin's iconic theme takes centre stage in Light the Fuse, brilliantly embellished with the additional woodwind and xylophone run here and there. What Giacchino does brilliantly throughout the score is apply the instrumental colours of the central theme to the action music, especially the ever present tapping bongos and xylophones. This ensures the score is all of a piece, possessed of an enjoyably retro nature.
The theme pops up regularly throughout the score, be it in pensive fashion in Ghost Protocol (when Hunt is informed the IMF has been disavowed) to a full blown Indian arrangement complete with sitars and authentic instrumentation in the brilliant Mood India. On listening to the score, it's apparent Giacchino was clearly inspired by the globetrotting nature of the story. A massive Slavic choir a la The Hunt for Red October booms out of the speakers in Kremlin with Anticipation, whilst a sneaky woodwind element in A Man, A Plan, A Code, Dubai carries definite Middle Eastern connotations, before it erupts with florid strings and a soft rock beat.
The former also marks the welcome return of Schifrin's secondary theme, entitled The Plot; when embellished with the wonderfully portentous choir, it's superb. That's not even mentioning the lengthy Bollywood influenced piece, Mumbai's the Word, complete with fluctuating vocals and an array of percussive work. This score really is an embarrassment of riches! The standalone action pieces are enormously exciting and plentiful, pushing the orchestra to their limits. From Russia with Shove, Moreau Trouble Than She's Worth, Out for a Run and the awesome, climactic World's Worst Parking Valet are all relentless, propelled along by a thunderous brass element, racing strings and the aforementioned elements from the main theme. When the theme itself is mixed in (the dramatic statement at the end of World's Worst Parking Valet springs to mind), it carries the score to new heights.
Talking of which, Giacchino's music for the first half of the Burj Khalifa climbing sequence (Love the Glove) is pleasingly understated: a nifty suspense piece calling to mind Jerry Goldsmith's work, pizzicato strings dance underneath a building woodwind and string section – perfect for building tension without taking away from the scene. It then explodes into a muscular rendition of the Mission Impossible theme in Express Elevator as Cruise runs down the outside of the building. Things quieten down at the end with a lovely reprise of the Reparations theme from the third film in Putting the Miss into Mission. The score then bows out with another rendition of Schifrin's theme in Out With a Bang – the ideal, adrenaline rush ending.
The composer's attention to detail is particularly impressive: rarely a moment goes by when he isn't introducing a new motif, reprising his own ideas or adapting Schifrin's previous themes. Consistent with both the original sound of the TV series and his earlier score for the third film, Giacchino mixes together a plethora of ideas, meaning there's rarely a dull moment. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is one of Giacchino's most entertaining scores and one of the most entertaining action adventure scores of 2011. Highly recommended, and the soundtrack album is available from these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Several tracks use the "Mission: Impossible Theme" by Lalo Schifrin and some tracks use "The Plot" by Lalo Schifrin