Pigeon: Impossible

Spies in Disguise is the unceremonious final film from Blue Sky Animation. Despite already owning Pixar, Disney ended up obtaining the rights to Blue Sky with their 20th Century Fox acquisition. Only to shut the studio down a year later. My brother and I saw Spies in Disguise on Christmas blissfully unaware that it would be the last. Although it’s a strange way to end Blue Sky’s run, I’m glad I ended up enjoying their last movie. Spies in Disguise is surprisingly based on an ameteur computer animated short on YouTube called Pigeon: Impossible (watch the short here).

The movie is given high quality computer animation, but nothing fancy. The plot instead makes Agent Walter Beckett a super smart boy genius and turns the pesky pigeon into a spy in disguise. The always charismatic Will Smith essentially plays himself as the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Spy” Lance Sterling. He has a variety of gadgets, spy cars, and takes out the Yakuza with little effort. Since Tom Holland is literally everywhere, it was only a matter of time before he did animation. Walter works with Sterling at the agency H.T.U.V. hidden under the Washington Monument. The young scientist pushes for colorful non-lethal gadgets.

I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about the movie until Walter transforms Sterling into a pigeon. The absurd situation is laugh out loud hilarious. Sterling blends in with a gang of comical pigeons and sticks with Walter until he gets his body back. All the while H.T.U.V. thinks he’s a traitor to the organization. Rashida Jones voices one of many semi-serious agents who hunts Sterling down. Ben Mendelsohn not so surprisingly voices the Bond-esque villain Killian who plans to conquer the world with era appropriate drones. Walter and pigeon Sterling end up bonding on their wacky spy adventure and learn to accept unique ways of solving their problems. Spies in Disguise flew in at just the right time.

14. Spies in Disguise

Agent Sterling (pigeon) and Walter (human)

007’s Legacy

No Time to Die is the most conclusive Bond film ever made. Since the Daniel Craig era has always attempted to maintain some form of continuity, his final outing was always going to feel like a swan song. No Time to Die is the twenty-fifth film in the long running franchise, and the first released in the turbulent 2020’s. Although the title sounds like an Ian Fleming novel, it’s just as original as the last 2 Bond films. Craig began his tenure as James Bond as far back as 2006.

Despite only making 5 movies, the frustratingly long time between movies made Craig the longest running Bond actor. I honestly didn’t think he would return with his advancing age and issues with the franchise. I was really worried when people started to question Bond’s relevance, dated methods, and other aspects of the character that shouldn’t be changed. No Time to Die started to make uncomfortable changes, but I had to wait awhile to see how much. Since it became the first major 2020 blockbuster pushed back by the Pandemic…

25. No Time to Die

James Bond drives

The Mission: Track kidnapped MI6 scientist and secure deadly bioweapon “Project Heracles”

Gadgets & Vehicles: Aston Martin DB5 (equipped with machine guns, bullet-proof windscreen, explosive jacks, and smoke screen), Folding Glider, EMP Omega Watch

Bond Girls: Madeleine Swann, Nomi, Paloma

Bond Villains: Lyutsifer Safin, Primo, Logan Ash, Valdo Obruchev

Analysis: After 15 years, No Time to Die concludes everything that was established in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre. At least I think it does. I’ve only seen every Bond film once, so there’s no way I’ll remember every little detail in the franchise. Which is why I prefer each Bond film to have their own self-contained narrative. No Time to Die became the second Bond film I saw in theaters after skipping Spectre. Even though it breaks the record for longest Bond film ever made. At a staggering 2 hours & 43 minutes, No Time to Die leaves no stone unturned. I guess it comes with hiring a director like Cary Joji Fukunaga. The movie returns to the basics by placing the classic gun barrel sequence at the beginning, but changes the cold open by not making it about Bond. One of many reasons the film is so long. Along with very lengthy conversations between characters.

It’s great that classic characters like M, Q, or Moneypenny are present, but we don’t need to spend so much time behind the scenes at MI6. I never think about Bill Tanner, but it is neat to see Jeffrey Wright return as Bond’s best friend Felix Leiter. The opening introduces the latest Bond villain Lyutsifer Safin. Oscar winner Rami Malek checks all the boxes as a terrorist with a creepy voice, facial scars hidden beneath a white mask, vague world conquering motivations, and he even compares himself to Bond. His henchman Primo also stands out with a comically large bionic eye. Safin mostly wants revenge on Mr. White for killing his family. That means the return of White’s daughter Dr. Madeleine Swann from Spectre. Léa Seydoux is the only lead Bond girl to appear in successive films. Although I prefer one and done Bond girls, Madeleine is meant to be the one woman Bond falls in love with. Even though he’s still hung up on Vesper Lynd after all these years. Their trust is broken after an awesome car chase in the gadget equipped Aston Martin DB5.

Followed by an opening credits sequence that seems to blend almost every Bond style together. There are colorful dots seen in the Dr. No opening, statues, silhouettes, close up shots of a naked woman, abstract patterns, and even a double helix made of guns. I’m not a big fan of her music, but the 18 year old Billie Eilish does fit the melancholy tone with the song “No Time to Die.” Despite Bond’s obvious depression, Craig does seem to be having fun with more jokes and one-liners. Gadgets are still sparse, but Q does give him an EMP watch. 007 now lives in Fleming’s home country of Jamaica where he’s once again pulled out of retirement. Probably my biggest annoyance is Bond’s almost complete lack of sexual activity. One of his most defining character traits. Ana de Armas is one of the hottest actresses working in Hollywood, but Paloma is only around as a contact.

At least she feels like a classic Bond girl with a sexy dress, foreign accent, CIA combat training, and bubbly personality. Which is more than I can say for Nomi. Lashana Lynch could’ve been a great Bond girl, but everything about the character feels designed to tick off diehard fans. Not because she’s a black woman, but because she’s an agent who takes the 007 code name and taunts Bond with it every chance she gets. I’m sorry, 007 is more than just a number. More time is spent on action that constantly puts Bond in harm’s way. No Time to Die has chilling parallels to 2020 by making a nanobot virus Safin’s master plan. Bond thinks Blofeld is behind everything, but Spectre is wiped out in a matter of minutes. In fact, death is a common theme in the movie. Any line you think the franchise would never cross could happen at any moment. Leaving me with very mixed emotions by the end. I don’t know what the future holds for James Bond, but I hope they respect the fans enough not to change everything that makes the spy endearing. No Time to Die goes out with a bang.

25. No Time to Die

James Bond meets Paloma in a bar

James Bond will return

A Spy without Form

Invisible Agent is a mandatory war picture that Universal monster movies couldn’t ignore. Much like the presumably non-canon The Invisible Woman, Invisible Agent also experiments with genres. It’s the standard invisible man formula given to an agent in World War II. I never knew the film existed since it’s so far removed from the rest of the franchise. Even though it follows Frank Griffin Jr. under the assumed name Frank Raymond. His father’s invisibility serum is sought by both the Allied Forces and the Axis Powers.

Since an invisible agent spying on enemies could be enough to win the war. Jon Hall is a relatively charismatic invisible lead. Frank only agrees to help the Allies under the condition that he carries out the mission himself. The special effects will always be impressive no matter how repetitive they get. Frank’s visible look uses cold cream instead of bandages. Cedric Hardwicke and the always creepy Peter Lorre elevate their standard roles as Nazi general Conrad Stauffer and Japanese Baron Ikito respectively.

Other Nazis like J. Edward Bromberg’s Karl Heiser are appropriately made to look like fools. Though the wartime action doesn’t always blend with the humorous tone. Although she hated the part, Ilona Massey isn’t the usual screaming damsel. Maria Sorenson is a German double agent that Frank falls for. Actual German Albert Bassermann is another ally who assists Frank in his mission. Frank never goes insane and saves the American people without being seen. Invisible Agent delivers what it promises.

19. Invisible Agent

The Invisible Agent battles the Nazis

Preceded by: The Invisible Woman & Followed by: The Invisible Man’s Revenge

Cute and Cuddly

Penguins of Madagascar is the cute & cuddly spin-off of DreamWorks Animation’s premiere penguin posse. Since Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted was the natural conclusion to Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria’s adventure, it only made sense to focus on the biggest scene stealers. I just wasn’t crazy about the idea for a theatrical computer animated movie, because I thought it was a direct continuation of the Nickelodeon series of the same name. I watched The Penguins of Madagascar for a while, but I lost interest. The movie is completely separate and follows the continuity of the movies. It begins with the penguin’s in Antarctica where film crews are always filming them. Penguins of Madagascar may have come out long after the 2000’s penguin craze, but jokes like that are still pretty funny. Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico are chicks who discover the joys of slapping and rescue an egg containing the adorable Private.

Years later we pick up with the penguins in the circus immediately after Europe’s Most Wanted. We only see the gang in silhouettes accompanied by the “Afro Circus/I Like to Move It” mashup. They leave to celebrate Private’s birthday at Fort Knox where they obtain a bag of Cheesy Dibbles. An entire movie dedicated to the penguins gives them much more depth than they ever had before. Skipper is still the determined leader and Kowalski is the much more matter of fact brains. Rico retains some of his Nickelodeon attributes with more of a crazy streak. Private is sort of the main character since he wants to be viewed as a meaningful and valued member of the team. Instead of just the cute one with nothing to offer. Penguins of Madagascar is very much a kids movie with a silly villain at the center. Dr. Octavius Brine is a mad scientist who’s secretly a revenge hungry octopus named Dave. Skipper constantly messes up his name, but the funniest running gag are Dave’s celebrity named octopus minions.

Dave was once a zoo octopus constantly shunned thanks to adorable penguins. His diabolical plan is to use a serum to turn every penguin into an ugly monster. Since the penguins have always been voiced by crew members, celebrities like John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch had to pick up the slack. Malkovich voices Dave and Cumberbatch voices the leader of an elite squad of technologically advanced animals. The North Wind constantly overshadow the penguins on their mission. The team consists of Classified the Eurasian wolf, Short Fuse the harp seal, Eva the snowy owl, and Corporal the polar bear. Skipper deliberately competes with the team and Kowalski has a crush on Eva. The spy action is just as fun as ever and the climax is the craziest thing I’ve seen in a Madagascar film. In the end, there’s a kid friendly lesson about what’s inside that counts. Mort and King Julien even get a cameo at the end. Julien being voiced by his Nickelodeon voice actor is probably the closest connection to the show. Penguins of Madagascar is simply an enjoyable adventure for the action-packed penguins.

28. Penguins of Madagascar

Skipper, Private, Kowalski, and Rico make a plan

Spin-Off of: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Statesman

Kingsman: The Golden Circle was a disappointment in an otherwise well established spy setting. Kingsman: The Secret Service became an instant favorite, so my entire family decided to see the sequel in theaters. Although my parents were on the opposite side of the theater since the R rating was still unpredictable. The Golden Circle is just as profane and bloody violent, but apart from a sexual innuendo, there’s no nudity. Since the original surpassed the Mark Millar comic it was based on, Matthew Vaughn came up with an original sequel. One that feels like a major betrayal. The Golden Circle begins exciting enough with a cool spy car chase. Taron Egerton brings a more gentleman quality to Eggsy, occasionally dressed in an orange suit. Unless you closely followed the betrayal of potential Kingsman recruit Charlie, now he’s an obvious substitute for Gazelle. Complete with villainous robotic slingshot arm.

Charlie serves as henchman for the next Bond villain type antagonist Poppy Adams. Julianne Moore does her best, but the 50’s obsessed, people cooking, drug lord feels a little too random. Poppy hides out in a 50’s town called Poppy Land where she plans to unleash paralyzing drugs on the world. Promising an antidote to the President in exchange for immunity. The commentary is obvious, but the drugs are alright message is too messy for an action comedy. The biggest mistake is that the entire Kingsman organization is destroyed in order to raise the stakes. The tailor shop, the Kingsman estate, Roxy, and even Eggsy’s pug are all destroyed like they meant nothing. Eggsy survived since he’s surprisingly in a relationship with the Swedish Princess Tilde from The Secret Service. Merlin survives too since Mark Strong is just as important and the next problem arises. While I commend the world building of revealing an American equivalent of Kingsman called Statesman, that’s not why people enjoyed the first film.

The Golden Circle is just too Americanized with its intense focus on the organization across the pond. The Kentucky based Statesman front as an alcohol distillery, so they’re each named after drinks. Channing Tatum is barely present as Tequila, Halle Berry handles tech as Ginger Ale, and a shaved Jeff Bridges runs things as Champagne. Pedro Pascal joins Eggsy & Merlin as expert lasso slinging Statesman Whiskey. They also discover Harry Hart is alive. Colin Firth was too good just to leave dead, so they came up with a way to magically cheat death. He has an eyepatch and amnesia, but he joins the fight too. Except for when they tarnish his “Manners maketh man” moment just to make a point. The stylish action is still plenty fun, especially in the duel Galahad shoot out. Some twists are unexpected, but the most unexpected edition is an ironic Elton John joke that may have been taken too far. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an overly long collection of ideas that occasionally workout.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Harry, Eggsy, and Merlin together again

Preceded by: The King’s Man & Kingsman: The Secret Service

Manners Maketh Man

Kingsman: The Secret Service is the deconstruction of spy movies I never knew I needed. I thought Kingsman was just another random secret agent flick. Little did I know it would end up being one of the most enjoyable, stylish, hilarious, and awesome spy films released in a long time. Upstaging James Bond himself with its respectable jabs and willingness to embrace Bond’s more outlandish motifs. Like most people, I’ll bet you didn’t know Kingsman was based on a comic. A very lesser known Mark Millar comic. Usually I stay away from his depraved graphic novels, but The Secret Service doesn’t seem too bad. Unlike Wanted or Kick-Ass, Kingsman really took on a life of its own as a movie. It brings back the dapper gentleman spy complete with cool gadgets like specialized glasses or a weaponized umbrella, spiffy suits, and the help of a secret organization.

Kingsman embraces its very British setting by following street tough Eggsy. Someone with the potential to follow in his deceased spy father’s footsteps. Kingsman agent Harry Hart takes him under his wing after teaching some hooligans that “Manners maketh man.” Kingsman is modeled after King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. So each agent is named after an Arthurian figure. There’s the head Arthur (played by British standby Michael Caine), gadgets expert Merlin (played by the usually villainous Mark Strong), and Hart is Galahad. When a new Lancelot is needed, Eggsy enters rigorous training alongside other potential candidates. Including Roxy, who proves to be a worthy ally and fierce competition. The unorthodox training is edge of your seat fun as they escape a flooding room, jump out a plane with a missing parachute, prove their loyalty with an oncoming train, and even care for a puppy. Eggsy is shown the sleek golden armory, but he fails to pass the final test.

Though the threat still looms in the background. Kingsman made stars out of mostly unknowns like Taron Egerton and Sofia Boutella, but also gave A-list stars like Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson a chance in an action packed spy setting. Firth should do way more action since he’s more than capable in the over-the-top fundamental church massacre. Jackson is essentially a Bond villain with a ridiculous lisp named Richmond Valentine. He’s an internet billionaire who plans to wipe out most of the population to save the climate. Using a sim card that makes people attack each other, but protecting some famous figures and the elite. Valentine is a mostly harmless hemophobe, so his awesomely gymnastic blade-legged henchwoman Gazelle does most of the fighting. The final fight is tense, profane, and just as bloody violent as the rest of the appropriately R rated hit. With some cheeky nudity added for good measure. Matthew Vaughn proves again that he’s a master of comic adaptations. Kingsman: The Secret Service ain’t that kind of spy movie indeed.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Harry Hart unlocks a path for Eggsy

Followed by: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

See Tom Run

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is what happens when a highly successful spy franchise has nowhere to go but up. Fallout is the highest grossing, best reviewed, and easily one of the greatest action movies in recent memory. Which is saying a lot for a 6th installment. Since my mom was the one who hyped up Mission: Impossible for my brother and I, we all went to the theater to see it. Fallout received more media coverage than usual. Making it more of a must watch than it already was. Now that we expect Tom Cruise to perform dangerous stunts, he just keeps pushing himself despite being 56 years old. The sixth director is Christopher McQuarrie. The only filmmaker to direct more than one Mission: Impossible. Although Rogue Nation worked 3 years ago, I still enjoy the different direction each movie gimmick. In fact, Fallout is the first sequel to actually feel like a seamless continuation. Since far less actors disappear without a trace (except for Jeremy Renner). Alec Baldwin is still head of IMF Hunley, Simon Pegg is still trusted technician Benji, and Ving Rhames always has to be around as trusted hacker Luther.

Even the beautiful woman doesn’t change this time around. Since Rebecca Ferguson was just that good as shady former agent Ilsa Faust. Even Michelle Monaghan returns for a third more prominent time as Ethan Hunt’s ex-wife Julia. Fallout indeed lives up to its title when a major fallout tests Ethan on a personal & professional level. The mission should the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) choose to accept it, is to secure three stolen plutonium cores before the newly formed Syndicate known as the Apostles take them. The plutonium cores are McGuffins intended to start a new world order. The new villain is code named John Lark, but an imprisoned Solomon Lane is also distinct for being a villain who returns. Hunt’s IMF team gains information using masks, but they fail when agents secure the Plutonium for an arms dealer. So Angela Bassett acting as head of the CIA has assassin August Walker keep an eye on IMF. Henry Cavill is the best new addition to the franchise due to his intimidating size, reloadable fists, and mustache that made Justice League a joke. In order to infiltrate a Paris nightclub, Hunt and Walker must HALO jump. One of many major stunts Cruise pulled off with ease.

Followed by an intense bathroom brawl with ridiculously awesome fist fighting. Faust makes a last minute rescue and Hunt meets the arms dealer without a mask. The only new beautiful woman is Vanessa Kirby as Alanna Mitsopolis aka White Widow. She lives up to her color swapped name when more enemies attack. Then things get complicated when she promises the plutonium in exchange for Lane. It’s a dramatic armed truck intercept, car chase, and motorcycle chase that sees Hunt and Faust on opposite sides again. The masks come in handy once more when Walker is not so surprisingly revealed as the manifesto writing John Lark. So Cruise runs his biggest run to date in London. It was so real that Cruise broke his ankle failing to clear a jump. I wince everytime I see it, but that makes the scene even better. It’s finally at the glaciers that two of the bombs will go off unless IMF stops them. Julia just so happens to be their with her new husband. Benji, Luther, Ilsa, and Julia take care of the detonators while Hunt unsurprisingly climbs up one of the helicopters. Another death defying stunt concluding in a gritty one on one brawl. With all the pieces coming together flawlessly, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is proof that like Tom Cruise, the franchise only gets better with age.

6. Mission Impossible Fallout

Ethan Hunt gives chase

Preceded by: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The Other Door!

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation did the impossible by topping its predecessor in every possible way. 5 movies in and the successful spy franchise just got better. Since Ghost Protocol worked out better than anyone imagined, they kept the winning formula going. Now with stunts that somehow top the Burj Khalifa itself and epic action set piece after epic action set piece. Despite being 52 at the time, Tom Cruise achieved legendary status with increasingly crazy stunts all done by him. Rogue Nation was finally the Mission: Impossible installment that got me to see it in theaters. There’s really no other way to see such a spectacle. The fifth director is Christopher McQuarrie. He brought his penchant for well executed action and his willingness to work with Tom Cruise. After an evil syndicate was teased 4 years ago in Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation finally addresses it. Although the original TV series is barely relevant anymore, directly using the organization was a nice touch.

The mission should the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) choose to accept it, is to stop the transport of deadly nerve gas. Which just so happens to be inside a plane that Cruise heart stoppingly held onto in real life. Crazy doesn’t begin to describe it. Ethan Hunt tries to prove the Syndicates existence in a record shop, but he’s taken instead. All while the CIA disbands IMF and take over operations with Alec Baldwin as the head. Hunt is cuffed to a pole, but escapes by somehow managing vertical push ups. He escapes with the very definition of femme fatale Ilsa Faust. Rebecca Ferguson is easily the best beautiful woman in the franchise. She’s a presumably disavowed MI6 agent who oozes class, sex appeal, and expert fighting skills. Faust double crosses Ethan at every turn, but he can’t help but be drawn to her. Hunt is without his team and IMF resources for months tracking down the villainous head of the Syndicate Solomon Lane. With a plan to bring the world to its knees by performing various terrorist acts. Simon Pegg is back as a demoted Benji and Jeremy Renner is back as Brandt with far more loyalty to Hunt. After taking a mission off, Ving Rhames is back hacking as Luther.

Ethan’s primary goal is to find Lane. It’s in a flawlessly executed Paris opera that Hunt quietly takes out enemies and stops an assassination by Faust. They meet again in Casablanca where the second insane stunt takes place. Think the cable scene, but underwater with Cruise holding his breath for several minutes. They’re there to take a Syndicate file McGuffin that Faust takes after saving Ethan’s life. It starts an epic car chase that turns into an epic motorcycle chase where Brandt, Luther, and Benji get back together. With a copy of the file in tact, the next move is to abduct the Prime Minister to unlock it. Through a series of complicated actions, a trusty mask is used to reveal MI6 is behind the Syndicate. The file is full of money that the Syndicate is after, so Ethan outsmarts Lane into revealing himself. Thus luring him into a glass prison. Faust was with Ethan all along and Baldwin’s Hunley becomes the new head of IMF. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was released in a year full of spy movies, yet it managed to outdo everyone.

5. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Ethan Hunt hangs on to a plane door

Preceded by: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol & Followed by: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Scaling the Burj Khalifa

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the groundbreaking high grossing smash hit the successful spy franchise needed. Finally finding their biggest draw by drawing far more attention to stunts. Now people were calling Tom Cruise crazy for an entirely different reason. Despite pushing 50, Cruise scaled the tallest building in the world without faking it. I still hadn’t seen any of the Mission: Impossible movies in theaters, but Ghost Protocol is when I officially took notice. The fourth director is Brad Bird. He brought his penchant for exciting adventure and well placed humor. After exclusively doing animation, Ghost Protocol became his live-action debut. Fortunately he brought his over 90% track record. After a 5 year gap between Mission: Impossible III, Ethan Hunt had to be reintroduced once more. What better place than a Russian prison with long flowing hair again. The mission should the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) choose to accept it, is to gain information about missing Russian nuclear launch codes from Cobalt after one of their men is assassinated.

Cobalt isn’t a McGuffin, he’s actually the newest villain Hendricks. His plan is to start a war by launching a devastating missile at San Francisco. So Hunt expertly escapes from prison with intel and the help of his new team. J. J. Abrams is only producing now, but Simon Pegg is still given a bigger role as tech expert Benji. The two beautiful women are Paula Patton as Jane and Léa Seydoux as Moreau. Jane is a sexy, very tough field agent and Moreau is the deadly assassin who killed her partner. The team seeks further answers at the Kremlin where they make use of very limited facial disguises and a nifty hallway projector. Things go south when the Kremlin explodes, forcing Ethan to run. When blamed for the unexpected bombing, the President initiates the titular Ghost Protocol. The new new IMF head tells Hunt that although IMF is disavowed, they can still track down Cobalt. Only now the stakes are higher due to limited resources. Former agent William Brandt joins Ethan despite being a complete mystery to him. Jeremy Renner is the best new addition to the franchise since he brings just as much action as comic relief.

They intercept a meeting to gain codes at the Burj Khalifa. When they’re unable to get through on the inside, Ethan crazily volunteers to magnetically scale the building. You better believe Crusie was insane enough to pull it off. Making it the stunning centerpiece of visually impressive stunts in the series. Followed by a desperate chase in a sandstorm where the masked Hendricks gets away. The cable stunt is recreated without cable by Brandt with wind propulsion. The climax sees everyone desperate to stop the launch and Cruise keeping up the stunts by driving a car off a parking garage. It’s mission accomplished and Ving Rhames of course cameos at the end when Luther and Ethan meet up. Ethan and Brandt settle their differences when it’s revealed Julia is still alive. Mission: Impossible usually goes the Bond route for love interests, but his wife is too important not to get closure. With tighter storytelling, a high stakes mission, and a flawless IMAX stunt, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a very welcomed thrill ride.

4. Mission Impossible Ghost Protocal

Ethan Hunt scales the Burj Khalifa

Preceded by: Mission: Impossible III & Followed by: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

What is the Rabbit’s Foot?

Mission: Impossible III is the most underrated film in the successful spy franchise. Likely because it was between the worst and best received installments at the time. Despite Mission: Impossible III taking a far better direction with its action and characters. I guess audiences just didn’t have a clear opinion of the franchise yet. Not to mention the 6 year gap between Mission: Impossible 2. Despite Tom Cruise gaining a reputation for being unhinged around this time, his performance as Ethan Hunt may be his strongest in the series. The third director is J. J. Abrams. He brought his penchant for brightly lit rooms, shaky action, and presenting unanswered questions. All for the first time since this was Abrams directorial debut. He also brought frequent collaborator Simon Pegg in as newly important technician Benji.

The mission should the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) choose to accept it, is to rescue Ethan’s protégés. Since Ethan has surprisingly left field work to settle down with his fiancée. There’s actually three beautiful women this time around. Michelle Monaghan is Ethan’s fiancée/wife nurse Julia, Keri Russell is Ethan’s protégés Lindsey, and Maggie Q is Ethan’s badass new teammate. Along with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as field agent Declan and of course Ving Rhames is always around as even more trusted hacker Luther. Billy Crudup is Ethan’s new traitorous handler and Laurence Fishburne is yet another head of IMF. The most McGuffin of all McGuffins is the mysterious Rabbit’s Foot. Something villainous arms dealer Owen Davian is after.

The late great Philip Seymour Hoffman was able to turn a usually one note antagonist into the best of the franchise. Since Davian is cold, calculating, and capable of many evil acts. The out of context opening scene is proof of that. When the team’s rescue goes south, Ethan is practically disavowed. So they take it upon themselves to capture Davian in the Vatican by recreating the cable stunt once more. We even see the confusing way in which the face masks are created. Hunt nearly crosses the line, but the tables are turned during an epic bridge struggle. It’s not the biggest stunt, but Crusie being flung into a car after an explosion is still the most memorable. It’s followed by Cruise swinging by cable onto a building in Shanghai. Ethan’s wife is put in danger, but he runs an insane distance to save her. Julia saves him in the end and all is forgiven by IMF. Mission: Impossible III may have come at an off time, but it’s stronger than it’s given credit for.

3. Mission Impossible III

Ethan Hunt runs from an exploding car

Preceded by: Mission: Impossible 2 & Followed by: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol