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A series of films based on the classic Mission Impossible series. The movies were made as continuations of the original, meaning they were not repeats of the same characters but mostly new characters working for the same agency.
Tom Cruise headlines each film as ace IMF agent Ethan Hunt and Ving Rhames plays Luther Stickell, Ethan's go-to guy for Mission Control and computer hacking. Each film outlines an Impossible Mission Collapse of varying kinds and it usually involves the heroes trying to fix the mess that has developed (often with regular violence, something the original show purposefully avoided).
Because of the higher action quotient, dominate focus on Cruise rather than the entire team and some liberties taken with previously existing characters, there has been a sizable backlash regarding fans of the original series. Still, the films have been embraced by general audiences and elements unique to them alone have become embedded in modern popular culture. They all have different themes and tones, too; they don't simply use a Reset Button and each film isn't mere Sequel Escalation.
Mission Impossible (1996) - Jim Phelps is called upon for a new assignment dealing with very sensitive information regarding IMF agents and their cover IDs. He brings in his standard crew, including point man Ethan Hunt, and they plan out how to recover the info. Unfortunately, their mission was compromised horribly and Ethan finds himself the lone survivor and the top suspect as a traitor. The discovery of two other survivors doesn't alleviate his paranoia, so he goes into the list of blacklisted former IMF agents to put together another team to get to the bottom of their original mission and the conspiracy behind it. Directed by Brian DePalma, the movie became well known for the interweaving and complicated plotting. (And the signature image pictured above) This is the least violent Mission Impossible film, by far. And given that you can clearly see an eye gouging for a few frames and that it's indeed directed by that Brian DePalma, that's saying something.
Mission Impossible II (2000) - Ethan is snagged out of a vacation to track down a rogue IMF agent who has stolen a very dangerous virus and has malicious plans for it. He is sent to recruit a Classy Cat Burglar and ends up falling for her. That is made all the more complicated when he learns that she is an ex-girlfriend of the rogue agent and the agency wants her to infiltrate his group. Ethan has to put aside his personal feelings as he tries to stay one step ahead of his rival. Directed by John Woo and it is plain to see, as this film is far more stylized and action-packed, with less cloak and dagger than the first film or the franchise as a whole. It was more financially successful than the first film and had some favorable reviews, but was several steps further removed from the premise.
Mission Impossible III (2006) - Ethan is in semi-retirement, only training new agents, and is engaged to Julia Meade, a nurse who thinks he works for the Virginia Department of Transportation. He is convinced to come out of retirement when he learns that one of his students has been captured. After the simultanous success and failure of that mission they learn that she was tracking down the whereabouts of an elusive arms dealer named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and that he is looking for an unspecified item known as the "Rabbits Foot." The big-screen directing debut of J.J. Abrams (who also co-scripted and did a bit of digital work), this film falls back to cloak-and-dagger tricks, with the action being more through time-frame constrictions or compromised missions, and even takes time to develop its characters. It got better reviews than the first two and is considered more faithful to the concept of the original series because of its focus on a team instead of Tom Cruise.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) - A mission to infiltrate the Kremlin goes awry when a massive bomb goes off, Ethan's team being framed for the act and the resulting political backlash ends up shutting down the entire IMF under operation 'Ghost Protocol'. Basically the only ones left, they must operate without their normal resources and backup while clearing their names and stopping the real culprit's darker goal. Directed by Brad Bird in his live-action directorial debut, J.J. Abrams stayed on as a producer, Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg return joined by Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton with Josh Holloway and an unbilled Tom Wilkinson in supporting roles. The film has received very positive critical reviews for the deft action sequences and a strong return to the team-focused nature of the series. This film is less about Ethan Hunt than the previous three (hence the lack of sequel number). It also did a lot to redeem both the Mission Impossible movies and Tom Cruise in the eyes of the public.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) - After the near disastrous end of Ghost Protocol, CIA Director Alan Hunley disbands the IMF and absorbs it into the CIA, declaring Ethan a rogue agent. Ethan, now on the run from the CIA, must prove the existence of the mysterious organization the Syndicate, composed entirely of disavowed government agents.
This series as a whole provides examples of:
- California Doubling: Averted in that for the most part they film on location: Prague in the first film, Utah and Australia in the second, China in the third and Dubai in the fourth. Although except for the Kremlin scenes, Moscow in the fourth film was filmed in Prague.
- Dead Star Walking: Almost every installment features instances of this - Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott Thomas in the original film, Keri Russell in the third film, and Josh Holloway and Tom Wilkinson in Ghost Protocol.
- Disney Death: Julia does this once each in both the third and fourth installments!
- Dutch Angle
- Fan Service: It's remarkable how many IMF operations involve their female operatives wearing revealing cocktail dresses (especially noticeable in the third and fourth films). On the other side of the coin, Tom Cruise's physique usually gets some sort of exhibition, whether it's going sleeveless, or tight shirts, or both.
- Jeremy Renner joins in Ghost Protocol, wearing very fitting suits, and doing a whole series of stretches and bends to accentuate his physique.
- Foreshadowing: Flashes of images from the rest of the film are spliced into the opening credits sequence of the first film, and again in the fourth film, like a TV show would do (and indeed as the TV show the films are based on did do).
- Guile Hero: The team, like actual spies, tries to accomplish their missions with as little fuss as possible, preferring to infiltrate and deceive. While typically this goes drastically wrong, this is most notable Ghost Protocol: during it Team Hunt expends less than ten rounds of ammo.
- Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Ethan switches off each movie between having long and short hair.
- Hero Insurance: In three of the four films, Ethan is forced to become a rogue agent and perform all sorts of criminal actions, but since he brings in the bad guy he's exonerated. (This is Played With in Ghost Protocol - he deliberately leads the Russian spy to him right after he kills Hendricks so that his name will be cleared.) It might be also that IMF is an extremely secret organization, so much that the agents themselves don't explain everything they do to the agency, so Ethan is not acting entirely different than if he wasn't cut off.
- Trope Workshop:Impossible Mission: Were you expecting anything less?
- Large Ham: Tom Cruise does his fair share.
"Wake up, Claire! They're dead! THEY'RE ALL DEAD!"
- Latex Perfection: The series provides probably the most famous examples ever. By the third film, the audience gets to see how latex faces are made, in excruciating detail.
- Subverted in the fourth film. The machine making the masks (of Sabine and Wistrom) breaks down most of the way through, forcing Carter to go into her meeting with Wistrom as herself. While their enemies use those masks a few times, none of the team members do (though Ethan does use some make-up effects to impersonate a Russian General, but it is still recognizably Ethan).
- Made of Iron: In every installment, Ethan sustains from pretty cringe-inducing hits, but always gets right back up again.
- Mission Control: Stickell, although he gets some action (some more about suspense than actual bullets flying) in each of the films.
- In Ghost Protocol, all four team members either discuss or are depicted on-screen as being in the Mission Control position.
- "Mission Impossible" Cable Drop: The originator and Trope Namer, as seen in the page image. It has since become a Running Gag in each film.
- The Mole:
- In the first film, the team leader Jim Phelps. Claire and Krueger as well.
- Shawn Ambrose in the second, though IMF are on to him early on.
- John Musgrave in the third film.
- In the fourth film, Brandt is totally innocent, but his mysterious behavior hinted at being one throughout, thus bucking the trend of a mole per movie.
- Musical Nod: The first and third film uses "The Plot," a music cue from the original series that is only familiar to fans. It's also quoted on two of the tracks in the fourth.
- Once an Episode:
- Just like the series, every movie has a mission briefing that ends with the device giving them their orders self-destructing. Jokingly played with in the fourth, where one device fails to detonate and Ethan has to slam it to get it to work.
- Also Foreshadowing since from that point on, pretty much anything than can go wrong with the mission, does.
- Every movie has somebody (usually Ethan) doing a "Mission Impossible" Cable Drop. While the first movie has a reason for the sprawled position (making sure not to touch the weight sensitive floor) the other films don't have any such justification except as an internal homage. Played with in Ghost Protocol: Brandt is seen in the signature pose, but no cables are involved; instead he is actually being pushed up by a large magnet below him and a magnetic suit he's wearing.
- Just like the series, every movie has a mission briefing that ends with the device giving them their orders self-destructing. Jokingly played with in the fourth, where one device fails to detonate and Ethan has to slam it to get it to work.
- Outrun the Fireball: In the first film, Ethan outjumped a fireball (specifically, he used the explosive force to throw him back to a train).
- Subverted in the third film, as Ethan tries to outrun a fireball only to be blown sideways into a car.
- In Ghost Protocol once Ethan catches on that the bomb was about to go off he started running, only to be caught in the outer edge anyway and knocked out. The explosion was unique in that it wasn't a fireball, just concussive.
- Recruiting the Criminal: Sort of a Recurring Element:
- In the first film, Ethan turns to a list of disavowed agents to assemble a new team to strike back against the conspirators, both of whom have dirty records that explain their blacklisting. One of them, Stickell, ends up being acquitted of his previous charges, becomes one of Ethan's best friends and is the only other character to be in all the films.
- In the second, Ethan is directed to recruit a Classy Cat Burglar, but assumes it's for her skills - and gets egg on his face because she's actually the Big Bad's Old Flame, recruited to spy on him.
- In "Ghost Protocol", Ethan is the Criminal who gets Recruited, as he's in prison for killing the group of Serbian spies who slew his wife.
- Revolving Door Casting: Each film pretty much jettisons the previous one's entire surviving supporting cast (sometimes without even mentioning them) with the exception of Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames who have appeared in every film in the franchise.
- Extends to behind the camera when you throw in the fact that all four films have different directors using completely different styles.
- The transition from III to Ghost Protocol is a little less jarring, as there is less turn-over in characters (Benji stays), and plot and staff (J.J. Abrams).
- Rule of Cool: The films regularly chuck logic and physics out the window.
- The Spook: Kitridge in the first film has a nice monologue about how all the IMF agents are trained to be ghosts, such that even if they cut them off from agency support they can still operate with little concern. All of their most dangerous enemies are the same way.
- Theme Music Power-Up: During Ethan's jump onto the helicopter in the first film, and his escape from the Bare Island complex in the second
- This Page Will Self-Destruct
- Two-Part Trilogy: In a surprising aversion, each film stands completely alone with only a bare connective thread between them. They have distinctive plots and have different directors, giving each film it's own "flavor" of sorts. As well each movie has a 4-6 year gap between them, which is very unusual with the common practice of 2-3 year maximum gaps for sequels.
- Twofer Token Minority: One mixed-race woman has been on each of Ethan's teams since M:I-2 - Nyah (Thandie Newton), Zhen (Maggie Q) and Jane (Paula Patton).
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The final gambits of the first two movies.
Mission: Impossible provides examples of:
- Acoustic License: Features a climax where hero and villain are hanging off a speeding helicopter. Following just behind a TGV Bullet Train traveling hundreds of kilometers per hour. In a tunnel. Given this it's probably just as well Ethan Hunt uses visual aids while shouting so that Phelps can properly recognize things are about to get a little 'splody.
- Actor Allusion: Ethan seems familiar with the Drake Hotel in Chicago.
- Adaptational Villainy: Jim Phelps, the main protagonist of the original TV series, is the mole.
- Air Vent Passageway: The film has an air vent infiltration.
- All There in the Manual: The novelization of this film explains more in-depth about how some of the devices actually work (like the RF meter used by Max's crew when seeing if the NOC list they got from Job was a fake) as well more UST between Ethan and Claire that got left on the cutting room floor.
- Batman Cold Open: We see the IMF team finishing up a job before the title sequence.
- Blofeld Ploy: At the end, Jim shoots his wife instead of killing Ethan when he had the perfect chance.
- Book Ends: At the end, Ethan is offered another assignment in the same manner as Jim.
- Brief Accent Imitation: The second movie shows little throat patches that are able to alter their voice into the voice of whoever they are imitating through Latex Perfection. The third film not only shows how said latex masks are made, but also the voice strips; they require voice samples of the target making various commonly used syllables.
- Broken Pedestal: Ethan greatly admires and respects Jim (and is implied to have romantic feelings for Claire) and is devastated at the realization of their treachery.
- Butt Monkey: The CIA vault employee, who gets tagged with a liquid that makes him sick to his stomach long enough for Ethan's rogue team to make a copy of the NOC list and leave. Despite his spotless record, Kittridge has him relocated to a different job and how.
Kittridge: I want him manning a radar tower in Alaska by the end of the day, just mail him his clothes.
- The Cameo: Emilio Estevez's role is unbilled, though it's quite a bit more than a cameo.
- Chekhov's Boomerang: The "Red Light, Green Light" exploding gum. Yes, it is Chekhov's Gum.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Bible in the Prague hideout, which leads to another use with the mention of the Drake Hotel in Chicago.
- Death by Looking Up: Emilio Estevez's character Jack.
- Description Porn: Ethan describing the CIA's defenses in the first movie.
- Double Caper: Basically the entire film: Jim Phelps' IMF team think they're shadowing a traitor in Prague who plans to sell the NOC list to an arms dealer. Only it's actually a molehunt headed by Kittridge and a second team to expose a traitor on Jim's own team, the traitor is actually an IMF agent himself, and that "NOC list" is actually a tracking program to hone in on whoever tries to load it, with the real list safe at CIA HQ. Since Ethan is the lone survivor, Kittridge thinks he has his man. So now Ethan has to go rogue with a team of disavowed agents and get the real and complete NOC list so he can expose The Man Behind the Man and true mole ("Job") and clear his name.
- Evil Elevator: Poor Jack...
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: Ethan at the end of the Prague mission.
Ethan: This is Ethan Hunt. They're dead.
- Eye Scream: Jack's death is a literal example: he gets a giant spike shoved through his eye (in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment)
- Face Heel Turn: The infamous - Jim Phelps the hero of the original TV series turn out to be the Big Bad in the end.
- This is why Peter Graves, who played Jim Phelps in the TV series, refused to do a cameo.
- Foreshadowing: In the elevator scene at the beginning, the team panics when Golitsyn suddenly takes the elevator down, blocking off Ethan and Sarah's escape route. Jack can't get the elevator doors open so Ethan and Sarah can hide beneath the box, but fortunately Jim saves the day from his hotel room. This shows that Jim has superior access over the elevator. So when Jack dies minutes later in a freak elevator 'accident', it becomes rather obvious who the actual mole is.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Jack's death.
- Helicopter Blender: Near the end of the film, a baddie flies a helicopter into a train tunnel and attempts to blend the protagonist. The rotors even bounce off the walls with no ill effects, only some pretty sparks. The Rule of Cool is in full force: we are not concerned with the low-pressure area behind the train making flying difficult or the top speed of choppers being too low to follow the pictured train.
- Here We Go Again: Ethan takes a plane ride home at the end and is approached with the exact same code that Jim Phelps began the movie with.
- Hero Antagonist: Kittridge is out to capture Ethan by any means necessary, including a gambit of putting Ethan's mother and uncle in jail, but it's only because he really believes Ethan is the IMF mole. He winds up going along with Ethan's ploy to flush out the real one during the climax.
- Hyper Awareness: Tom Cruise's character meets his IMF superior for a debriefing after a botched mission. He looks around the cafe and recognizes around him another IMF team that had also been present at the botch.
- The novelization gives us another good example: When he's been hooded and is sitting in the room with Max, he is able to determine the number of doors, material the walls are made from, the direction of airflow, height of the room, and number of people in the room with him before they remove the hood.
- I Have Your Mother And Uncle On A Trumped Up Charge: Kittridge tries this in order to get Ethan to turn himself in, but Ethan is Genre Savvy enough to see through it and even slightly mocks Kittridge on the ruse (which is part of Ethan's own ruse to keep Kittridge on the line long enough to trace Hunt to London.)
Hunt: If you're dealing with a man who has crushed, stabbed, shot, and detonated five members of his own IMF team, how devastated do you think you're gonna make him by hauling Mom and Uncle Donald down to the county courthouse?
- Inspector Javert: Kittridge. Unusual for this trope, he provides vital support to Hunt once he realizes the truth.
- Large Ham: Kittridge has Agent Smith-style enunciation.
- Laser Hallway: The temperature-controlling vent in Langley.
- MacGuffin: The NOC list is well defined, but it could be almost any kind of "Government Secrets" and the story would be exactly the same.
- Megane(kko): Nearly every character in the movie dons glasses at some point.
- Not as You Know Them: Jim Phelps
- Oh Crap: Phelps when he realized Ethan put on the video glasses, proving to Kittridge that he was still alive.
- Krieger and Ethan share one when Krieger drops his knife down the shaft, thus revealing that they were in the vault.
- Pop Star Composer: The theme was rearranged by Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr..
- Plucky Comic Relief: Jack Harmon, played expertly by Emilio Estevez.
- Self-Serving Memory: A subversion in that the Consummate Liar isn't the person with the flashbacks, but rather the person he's speaking to. When Jim calls out Kittridge as the mole, Ethan already knows Jim is, but Ethan verbally plays along while we see flashbacks to the Prague mission where Ethan puts Jim in position to kill every team member and stage his own death. When he muses that the mole must've needed help to blow up Hannah in the car, he first thinks of Claire as the culprit (and he'd be right), but he doesn't want to believe it, so he imagines the scenario again with Jim blowing it up with a detonator at a specific time.
- Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Jim Phelps. The cast of the original show along with its fans were most certainly not pleased.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Jack Harmon is the funniest member of Jim's team, and is killed off rather brutally when the mission goes wrong.
- Traintop Battle: The finale occurs atop a speeding TGV inside the channel tunnel. Unusually for the trope, they can barely move because of the enormous wind resistance.
- Unholy Matrimony: Jim and Claire Phelps.
- Why We're Bummed Communism Fell - When Phelps lies that Kittridge is the mole, he claims he betrayed them because he had become useless after the fall.
- You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Happens to Ethan twice. And both of them were behind it all.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The team successfully catches the mark possessing the NOC list and leaving to meet his buyer. Then the team (sans Ethan) and the mark are killed one by one and the list is in the hands of the assailant. Only the mark wasn't a mark, the list wasn't the list, and the mission wasn't a mission.
Mission: Impossible II provides examples of:
- Brief Accent Imitation: The third movie reprises the little throat patches that are able to alter their voice into the voice of whoever they are imitating through Latex Perfection, and shows how both are made; the voice strips require voice samples of the target making various commonly used syllables.
- Butt Monkey: Stamp suffers a lot, getting part of his finger cut off and a very brutal death
- The Cameo: Anthony Hopkins turns up unbilled as Ethan's superior, Swanbeck.
- Carrying the Antidote: Turned inside-out. A scientist creates the ultimate flu vaccine - also producing the ultimate superflu in the process. Of course things are the right way around once the villain gets his hands on the suitcase. The villain also had an interesting way of selling the vaccine, as surprisingly, he did not ask for a ransom.
- Climb Slip Hang Climb: The Utah rock-climbing scene.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: An inversion. Ambrose plans on releasing a stolen and deadly virus on the entire planet, but only so he can subsequently sell the cure and make billions legitimately.
- Disguised Hostage Gambit: In Mission Impossible II, there is a rare example of the hero pulling this on the villain, with the aid of a couple of Latex Perfection masks.
- Disturbed Doves: Courtesy of John Woo, of course!
- Evil Counterpart: The Big Bad in this film is literally this; he would oft be disguised as Ethan in previous missions when working for IMF due to their similar facial structure, and would explain why he'd also have the masks and voice strips of Hunt once he went rogue. Word of God labels this as one of the reasons he turned traitor in the first place, as he was sick of so many of his missions involving impersonating another agent, rather than being trusted himself.
- Hammerspace: Where else could Ethan keep the latex mask he somehow had of the Big Bad's Dragon in the climax of the second film?
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Ethan disguises himself as The Dragon, tricking the Big Bad into shooting the real dragon, who's disguised as Ethan. The real Ethan takes the MacGuffin and leaves. The movie started with the bad guy imitating Ethan in the same fashion.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Swanbeck.
- Kiss of Distraction: Nyah distracts Ambrose with a kiss while stealing the envelope containing the memory card from his pocket. She tries something similar when she returns the envelope (sidling up against him), but this time it doesn't work--(a) he realizes it instantly, and (b) even if not, she puts it in the wrong pocket, which would have tipped him off eventually.
- Large Ham: Ambrose loves to have his head tremble and his eyes bug out whenever he's angry.
- Motorcycle Jousting
- Never Bring a Knife to A Fist Fight: The last fight - after wrestling the knife away from the baddie, Ethan averts this trope by dropping it and going after him with his bare hands.
- Title Drop: When Ethan says convincing Nyah to go along with the plan to plant her with the Big Bad may be "difficult", his boss retorts that their assignment is not Mission: Difficult, it's Mission: Impossible, so "difficult" should be "a walk in the park".
- Typhoid Mary: The villain's plans for Nyah; he even mentions Mary by name. Nyah, until the team arrives, plans to kill herself to save everyone.
- Whole-Plot Reference: The premise of the second film--spy falls in love with girl, but the mission requires the girl to fake getting back together with her boyfriend, a Bad Guy who is trying to get a dangerous weapon--is lifted from the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Notorious. They even both have a scene where the spy meets the girl at a racetrack.
Mission: Impossible 3 provides examples of:
- Action Film Quiet Drama Scene: Right after the rooftop-swing stunt.
- Air Vent Passageway: Ethan escapes the IMF headquarters via an air vent. The vent Ethan crawls out of is in a room with pamphlets for the Virginia Department Of Transportation, his cover job, implying that he uses that room frequently and either knows of — or set up — that opportunity, should he ever need it.
- Anti-Villain: Brassel is trying to arrest Ethan, but only because he suspects Ethan is allied with Davian and his main goal is to protect his country.
- Bash Brothers: Once Ethan brings Farris back up to cognitive shape using adrenaline in a syringe, they proceed to fight off the opposition in this manner (including Farris reloading Ethan's gun for him without any vocal communication).
- Big Heroic Run: One of the most impressive examples ever in III, explicitly stated to be over a mile and done rather close to Real Time (he is running for several minutes).
- Bond One-Liner: "Now I'm out." after killing a Mook with his last bullet.
- Chekhov's Gun: The "brain bomb" countdown used in the first act lets us know about how long Ethan has in the third act.
- Chekhov's Skill: A long-term example - Ethan's ability to lip read and his wife's training as a nurse comes in handy near the end of the film, then it shows up again in Ghost Protocol when Ethan finds out how badly injured he is at the Russian hospital.
- Contrived Clumsiness: An accidental-on-purpose spill is used to force a kidnapping victim into the bathroom, where he can be abducted through the vents.
- CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Julia has to do this to Ethan.
- Cutting the Knot: The third mission has most everything set up as typical cloak-and-dagger style, but Ethan didn't have time to plan out a more complex escape method and so he just had to fight his way out.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: It doesn't work out, but give credit to Owen Davian. He has Ethan handcuffed to a chair in a hideout, has a gun, and has Ethan's wife bound and gagged as a hostage. He knows that after a quick interrogation, he'll be allowed to kill Ethan. Yet he still takes the time to implant an explosive charge in Ethan's brain just in case he escapes, which he does. Then he even leaves the hideout and goes to where Ethan's real wife is being kept, where he knows Ethan will go if he escapes, so in the event that an escape happens he gets the satisfaction of beating and killing a weakened Ethan in front of his wife. In hindsight it's almost as if he planned for Ethan to escape. However, he's just barely careless enough to get killed in the end.
- Elevator Action Sequence: Ethan Hunt, after being slipped a pocket knife, waits until his restraining gurney enters an elevator to make his escape. He disables three guards, one with a telephone, while still strapped to his stretcher.
- Evil Counterpart: The bad guys here seem to have all the resources and tech IMF has.
- Explosive Leash: The first words spoken are: "We put an explosive charge in your head."
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Davian has Ethan confirm that the Rabbit's Foot is real by using the Latex Perfection Ethan has used throughout the series to threaten and kill "Jules".
- In Medias Res: Combined with How We Got Here, the opening sequence of the third movie is one of the best scenes of the series. Note the subversion of the Action Prologue. No stunts, no explosions, and two or less gunshots, but the tension is higher than comparable scenes in most other movies.
- Instant Sedation: Hunt's girlfriend is kidnapped by a stranger who casually places a transdermal patch the width of a pencil eraser onto the back of her hand between her thumb and forefinger. She barely has enough time to ask what the stupid thing is before she drops like a sack of potatoes.
- Jittercam: The camera jitters around quite a bit in action scenes and at few other tense moments, but stays still otherwise.
- MacGuffin: The "Rabbit's Foot" is a classical MacGuffin, Lampshaded by the fact that nobody will ever tell Ethan what it actually is or does, although Simon Pegg's character's cryptic speculation is almost better than a briefing. The only clue is a biohazard label.
Benji Dunn: It's interesting - I used to have this professor at Oxford, okay? Doctor Wickham, his name was and he was, like, this massive fat guy, you know? Huge, big guy. We used to call him - you know, well, I won't tell you what we used to call him. But he taught biomolecular kinetics and cellular dynamics. And he used to sort of scare the underclassmen with this story about how the world would eventually be eviscerated by technology. You see, it was inevitable that a compound would be created which he referred to as 'the Anti-God.' It was like an accelerated mutator or sort of, you know, like a, an unstoppable force of destructive power, that would just lay waste to everything - to buildings and parks and streets and children and ice cream parlors, you know? So whenever I see, like, a rogue organization willing to spend this amount of money on a mystery tech, I always assume... it's the Anti-God. End-of-the-world kinda stuff, you know. ...But no, I don't have any idea what it is. I was just speculating.
- One Bullet Left: In the rescue mission that opens the third film, Ethan and Farris have nearly escaped with only one Mook in front. Farris asks Ethan how much ammo he has left, to which he responds with "Enough." He then fires a single round that knocks the Mook out the window, to which Ethan then discards his weapon.
Ethan: Now I'm out.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Farris.
- This Is Gonna Suck: A non-physical version when the team has to blow up the Lambo at the Vatican. Zhen doesn't like destroying such a nice car.
- Throw It In: One of the best shots of the third film came accidentally; when Julia shoots Musgrave and he crumples to the ground dead, the briefcase containing the Rabbit's Foot was simply going to fall and open. However, the canister rolled perfectly towards the camera as it panned down and stopped with the biohazard label facing forward in dramatic fashion.
- True Companions: Ethan's team, who risk their careers and freedom to help him. Dunn in particular is a tech guy who works at IMF headquarters and even cracks that he hopes they share a cell together while helping him.
- Why Am I Ticking?: Used to great effect
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Enemy soldiers in direct a UCAV... By surveilling the situation with a Sniper Rifle. However: they were trying to frame Ethan, and the rifle was presumably for point defense, not the distracting explosions they really wanted.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The team successfully rescues Farris from her captors and finally escape the area via helicopter... only the implanted bomb in her head goes off right before the defibrillator is ready to deactivate the bomb. Understandably, they are chewed out by their boss.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol provides examples of:
- Awesome but Impractical: The device Ethan and Benji use to disguise their presence in the hallway can only accommodate a single person's viewpoint. Once a second person enters the room, the device constantly switches back and forth between the two viewpoints.
- Action Girl: Jane Carter
- Actor Allusion: Teddy Newton, one of Brad Bird's friends and an artist at Pixar, makes a cameo as a voice over the phone that gives Ethan Mission instructions. He also voiced a literal phone in Toy Story 3.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: When Benji and Ethan are in the hallway at the Russian archives they use a 'sound projector' to distract a guard, and use a paper thin TV screen to make the hallway seem empty.
- The Atoner: Brandt, to some degree. He has some personal demons regarding what he thought to be a mistake he made in the field.
- Ax Crazy: A possible interpretation of Cobalt:
Brandt: He was asked to resign because...well, because he's crazy.
- Batman Cold Open: We see the IMF team finishing up a job (which goes wrong), and Ethan being busted out of prison, before the title sequence.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The film opens with Hunt having spent an indeterminate amount of time in a Russian prison, implied to be several months. He still has gorgeous, presumably high-maintenance hair.
- Biting the Hand Humor: At the end of the film, the director's previous employer, Pixar, has a very close brush with destruction. This can be seen in the trailer.
- The Cameo: Tom Wilkinson. A more traditional cameo has Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and Michelle Monaghan as Julia - again, all three are uncredited.
- Call Back: Andreas Wisniewski, who played one of Max's henchmen in the first film, shows up in Ghost Protocol as a henchman of The Fog. He even hands Ethan a bag mask similar to the one used in the first film for the meet with Max.
- Captain Obvious: Brandt, big time.
Your rope's too short!
- Chekhov's Gun: The goggles Ethan uses when he climbs to the server room in the Burj Khalifa (and which he puts in his suit jacket during the meeting with Wistrom) are used a few scenes later when he chases Wistrom during the sandstorm. He also makes a big deal about rescuing a friend of his in the Norwegian prison, who comes back to help him later on.
- Chekhov's Skill: Brandt is a senior analyst for IMF, and his first major moment is identifying a face Ethan drew up without having to consult the database. As the team loses that database connection, his knowledge of people of interest became more valuable.
- Climb Slip Hang Climb: The adhesive gloves scene.
- Combat Stilettos: You know Sabine is about to get her ass thrashed when Jane kicks off her heels in a rare aversion of this trope.
- Could Say It, But...: When the IMF secretary is taking Ethan into custody, he says "Now I've been ordered to take you to Washington where they will hang the Kremilin bombing on you and your team. Unless you were to escape after assaulting Brandt and me."
- Later in the film, an arms dealer explicitly does not tell Ethan where he can intercept the Big Bad.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Brandt was established to be just an analyst and he repeatedly reminded them, even to being dumbfounded to some of Ethan's action hero ploys. But when things got rough he instantly displays combat skills to rival Ethans', hinting towards some field work background. Even then, his prior behavior was legitimate, it takes a good deal of psyching himself up to perform a stunt Ethan would do naturally.
- Demoted to Extra: Luther and Julia, allegedly due to budget constraints. Luther is essentially The Artifact at this point.
- Designated Girl Fight: Jane Carter has a grudge against Sabine Moreau for killing her previous team member. As has become the norm, when they fight it is less of a scratch and slap event and a lot more brutal.
- Destination Defenestration: How said fight ends. And it should be noticed that it's a defenestration in the tallest building of the world!
- Disney Villain Death: Moreau
- Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: Played With. After the Kremlin bombing, Ethan wakes up in a Russian hopsital with a concussion. He focuses on a local news report, and the movie displays helpful subtitles... in Cyrillic. They gradually resolve themselves into English as Ethan's faculties return.
- Everybody Owns A BMW: Many of the vehicles the characters use are BMWs. Unusually for this trope, many of them end up getting smashed rather badly. Fortunately, the i8 concept car used in India is not one of them.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Ethan's team are not very familiar with each other, Ethan and Benji know each other but Benji is pretty new at field work and Brandt is apparently very green. By the end Ethan compliments the entire group that for all of their troubles (malfunctioning equipment, lack of IMF resources and running the entire thing practically blind) they all performed at their best and you could feel the camaraderie between them.
- The phone booth console near the beginning of Ghost Protocol doesn't self-destruct until Ethan applies some Percussive Maintenance, presaging the technical problems plaguing the IMF team throughout the movie.
- In Dubai, Winstrom orders someone over the phone to release a scientist's wife and kids. Except that Hendricks' organization is basically just him and Hendricks. Hendricks is his boss, so he can't order him to do anything. As it turns out, "Winstrom" is Hendricks in disguise.
- Genius Bruiser: Kurt Hendricks/Cobalt - he's both a nuclear strategist and a former Swedish special forces member, and although he's no longer in full fighting trim, he almost keeps Ethan at bay in the climactic end fight long enough for the nuclear missile he launched to destroy San Francisco. Counts doubly because all the stunts pulled off by his dragon Wistrom during the Dubai chase turn out to be Hendricks himself wearing a latex mask. His dragon Wistrom could count also.
- Hero Antagonist: Anatoly Sidorov, Russian intelligence agent.
- Hidden Depths: Brandt, who only reveals his training when the meeting with Sabine goes south.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Brandt feels responsible for Ethan's wife's death because it happened on his watch.
- Indy Ploy: Lampshaded, when Brandt tries to understand just how exactly they escaped death 5 minutes ago. Also serves as deft Character Development for him and Hunt, contrasting his intellectualism with Hunt's instinctiveness.
- In Medias Res: Ghost Protocol has this in two folds. The tail end of a mission is seen where an agent was killed and the package he was carrying stolen away, then it shows Ethan being broken out of a Norwegian prison, all before the opening credits. The complete opening mission is later shown in full including the contents of the package, and the exact reason Ethan was in a prison wasn't fully explained until the end.
- In Soviet Russia, Trope Mocks You: The title of one of the songs on the OST: "In Russia, Phone Dials You".
- Inspector Javert: Anatoly Sidorov. Verges into Friendly Enemies when he finds Hunt contemplating a Trash Landing. His professional interest in his Eagleland counterpart's escape tactics overshadow his actual mission, and it's only after Ethan has escaped that he remembers his gun. He also shows up at the worst possible moment mid-film, permitting Cobalt to escape without a glance.
- Unusual for this trope but not without precedent for the franchise, Sidorov casually gives up the chase once he realizes his target is innocent.
- Instant Sedation: In a flashback the opening mission is shown to have an agent poking the target on the back of the hand with a tiny needle hidden in a ring. The target starts feeling groggy nearly immediately, and is out in ten seconds.
- It Got Worse: Repeatedly, from the very start of the film.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Jane Carter performs an impromtu... field interrogation by knifepoint in a flashback, although the results are not shown on screen.
- Lighter and Softer: Though the stakes are higher than ever and though it still features roughly as much action and death as the rest of the series, the fourth film has a lot more comedy and the villain is genuinely a Well-Intentioned Extremist (albeit one plotting nuclear war) rather than a ruthless, untrustworthy bastard out for himself; also while all four films feature themes of paranoia and treason, in this movie only, it turns out to be nothing. The violence, at least compared to the rest of the franchise (especially the previous two) leans more towards Bloodless Carnage (bar one or two exceptions). While none of the films are really "gritty", this one has the least grit of all. Also, less swearing.
- Lzherusskie: Averted. Anatoly Sidorov is played by Russian actor Vladimir Mashkov.
- Make the Bear Angry Again: The villain blows up the goddamn Kremlin to provoke Russia in a nuclear war with the US.
- Mickey Mousing: Russian guards are marching to the music as the Kremlin is introduced.
- Monumental Damage:
- A significant part of the Kremlin gets blown up.
- Less significantly, after Ethan deactivates the SLBM's warhead, the missile knocks off a small chunk from the Transamerica Pyramid's spire before harmlessly plunging into San Francisco Bay.
- Mutually Assured Destruction: Cobalt's plan for a nuclear holocaust only requires him to launch one nuke because, as he explains, it'll be enough to 'start the ball rolling'.
- My Greatest Failure: Brandt retired from active field duty and became an IMF analyst after a woman he was supposed to protect was killed. Specifically, Julia, Ethan's wife.
- Mythology Gag: When Ethan gets out of the IMF van to receive the Kremlin mission at the beginning of Ghost Protocol, the device doesn't self-destruct until Ethan goes back and smacks it (as opposed to the instances from the prior movies and original series, which always worked).
- At the end of the movie Ethan gets a new mission involving a new organization called "The Syndicate". In later seasons of the television series, the IMF became less involved with Cold War missions in Eastern Bloc nations to those stateside against organized crime and a Mafia-like organization called "The Syndicate".
- Never Found the Body: Brandt explains that Ethan's wife was kidnapped and that the body was found three days later or rather 'what was left of it'. Ethan's wife is actually alive and well.
- No OSHA Compliance - The automated multi-storey parking garage where the final fight between Ethan and Hendricks/Cobalt takes place.
- Oddly Small Organization: Big Bad Hendricks/Cobalt has an organization that seemingly consists solely of himself and his Dragon (and as it turns out, half the time The Dragon is simply Hendricks himself wearing a latex mask). He also hires an assassin and her men for one job, and kidnaps a scientist who's family he's holding hostage for another. Even counting the extended group, that's less than half a dozen people. Which makes sense, because it can be hard to find professional employees when your organization's stated goal is literally to destroy the world.
- Oh Crap: Emotionless Girl Sabine openly panics when she realizes Carter, whose partner she killed, was running toward her with murder in her eyes.
- One-Scene Wonder: Tom Wilkinson as the U.S. Secretary of Defense (and gets a character development scene with Hunt).
- One Steve Limit: Subverted, slightly Both the Russian general Ethan impersonates to infiltrate The Kremlin and the Russian agent trying to apprehend Ethan following its bombing are both named Anatoly.
- Precision F-Strike: There are no serious swears except when Brandt points out that Ethan is out of rope hanging off of a building. Ethan's response? "No shit!"
- When Ethan busts out of the Russian prison, one of the guards says "yob t'voyu mat", which, literally translated, means "f*cked your mother" but is here used as a sort of generic "f*ck it" expression. A subversion - it is actually illegal (though practically never enforced) to say in Russia, but is included in the film, with the subtitles render it as "%@#!"
- Product Placement: Ghost Protocol has the team using iPads, iPhone 4s, MacBooks, driving BMWs, dealing with Dell servers (complete with otherwise pointless closeup), and drinking Dos Equis beer.
- Put on a Bus: Ethan and his wife split up offscreen.
- Retirony: The Secretary didn't help his case when he mentions that he's due to resign his post due to the Kremlin incident.
- Revenge Before Reason: Jane is accused of this when she kills a 'valuable asset', who earlier had shot and killed Hanaway.
- Sequel Hook: In contrast to the other installments (which usually cut off after the "Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." bookend scene), Ghost Protocol ends with Ethan walking in Seattle and listening to the first part of his mission briefing, which mentions an emerging terrorist group named The Syndicate, based (in name at least) on the recurring organized crime gangs from the television series. Whether or not this plays into future installments remains to be seen.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Ethan is escaping a Russian prison filled with aggressive prisoners while a Dean Martin jazz song, 'Ain't That Kick in the Head,' is playing in the background.
- Spanner in the Works / Didn't See That Coming: Trevor's death failing the mission in the beginning of the movie, Ethan not leaving without Bogdan in the prison, Wistrom showing up at the Dubai with someone that can see through the fake launch codes, and the nuclear missile being launched sooner then expected.
- Spiritual Successor: Numerous elements in the film parallel The Incredibles - nefarious diabolical plan, in-team arguing, paralleling action and a fondness for gadgets. It's done by the same director, Brad Bird.
- Stealth Pun: After getting seven colors of shit kicked out of him in the final fight sequence of Ghost Protocol, Ethan scrambles to the Big Red Button to save the day and yells "Mission Accomplished!" as he hits it. It doesn't work. He has to hammer it for about half a minute, while his team finishes their own jobs, before it works.
- Stock Shout-Outs: The sequence A113 shows up quite a few times.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Revealed to have happened to Ethan's wife before the start of Ghost Protocol. But by the end of the film it turned out to be a subversion as Ethan faked her death to protect her from his enemies, and she appears alive and well in a brief cameo in the final scene.
- Symbology Research Failure: Of sorts--:the bombing of the Kremlin consists largely of the obliteration of the actual geography of Red Square, Spasskaya Tower, and maybe some buildings on the edge of the Moscow Kremlin, but not the Grand Kremlin Palace, Kremlin Senate, or State Kremlin Palace. A news broadcast in the immediate aftermath displays this.
- Symbol Swearing: When the Russian prison guard swears at Ethan during the prison break at the start.
- Thanatos Gambit: Cobalt grabs the Russian football from Ethan's hands and makes a several-story jump. In his plans, he would fall to his death, but Ethan wouldn't be able to stop the Russian missile on time, and his plan would still go through.
- Title Drop:
The Secretary: The president has initiated ghost protocol. The entire IMF has been disavowed.
- Took a Level In Badass: Simon Pegg's lab-rat character Benji from the third film returns for Ghost Protocol and he weilds guns in the heat of the action with the rest of the crew. Arguably, Ethan himself; he never fires a single firearm in the first film, dual-wields pistols and does some Rule of Cool martial arts in the signature Woo style in the second, and goes military-style with his gear in the opening setpiece of the third film.
- Although in the case of Benji Dunn, he is still less competent than the rest of the group by far though he has passed his field test since the third film.
- Utopia Justifies the Means - Hendricks/Cobalt's excuse for trying to set off a nuclear war - he figures the survivors will rebuild a stronger civilization.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds / Well-Intentioned Extremist: The villain of MI:GP, Cobalt, AKA Kurt Hendricks, is a "nuclear strategist" who lost his mind after twenty years on the job.
Kurt Hendricks: How will the world finally end? It is my job to predict the unthinkable. To treat the deaths of billions as a game. After 20 years of this, I was numb. Until a new question crossed my mind. What happens after the end of the world? Every two or three million years, some natural catastrophe devastates all life on Earth. But life goes on. And what little remains is made stronger. Put simply, world destruction is an unpleasant but necessary part of evolution. What happens then, I wondered, when mankind faces the next end of the world. I looked to Hiroshima, Nagasaki... thriving cities rebuilt from the ashes, monuments to the unimaginable, dedicated to the concept of peace. It occurred to me here that nuclear war might have a place in the natural order. But only if it could be controlled. Only if it touched every living soul equally. May there be peace on Earth.
- In other words, Cobalt believes that a planetwide Hiroshima would initiate a permanent Nuclear Weapons Taboo. The question of his sanity is left open-ended (Brandt just thinks he is insane), but one Deleted Scene makes him sound a lot less like a sociopath and a lot more like a man who's just broken from the stress of his job.
- What Happened to the Mouse? - At the climax of Ghost Protocol, Hendricks/Cobalt is able to take over an ex-military satellite long enough to order a Russian boomer to launch one of its missiles at San Francisco and shut down communications. The fate of the submarine and its crew is never revealed.
- Wolverine Publicity: That's what Anil Kapoor has been doing at public appearances in India and abroad, for his role in this film. Those who eventually saw the film, and his role in it, will have something to tell.
- Women in Refrigerators: Ethan Hunt was in a Russian prison after he killed the Serbian nationalists who killed his wife, and the analyst with him left field duty because he felt he failed his mission. In a subversion, it turns out her death was faked to protect her from any such attempts in the future; the Serbians only kidnapped her and died when Ethan went to her rescue.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Ethan is apparently a master of this, as he demonstrates a remarkable ability to set-up long term plans that pay off. Or maybe he's working off his "hunches". His ability to improvise probably helps explain why the Secretary of Defense considers him his best man.
- This turns into a pure Indy Ploy once the the missile gets launched and everyone is racing against the clock.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation contains examples of the following Tropes
- For that reason a lot of people don't feel it has aged as well
- If only because one of them is only a disguise.