Why Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol's Second Villain Was Better - VRGyani News and Media

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Why Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol's Second Villain Was Better

Mission: Impossible is easily the most consistently satisfying franchise currently running (no pun intended). After the misstep of Mission: Impossible II, the series has grown stronger with each subsequent installment, and the most recent entry Mission: Impossible - Fallout was accepted instantly within the canon of the greatest action films of all-time. However, the series has consistently had an issue developing compelling villains worthy of its protagonist Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).

With the notable exception of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen Davias in Mission: Impossible III, the saga’s lineup of bad guys are mostly forgettable. The fourth film Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol introduced the insane Russian nuclear theorist Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), whose plot of global annihilation is interchangeable with innumerable Bond villains. It’s no disrespect to the late, great Nyqvist, who would become a menacing opponent in John Wick just a few years later; the franchise simply doesn’t emphasize its antagonists as much as it does setpieces.

RELATED: 'Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol' Has a Weak Villain, and That's Fine Because It's Not the Point

However, a compelling villainous presence wasn’t completely absent from Ghost Protocol. Nyqvist’s plan requires a trade with the lethal assassin Sabine Moreau (Lea Seydoux), who steals key nuclear codes from IMF agent Trevor Hanaway (Josh Holloway) within the film’s opening sequence. Despite being the B-villain, Moreau more than outshines Hendricks with far less screen time. Not only does Seydoux’s cold-hearted charisma add a burst of personality to the film, but her presence emotionally affects a member of Hunt’s team.

The opening sequence in Budapest operatically details the extraction of the codes by Hanaway and his team, Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). Their dynamic is already established, but like the opening to the first Mission: Impossible it ends in tragedy. Hanaway has already intercepted the courier and in the midst of his escape when Moreau shoots him in the chest, killing him instantly. Holloway’s early exit came as a shock; the Lost star was prominently featured in the film’s trailers, and viewers could assume he would be part of Hunt’s new gang of allies.

It’s revealed that Hanaway and Carter were romantically involved; Carter is now seeking vengeance amidst the larger operation. Hunt’s team is already saddled with emotional baggage due to the implication that Hunt was in prison for an unlicensed hit, and the reveal that Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt was the agent assigned to protect Hunt’s wife (Michelle Monaghan). Carter’s obsession with Moreau strengthens her character arc, as she feels personally responsible for putting Hanway in danger.

Moreau fits perfectly within the Cold War aesthetic that Brad Bird is emulating. Between nuclear anxieties and the U.S.-Russian tension, Ghost Protocol embraces its ‘60s influences rather than the gritty modernism that the Bond and Bourne franchises had adopted. Bird plays things straight, without cheekily referencing the old school nature. Seydoux is appropriately stone-faced, and as a result the archetype doesn’t feel out-of-date.

In order to reclaim Moreau’s stolen documents during her meeting with Hendricks, Hunt’s team has to pose as both parties in order to intercept the trade. Things go awry when Hendricks brings along his prisoner, the nuclear developer Leonid Lisenker (Ivan Shvedoff). Lisenker can authenticate the information; while Hunt and Brandt meet with Moreau, Carter is forced to pass the actual codes to Hendricks. It puts Carter in a highly vulnerable position, as she must not only pass along the codes to a man who intends to wreck global chaos, but impersonate the woman she despises most. The notion that Moreau must remain is unthinkable for Carter.

The dual conversations highlight the differences in their approaches as they’re intercut, as Moreau clearly holds more cards within the latently heated exchange. Carter is awkward when introducing herself to Hendricks, but Seydoux is calm as her bodyguards search Hunt and Brandt. Moreau doesn’t need to openly threaten them with menacing small talk; her laughter at Hunt’s suggestion that his “best men” are waiting outside is the closest thing to casual conversation that they get. When she simply replies that she’s already killed the best, it's hard to doubt Seydoux’s resolve.

The simple hint at her experience compliments Moreau’s analytical skills, as she can tell Brandt poses little danger and threatens that her guards will kill him. Moreau knows when someone is lying, and Hunt’s fiddly companion is clearly uncomfortable masquerading as a nuclear expert. It creates empathy for Brandt, who has been an annoyance to Hunt. He previously professed to be a novice at field work, but Hunt has been skeptical of Brandt’s story. Seeing him slip up when Moreau notices his contact lenses only intensifies their rivalry.

Although her demise is swift, Moreau’s brutal fight with Carter fulfills the tension that’s been simmering. Holloway was just another victim to her, and while she can’t match Carter’s rage, she’s more than proficient in hand-to-hand combat. Her death is memorable, and has ramifications that permeate the rest of the story. Carter only accidentally kicks her out a window, but her inadvertent death eliminates the only lead that the IMF has. Carter’s revenge doesn’t even get to be satisfying.

The extensive world building that bogs down rival franchises is thankfully mostly absent within the Mission: Impossible series, but the appearance of a fun secondary villain is a natural expansion. Moreau’s role is pretty self explanatory, and Seydoux embodies her detached heartlessness. Even if her appearance is a one off, Moreau realizes a larger world of spies and assassins at play in the Mission: Impossible universe.

KEEP READING: How Tom Cruise Went Out of His Way to Make Maggie Q Feel Included on 'Mission: Impossible III'



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