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Disavowed, Disconnected
IMPOSSIBLE MISSIONS FORCE (IMF) agents JANE CARTER (Paula Patton) and TREVOR HANAWAY (Josh Holloway) and brilliant tech whiz, BENJI DUNN (Simon Pegg) are tasked with finding a courier carrying nuclear launch codes. Very unfortunately, their mission goes awry and the codes fall into the hands of a sultry assassin, SABINE MOREAU (Léa Seydoux).

Meanwhile, team leader ETHAN HUNT ( Cruise) must be extracted from a Moscow prison and the group is assigned the task of breaking into the Kremlin to retrieve information about the intended recipient of the codes; a man code-named Cobalt. Shortly thereafter, Cobalt blows their cover and, before Ethan and Benji can escape, a tremendous explosion rocks Red Square. Ethan finds himself and the entire IMF being blamed to the point that the President invokes "Ghost Protocol” – a complete dissemination of the agency.

Having inherited a new team member, WILLIAM BRANDT (Jeremy Renner), Hunt finds himself, for the first time, working with a team he did not choose. On the surface, Brandt is a desk-bound analyst, but he carries a more complicated past. Begrudgingly, Ethan and this new team must work together as one – all without any support or backup from the now-defunct IMF – if they are to clear their names, complete their mission and prevent nuclear annihilation.

In developing this plot, Appelbaum recalls, "J.J. called us and asked if we could come up with a story with a way to show Ethan in a different light from the previous films. Ethan Hunt is the heart of the franchise, but they were looking for a way to tell a story that's really about him trying to lead a team, and keep the team intact, against great odds.” Thus was born the concept of the Ghost Protocol, in which the entire IMF agency was being disavowed. "We thought that without having resources, it would be a great way to instantly bond Ethan to his team and to help us fall in love with these other characters. We wanted to challenge Ethan as both player and coach – a guy who's not only in it, but is in it with a team that isn't fully gelling. So, he's got to try and pull the team together, all while working on the fly.”

Another caveat unique to this film is they are also stripped of their usual support – no resources, no extractions, no backup. "In the world of technology and information that we live in, we wanted to strip the agents of their ability to rely on immediate intel and access. We wanted the gadgets that they use to not always be working properly. To not necessarily make their jobs easier,” says Nemec. Ethan's Gecko Gloves, which he uses to climb the outside of a building, and the otherwise-indispensible mask making machine both fail the team when most needed. Adds Appelbaum, "It's the idea that everything in life doesn't go off exactly like planned and we wanted that to be true for our agents, as well. They couldn't rely on their agency, they couldn't always rely on the tools and gadgets and tricks that they had. They really had to rely on themselves. This movie isn't about unlimited firepower. These people are smart in their intuition and their training, in really clever and inventive ways.”

The producers even encouraged Bird to incorporate his own ideas about what makes a spy movie cool. "When I first got involved, they said, ‘Well, we have this story line but, other than that, are there any cool things you've always wanted to see in a spy movie?' It was like looking at it from a moviegoer level, in terms of what kinds of things you'd want to see if you were sitting in the audience watching this.” Things such as Brandt's Eyecam lens (a contact lens which functions as a video display), throwing off a meet-and-swap meeting with Moreau, a sandstorm chase and, after Ethan retrieves his mission assignment from a payphone, which "will self-destruct in five seconds” – but doesn't, at least not without a swift kick from Mr. Hunt, all came from Bird. "He really brought that constant sense that the mission plan is not 100% working.” says Nemec. "Brad was able to look at things with a little bit of a ‘fun' lens, which we loved.”

Complicating matters is the team members' knowledge of Ethan's reputation within the agency. "Part of starting off with finding him imprisoned is wanting to play into a character that isn't necessarily coming into this with a bunch of medals on his chest. The team isn't going, ‘Of course I'll follow that guy into battle!' It's more like, ‘Well, that guy did something that earned him being imprisoned.' So, they're always wondering if he's making the right calls along the way.”

The producers also wished to create a film that, though part of a series franchise, could stand alone, story-wise, so that audiences didn't have to be familiar with what had gone on in the previous MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies to enjoy or follow GHOST PROTOCOL. "We made a conscious effort to make it so if you had never seen the other films, it didn't matter,” Burk explains. "You could watch this film and easily follow the story and understand Ethan's backstory and where he is because the movie is completely self-contained. And, if you have seen the previous films, then you'll be able to draw more from it.”

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