Ghost Protocol: Ops in Exile



I wouldn’t stare too hard into the eyes of Tom Cruise if I were you. He might start running.


Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol would have been shockingly good, if I hadn’t known beforehand Brad Bird directed the film. Because I knew that though, I knew at the very least I would be very entertained. The man brought the world The Incredibles and Ratatouille, and for that we are all in his debt.


On the surface, it is a fun action movie, something that I think all of us could do with every once in a while. However, from a lot of critics I keep hearing that you shouldn’t look too hard at the plot or the story, that it doesn’t make much sense.


Ahem. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.


The story worked for me, because the underlying theme of the movie made the story work. That said, it is, to say the least, over the top. The basic outline of the plot is that while on a mission to get some information from the archives of the Kremlin, Phelps (Tom Cruise) and his team were framed for blowing up the building. Afterwards, we learn that since the explosion, the US government has shut down Phelps’ organization and they have been disavowed, cut off from all resources and intel apart from what they have on hand, which while fairly impressive, is nowhere near the kind of resources they are used to and incredibly inadequate to the task of BEING TOM CRUISE. Now they have to track down some guy with access to nuclear launch codes so that they can save the world or some such nonsense.


While ridiculous on the outside, the truth is, government buildings these days are not the sacred and impenetrable fortresses we like to think they are; the events of 9/11 along with countless embassies and government buildings being bombed over the past 30 years are testament enough to this possibility. In any case, from there, the crux of the plot and the core of the movie is revealed.


The world is far more fragile that we realize. Not only that, when you’ve been cut off, everything gets infinitely worse. Phelps and his team are officially in exile, and that should have particular resonance for those who call themselves Christians. Why is that? 


In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. All the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon—all the rest of the population. (2 Kings 25: 8-11)

Oh. Right.

Exile is in our history. Exile is an essential part of our identity. As Children of the Israelites, and participants in the grand historical narrative of Israel, we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters a history in exile, whether we wish to recognize it or not. In following Christ, we are children of exile ourselves. The early history of the church is rife with persecution and powerlessness, and it wasn’t until the Romans took things over that we lost sight of our exilic identity. 

So yeah, Ghost Protocol should resonate with us. This team, while highly skilled and given a good headstart in some respects (magnetic robot levitation anybody?) in the end, they were pretty much on their own. Everything that could go wrong on the mission does go wrong. They don’t get any breaks. It’s only by a sheer determination and what I’m recognizing as a sliver of providence that they managed to complete the mission at all. 

However, they did make it out. They lived in exile, and they made it out. However, in making it out, they gain an appreciation for the things they have more because they had to deal with doing without. That’s something we all can learn from. As bad as things are, there inevitably will be an end to it, and when things may seem hopeless, we have been tasked with persevering to the very end. Remember, even in exile, there was hope:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

The theme of exile should resonate with us, because we are children of exile. That should, however, give us even more cause to hope for a time when we no longer have to wait for deliverance.


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About grantimusmax

Grant Barnes, aka Grantimus Maximus, aka The Nerdcore Theologian. He is a graduate of Perkins School of Theology with a Masters Degree in Divinity. He is also a commissioned elder in the United Methodist Church, and Senior Pastor at Hemphill First United Methodist Church and Pineland United Methodist Church. He graduated from Texas State University Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in English, minor in History. He watches way too many movies, reads too many books, listens to too much music, and plays too many video games to ever join the mundane reality people claim is the "Real World." He rejects your reality, and replaces it with a vision of what could be, a better one, shaped by his love for God.
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