Up For Discussion: Was There Originally A Traitor In MI4?

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL differs from the previous films in that it isn't about a turncoat within IMF. Was that always the case?

Up For Discussion: Was There Originally A Traitor In MI4?

In the past I've written articles that trace the changes a movie has gone through during production, showcasing earlier ideas or concepts that didn't make it into the final film. This isn't one of those articles - I have done no research at all, and I want to make that really clear up front. This is just sort of a bullshit session, one that you guys can join in on.

There are, obviously, spoilers.

Watching Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol I was very relieved that the film didn't turn on a traitor within IMF. The three previous films all use this conceit, and it makes the Impossible Mission Force seem like the biggest bunch of pikers and amateurs in history. The concept worked well in the first film, but with each successive outing it got more and more boring.

The initial advertising for MI4 made it seem like this film might have more of the same, so I was happily surprised when that wasn't the case in the film. Still, some elements of the story made me wonder if there isn't an alternative cut or script out there where the IMF is once again betrayed from within. Here's the (slight) evidence:

When Ethan Hunt and Benji are infiltrating the Kremlin to get information on Cobalt, someone hops on their IMF frequencies and sets them up the bomb. When the Kremlin is destroyed by the ensuing explosion, the Russians blame the Impossible Mission Force and the president is forced to initiate Ghost Protocol - shutting down IMF and disavowing all agents. It's a great idea, and it allows the film to have a propulsive, seat of its pants energy.

Except how did Cobalt know that the IMF was going to be breaking into the Kremlin right at that moment? And get the IMF frequencies? I could have missed something in the movie, but this feels like it was never actually addressed.

And that could be just some sloppy screenwriting. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of blockbuster movies, where the script is changed on the set all the time. But then something else happened, something else that only makes sense if viewed as an attempt to fix a script change or a reshoot.

At the end of the big Dubai chase scene, where Ethan is going after Cobalt's muscle, Wistrom, ends as the bad guy gets on the back of a truck and leaves Hunt quite literally in the dust. But before he does, he rips off his face and reveals that underneath he was... Cobalt himself. Huh? This couldn't make less sense in any way. Why would Cobalt be posing as his own right hand man? What's the upside of doing that? And why even bother with that reveal?

Unless at some point that reveal was bigger - that an IMF agent was actually under that latex mask (that IMF style latex mask, no less). It would fit in with how Cobalt knew Hunt and Benji would be breaking into the Kremlin at that exact moment. 

As it stands, the reveal serves only one small purpose, which is to give Cobalt some level of physicality, although his final fight with Ethan is still my least favorite thing in the movie (I hate when the hypercapable hero, who cuts through all kinds of goons with ease, can't win a fight against a not very threatening main villain). It still feels like an elaborate ruse for literally no purpose whatsoever.

And so, without seeking out old scripts or hitting up contacts in the know, I've begun to fantasize about a different version of MI4, where it's revealed that Josh Holloway didn't actually die but turned on the IMF in a major reveal at the end. Or maybe Ving Rhames' character originally showed up not in a beer drinking scene at the end but as the antagonist. 

Or maybe I'm wrong, and MI4 really explains away these details and I simply didn't catch it. Now it's your turn - what do you think?

Devin Faraci's photo About the Author: A ten year veteran of writing for the web, Devin has built a reputation as a loud, uncompromising and honest voice – sometimes to the chagrin of his readers, but usually to their delight.
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