April 25, 2012


Tom Cruise is a movie star, but after his public embarrassments in 2005, whether audiences could accept him in any role was questioned. And at this point, he probably can’t create a character who isn’t a variation on Tom Cruise, movie star, which may be why the Mission: Impossible franchise is perfect for him. After four films, what can you say about Ethan Hunt other than he’s an effective problem-solver? Ultimately, when you have a director engaged with the material, you get a good film, otherwise it’s just wheel spinning by craftsmen. Brad Bird had a lot to prove with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and it shows, he delivered a home run. Cruise is supported by Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Paula Patton in his battle to stop a terrorist (Michael Nyqvist). And our review of the Best-Buy exclusive Blu-ray follows after the jump.

mission-impossible-ghost-protocol-posterEthan Hunt starts the film in jail, and Bird gives Cruise a star entrance. He’s working with Jane Carter (Patton) and Benji Dunn (Pegg) to break out of jail in a sequence scored to Dean Martin. The film tells you that it’s going to be a fun ride, though the plotting is often nonsense. Jane had been working with Trevor Hanaway (Josh Holloway, who sans long hair looks kind of like Cruise) to get nuclear codes from Russian terrorists, but Trevor is assassinated by Sabine Moreau (Lea Seydoux) and the codes are in the wild. The team heads to the Kremlin to figure out what this could lead to, but their plan is interrupted by Kurt Hendricks (Nyqvist), who sets them up for sabotage. This sends the team into Ghost Protocol mode, where they are acting without any government backing. They are also joined by William Brandt (Renner), who’s got some secrets.

They head to Dubai to intercept the selling of the codes, and that leads to the film’s biggest and best action sequence where Hunt has to climb outside one of the world’s tallest buildings using only wall walking gloves that don’t work as well as he might hope. This sequence was why the film was worth seeing in Imax, but the film here is presented all the way through in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. And when the deal gets complicated, Hunt has to chase after a suspect in a big sandstorm. The rest of the film is about stopping Hendricks before he can start and all-out nuclear war.

What’s amazing about this film (and pretty much the entire series) is that no one really has much of a character. Everyone are pretty much pawns with either good or bad motivations. But the film works because Brad Bird keeps throwing complications at the situation. Nothing is ever easy, but it’s the fun of seeing the characters – specifically Cruise – deal with climbing a building with one working glove, or trying to get down twelve floors with not enough rope, or escaping the fourth floor of a hospital with nothing but a pair of pants on. And for that the film is very entertaining, and has great comic support in Simon Pegg (who has the best line in the film).

Watching it for a second time, it’s fair to say that though the third act is okay the film peaks in the middle. I think partly because that’s when the stakes are at their highest. When the world is threatened with nuclear war – no matter how lucky and last second the team is in defeating evil – this isn’t the sort of film that’s going to kill the world. And so it’s at its best when the stakes are most palpable – when there is a chance they could fail. It’s probably why people love second films in trilogies so much. Resolutions are less fun than complications at the end of the day.

mission-impossible-4-ghost-protocol-tom cruiseBrad Bird decided to release the film without switching ratios for the Imax sequence. Some people would prefer the switching in and out, but I tend to find it distracting, and it isn’t even the best representation of Imax footage. But this is merely aesthetic preference.

Paramount has released the film on Blu-ray with a DVD and digital copy. If you buy it at most locations it’s a two disc set, but Best Buy has an exclusive three disc set (which we are reviewing) that puts all the supplements on a second Blu-ray disc. The film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in 7.1 Dolby Digital TrueHD.

Disc two kicks off with the three part documentary “Mission Accepted” (48 min.), which covers the film’s three main shooting locations: Prague, Dubai and Vancouver. It’s a fun piece that shows how much prep went into the big sequences, and how difficult it was to get the windows out of the hotel. “Impossible Missions” (51 min.) offers eleven sections on different aspects of the production, from shooting in Imax, the scoring, and the Russian prison set. This gives a great look behind the scenes of the making of the film, with mostly fly on the wall type pieces. There’s eight wisely deleted scenes (15 min.) that suggest different directions of the narrative, and how Bird himself didn’t know how all the pieces were coming together while filming. This is the only place where Bird offers commentary, and he basically says everything cut was unneeded. The disc also comes with two trailers, and at least four Easter eggs, all of which are pretty goofy.

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