Paramount // 2011 // 133 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // April 30th, 2012
No Plan. No Backup. No Choice.
The sleeper hit of 2011, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol proves Brad Bird can do more than make great animated films, 49-year old Tom Cruise can still carry a big budget blockbuster, and the Mission: Impossible franchise still has some life left in it.
A botched mission with dire consequences demands the IMF break Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out of a Russian prison to clean up the mess. But the situation goes from problematic to impossible, when a nuclear extremist (Michael Nyqvist, The Girl Who Played with Fire) bent on rebuilding the world in his image beats Ethan's team to the punch, setting off a globetrotting game of cat and mouse that leaves a trail of death and destruction in its wake.
It's an interesting conundrum, showing up your boss, but that's exactly what director Brad Bird did to producer JJ Abrams. Back in 2006, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman turned in a fun script, a maniacal Phillip Seymour Hoffman proved more than a match for Tom Cruise, and Abrams delivered an electrifying directorial debut, catapulting Mission: Impossible III into the franchise's top spot. Five years later, Bird and company leap frog their predecessors with an explosive bullet train ride, loaded with practical stunts and in-camera effects, built upon by a razor sharp tale from Alias veterans Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. Just when you think Hollywood has bled the tent pole action genre dry, we get smacked upside the head with Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
This installment has everything we've come to expect from Bruce Geller's iconic television series, crossbred with the best elements of modern espionage tales, and everything's turned up to 11. There truly are no dead spots. Nothing goes right for this rag tag team. Any time they think they've caught a break, Vladimir Mashkov's dogged Russian investigator turns up, an unsuspected alliance is formed, a secret is revealed, an ambush or double cross is executed, or the environment they're in proves fatal.
And can we talk about the stunts? I've made no bones about my dislike for Tom Cruise, but dammit all if he didn't win me over yet again. His real-life insanity obviously translates into a passionate commitment to filmmaking authenticity. Cruise so wants us to believe Ethan is making life and death decisions at every turn, he puts himself in situations that most professional stuntmen would love to perform -- a Dean Martin underscored prison break, a bare-chested barefoot hospital escape, scaling The Burj Khalifa, a sandstorm car chase, and the freaking parking garage finale. Even Jeremy Renner gets into the act trying to shut down the world's most complex computer array. Are you kidding me with this stuff?! I felt like a 10-year-old again. Granted, the unanticipated zest is somewhat lost on multiple viewings, but the replayability factor is still ridiculously high; if not for the set pieces, then for the biting humor that underlies all of Brad Bird's films.
Speaking of which, if you didn't love Simon Pegg before now -- and really, how could you not?! -- this performance will most certainly turn you. Simon's Benji Dunn, a highlight of M:I:III, elevates his game and everyone around him. This mix of neuroses, deadpan delivery, and mastery of body language and facial expressions catalyzes nearly every scene he's in. But, if not for the chemistry of this ensemble -- which includes Renner (The Avengers) as reluctant IMF analyst William Brandt, and Paula Patton (Precious) as field agent Jane Carter -- Pegg's genius would be wasted. Thankfully, everyone here is game, and the relationships crackle like a finely tuned improv troupe. And who could have guessed that Michael Nyqvist, so compelling in the original Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, could play such a magnificent bastard? Hans Gruber for a modern age. Oh, and Lost fans, you'll not want to miss the fantastic cameo from Josh Holloway that opens the film.
The best part of all this is taking the ride. I don't care how much you hate Hollywood event movies, you have to see Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Come to think of it, this should be mandatory viewing for any producer with the slightest thought of making a spy film, as proof you don't have to rely on genre tropes and massive amounts of CGI to engage your audience. Great story, skilled director, excellent cast; vigorously stir and serve.
Presented in stunning 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen, Paramount delivers another reference quality Blu-ray. The lighting is majestic, depth of detail is staggering, colors are brilliant, and black levels unwavering. Even the CG-elements are flawless, a seemingly impossible mission for the majority of today's HD filmmakers. The same holds true for the immersive TrueHD 7.1 Surround, as sound designer Gary Rydstrom proves once again why he's the heir apparent to ILM master Ben Burtt. From the largest explosions and solidly connected punches, to the whir of the electric parking garage mechanisms and the vicious Dubai sandstorm, we are right in the middle of everything with no hope of escape. What's more, Michael Giacchino's pulse pounding score is so embedded into the story, there are times you don't even notice it's there; a real rarity for blockbuster actioners.
Oh and speaking of Giacchino, we can thank his brother Anthony for a truly intimate and impressive array of bonus features. Though lacking a feature commentary track, the 98 minutes worth of behind-the-scenes featurettes will make you appreciate the film all the more.
* Mission Accepted (48 min) -- "7 countries. 90 days." This three-part making of Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol begins with Tom Cruise falling off the side of the world's tallest building. This is an in-depth look at everything that makes the film unique: locations, stunt work, commandeering The Burj Khalifa, safety concerns, production logistics, shooting in IMAX, creating the parking structure (from scratch!), the power of pre-viz, and the work-to-fun ratio.
* Impossible Missions (50 min) -- More behind-the-scenes goodness with eleven featurettes of various length looking at specific set pieces and technical components of the film: prison break, film stock and camera decisions, the sandstorm, the music.
* Deleted Scenes (15 min) -- Seven deleted scenes and one alternate opening with optional commentary from director Brad Bird who gives incredibly detailed insight into how the script and the story continued to evolve during filming and editing.
* Trailers -- Two theatrical trailers.
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
This 3-disc edition is available only at Best Buy. The 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo you'll find everywhere else contains just 36 min of the featurettes (Dubai, Vancouver, Sandstorm, Props) and jettisons the trailers. If you're a true film junkie and want the full immersion, I suggest you pony up the extra coin. Believe me, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is one release you'll want in your permanent collection.
Not Guilty. Run! Ethan! Run!
Review content copyright © 2012 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Top 20 Review Debuts: #11
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 7.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site