The fourth installment in the 'Mission: Impossible' franchise finds secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team framed for a Kremlin terrorist bombing. Disavowed by their country and with no IMF agency support, Ethan and his team (Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Paula Patton) must find the real terrorists before the next attack in order to save the world and clear their names. But in the spy world, all double agents have secrets, and Ethan might not be able to fully trust the only people who can possibly save him.
'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' is a fun, energetic movie (perhaps the series' best, but that will an individual preference). It begins with a smart script by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, who have decided to ground the film emotionally in Ethan's reaction to the loss of his wife. Another smart move is the idea of restricting access to all the hightech gadgets. They're still here, but seem to break more often and things we expect (like the masks) don't work at all, leaving our heroes to face greater obstacles than in previous installments. Ethan and team feel (a little) less like superheroes and more like real people. Further, Tom Cruise's performance proves he's still got his dramatic and action chops. The trio of Pegg, Patton, and Renner are also well drawn, each suffering from a thematic loss in line with Ethan Hunt.
Also, let's talk about director Brad Bird making his live action debut. It's no surprise that the man who brought us 'The Iron Giant', 'Ratatouille', and 'The Incredibles' makes such a strong transition between filmmaking mediums. We can assume he, along with producer Tom Cruise, had a heavy hand in the story and characters, but what I loved most about the film was its gripping action sequences. They grab the audience by the heart, ramp up the tension, and never let go. This movie is a master class in the setups and payoffs necessary to make action visually coherent and suspenseful.
I enjoyed the film so much, I only have a couple minor complaints. Some might argue film franchises are better when they continue one long story, while others might say they should be standalone. For me, because I hadn't seen 'M:I3' in a while, I couldn't quite remember all the emotional details previously set up in the other film. I wish, like reading sequel books, a little more time had been given to reminding us about the world. This may sound at odds with my compliments above, so let me be clear: the movie works well, but if you haven't seen the third film (at all or in some time), you might find yourself slightly distracted wondering what the characters are talking about. For the most emotionally fulfilling experience, perhaps it's best to watch 'M:I3' and 'Ghost Protocol' back to back.
For my last nitpick: while the film's CGI is generally impressive (and probably used a lot more than I realize), sandstorms and a few of the explosions still look a little cartoonish.
Overall, 'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' is a smartly written, expertly directed, edge of your seat action thriller I can't wait to watch again and again. Consider my tickets purchased for 'M:I5' and whatever Brad Bird makes next.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
We are reviewing the Best Buy Exclusive three disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy edition of 'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol'. The first disc is a Blu-ray exclusively housing the feature film. Disc two is another Blu-ray for the high definition special features. Disc three is a DVD of the feature film. There are no forced trailers on either Blu-ray, and they do not appear to be Region-locked (though this is untested). Lastly, this film's portable copies are available via UltraViolet as well as Digital Copy (which works with iTunes). The UV copy will stream to any of your devices, and is HD (and should work with Walmart's VUDU service either now or sometime next month); the Digital Copy is SD.
'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' debuts on Blu-ray with a near-reference, stunning AVC MPEG-4 encode framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
This film looks great. Everything you love about high definition is on this disc. Inky black levels for night and underground scenes. Primary colors pop off the screen, especially in the India sequences. Skin tones are even (though perhaps a bit flushed) despite changes in the film's color palate to match various locations. Detail and resolution are superb, especially the 30 minutes of IMAX-filmed scenes, which attain a dimensionality akin to 3D. However, popping back and forth can be a little jarring, as the 35mm elements aren't quite as sharp. Film grain is subtle, but adds a nice texture to the experience. And, thankfully, there doesn't seem to be any edge enhancement or digital noise reduction on hand.
In terms are flaws or complaints, I have two. The first is an actual (minor) problem, and is the reason why this is a 4.5 star video rating. The second is more of a personal question, and does not affect the score.
In terms of flaws, while the only thing on the first disc is the film and its soundtracks, I did find one compression issue: banding. I noticed it in the scenes where we get to the team's Dubai hideout. Being smoky, darkly lit, and filled with about 800 variations on the color brown, I noticed a couple subtle, blocky bands in the background walls and stairs. Not the end of the world, really, and pretty hard to find, but there if you look closely.
My other nitpick is the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I'm sure those of you with constant height projection systems are thrilled with Mr. Bird's decision to crop the film for its entirety. However, I saw the film theatrically at an IMAX theatre and, much like 'The Dark Knight' and 'Tron: Legacy', would have enjoyed the various IMAX sequences expanded to a 16:9 aspect ratio (though admittedly, still not the full IMAX framing). The Burj sequence was terrifying thanks to the vertigo-inducing tall IMAX framing, and perhaps that would have translated here. However, I fully respect Mr. Bird's choice and, as I said before, this has no bearing on the score.
Overall, 'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' looks fantastic on Blu-ray and is just shy of perfection.
Simply put, this 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is pure demo material.
With the exception of the lackluster (in terms of surround sound) Paramount 100 Years logo theme music, this track literally opens with a bang and thrusts all listeners into the 'Mission: Impossible' universe. Sure, we expect the big stuff like car chases and explosions to rock our world, but this exemplary track is one of the most lifelike I've ever heard. Echoes of squeaking metal doors, claustrophobic sewers environments, the blowing wind swinging hundreds of feet in the air outside the Burj Dubai, the rippling shockwave of an impending explosion. It's all richly detail and absorbing.
When writing reviews, I often replay the film in the background. As I was typing this paragraph, I forgot about a certain ambush / car crash sequence and just startled myself as my entire living room swirled into action. Please note this isn't a pound-you-over-the-head track that is only loud and aggressive. It's subtle in how certain details appear discretely in all eight channels (again, lifelike). Dialog is always clear. LFE doesn't simply roar, it supports every door closing, gun shot and, as I said before, shockwave. If you're an audio fan who gets an inordinate amount of joy out of hearing your 7.1 system pushed in every direction over the entire dynamic range of sound, you'll love-love-love this track. 7.1 just got even better.
Overall, I couldn't find a single complaint. This is a must-listen disc and auditory perfection.
Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment has assembled a very nice collection of special features, consisting of two in-depth documentaries that are a cut above the standard EPK "look how great we are" stuff, eight deleted scenes, and two theatrical trailers. Sadly, there are no picture-in-picture features or audio commentaries with the filmmakers.
Thanks to a character-driven screenplay, and Brad Bird's thrilling live action filmmaking debut, 'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' injects new energy and life into an aging series. It's exciting, suspense and (rare these days) visual coherence fuel the action, and you actually care about the people. As a Blu-ray, it features top flight video and a killer, reference quality 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The high definition special features are well produced, and a cut above pat-on-the-back EPKs.
If you enjoyed 'Ghost Protocol' theatrically and have been anticipating this Blu-ray release, pre-order it now. Hell, there's a button on this page where you can do just that. If you're new to the franchise or haven't seen 'Ghost Protocol', this is a great place to start. As I said above, you might want to watch part three first to get the most out of it, but 'Ghost Protocol' still works as a standalone thriller. If you love audio demos, this is your new must-have disc for 2012.