An experience meant for true IMAX.
Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt. But what instantly sets this apart from the formula of the other films is the mystery surrounding his character. Hunt isn't as obvious this time around. We pick up the movie with a jailbreak. Why is Hunt there? What has changed? Details are unveiled steadily with a keen eye for intrigue and suspense. It eventually leads to the shutdown of the IMF, sending Hunt and his team on a chase to save the whole organization.
This is Brad Bird's first live-action venture. He's a king of animation, and his experience has helped him here greatly. Firstly, he has a wonderful eye for space. Scenes never feel overcrowded and the action never feels limited or contained. Secondly, he is a master of pacing. One defining thing about the art of animation is that things move fast. Ghost Protocol doesn't feel hurried, but its 2 hours and 20 minutes fly by with ease and energy. Thirdly, he has a terrific sense of timing for comic relief. The buoyant and goofy nature of the film is sustained with likable characters and well-timed gags.
Lastly, Bird's animation experience has really helped him in working with an ensemble of characters. Too often in action, everything seems to drop to the wayside when the action begins. But here we get wall-to-wall action that moves amongst its characters without deviating. This Mission: Impossible doesn't feel episodic, clunkily moving from set piece to set piece. Bird has crafted a remarkable action picture that feels well-rounded and fully-scoped.
Speaking of this ensemble, Cruise is joined by three others: Simon Pegg (returning from M:I:III), Jeremy Renner, and the gorgeous Paula Patton. Instead of being overshadowed by the demi-god Ethan Hunt, the characters they play share the screen perfectly. Everyone gets moments of humor and scenes of intense action. These characters function well with each other and add elements of their own to the picture. It's a refreshing turn to see Cruise share the spotlight.
The gadgets are as absurd as ever. But a photocopying contact lens and an invisible screen the agents hide behind have nothing on a metal suit that floats above a magnetic robotic cart that follows underneath. But Jeremy Renner is in good spirits and handles that ridiculous stunt entertainingly. The hand-to-hand combat is also a step above what we've seen before. There is less gunfire and more punches thrown. And if you haven't discovered it already, the latter is always more intense than the former.
Paramount was smart. Genius even. Instead of just promoting the IMAX format, they've shoved it at consumers by releasing it solely in the format for five whole days before the nationwide release. But is this just a cash grab? Is there really anything special about seeing it in this format? If you don't get anything else out of this review, hear this: This movie demands to be seen on a true IMAX screen. There is about 30 minutes worth of footage that fill up all 4000 square feet. It's breathtaking.
One sequence in particular is worth the price of admission alone. Cruise is climbing the glass windows outside of a building. Not just any building, mind you, but the world's tallest: the Burj Khalifa. The IMAX presentation is sensational, with the overhead shots and perfect sound quality. As Cruise climbs, lunges, and slides, I connected in pulse-pounding reality. This skyscraper sequence is one of the best-crafted stunt scenes I've seen in a movie in a long time.
I mentioned earlier that this is wall-to-wall action, and it really is. But I have one reservation for this film. The grandiose skyscraper climb and a couple of other superior action sequences are all in the middle section of the film. That shouldn't be a problem, but it left me waiting in hopes of this outrageous climax that was bigger and better than anything before. Unfortunately, the film sticks with just a "good" closing. There is nothing wrong with anything that happens in the last third. It's very well-crafted. But the "wow factor" just wasn't there.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: 2011 has been one strange year. The films that people don't expect to be good turn out to be great (see Thor, The Muppets, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Friends With Benefits, Arthur Christmas, etc.). The films that were supposed to be great end up disappointing (see The Hangover: Part II, Sucker Punch, etc.). Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol fits in well. I expected a fun popcorn movie, but I didn't see one of the year's best action films being found here. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: See this in IMAX.
**NOTE: I boosted my score from 4.0 to 4.5 because of the amazing viewing experience.**