A lot of people have been integrating IMAX filmed footage into their movies lately. While the best are few and far between and range from the great to awful (The Dark Knight to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), there’s still plenty of room to keep our mouths agape. And if director Brad Bird has anything to do with it, his live action debut, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, seems set out to make sure that if you don’t already suffer from acrophobia, you just might after his central pièce de résistance is over.
Brad Bird is best known as the genius behind one of the single greatest superhero movies ever made (The Incredibles). And was also the man who made the world discover that yes, anyone can cook, even if it’s a rat named Remy (Ratatouille). It was only a matter of time before someone handed him a camera and a deft screenplay (courtesy of producer J.J. Abrams’ regular partners in crime, Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec), letting him set his sights on a big-budget action film. If you thought his visuals in The Incredibles lived up that film’s title, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
In Ghost Protocol, we meet up with Ethan Hunt locked up in a Moscow prison. Benji and Co. have just arrived to break him and fellow inmate Bogdan (Miraj Grbic) out to the tune of “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” We’ve also seen another agent, Hanaway (Josh Holloway, Lost), being taken out by who turns out to be an assassinating blonde (Léa Seydoux) with high ambitions. Jane and Benji inform Ethan that Hanaway was killed by Sabine Moreau while they were attempting to obtain some documents. Turns out said documents just happen to be nuclear launch codes.
The codes are also being hunted down by our current antagonist, Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist). Hendricks of course just wants to use them to start an all out nuclear war. Things get a little tricky for the team however, as the IMF has disavowed all agents thanks to Hendricks setting off an explosion inside the Kremlin. Now Ethan and his crew are about to be declared terrorists right after choosing to accept their mission of finding Hendricks and obtaining the codes. But not before the Russians take out the IMF Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) with a hailstorm of bullets leaving everyone en route to Dubai to get back the nuclear launch codes and save the day.
There’s been a whole lot of press surrounding Tom Cruise and his daredevil antics during the filming of Ghost Protocol — most of it having to do with his leaping, crawling, and running down the face of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. When Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his band of merry IMF misfits – Benji (Simon Pegg), Jane (Paula Patton), and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – discover their most current MacGuffin is related to the building’s 130th floor, you get a whole new perspective on the ground floor. By now we all know that yes, that is Tom Cruise performing his own stunts as usual and it’s all for the greater good.
With J.J. Abrams returning as director, even if handing off the reigns to Bird, there’s some surprising continuity for a change. And not just because of some select characters (including series favorite Luther Stickell, Ving Rhames) making joyful appearances. We also get back composer Michael Giacchino who infuses the film with his own musical cues tying this film with III, even if at least thematically. Not to mention that writers Applebaum and Nemec have plenty of background in the spy business after having worked on Abrams’ own Alias. It’s like a big welcome conglomeration of everything Bad Robot and Pixar.
Plenty of references abound, ranging from Ethan using extraction code Alpha 1-1-3 to Jane’s use of a red balloon. Not to mention the finale which will seem all too familiar, yet every bit as fun, as the door chase sequence in Monsters, Inc. And finally, anyone who doesn’t take the time to witness Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol the way it was meant to be seen, on their local IMAX (if available at least), is only shortchanging themselves. Ghost Protocol is definitely one of the year’s most fun films.
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