Sure, Tom Cruise may come off as kind of smug, perhaps arrogant, even slightly bizarre when he's not up on the big screen, and his best work over the past decade was probably his heavily-made-up cameo in Tropic Thunder, but how can even the staunchest cynic not admire the go-for-broke élan he brings to the Mission: Impossible franchise that he headlines and produces? Whether he's dangling from a wire off of the world's tallest building, shirtlessly zip-lining or getting blown sky-high by explosions, the man has an undeniable energy and intensity.
Too bad it's not working out so well for his alter ego, Ethan Hunt. We're not sure what went wrong exactly, but his marriage begun at the end of Mission: Impossible III ended badly, and now he's stuck in a Russian prison. The breakout leads to a new assignment, sending Ethan into the deepest recesses of The Kremlin. But it all goes horribly wrong, like brink-of-World-War-III wrong, forcing the initiation of Ghost Protocol, whereby the entire elite Impossible Missions Force is disavowed.
Going rogue with limited resources and a backup team that is either green or recently disgraced, he's determined to find out what's really happening and who's responsible, preferably before a nuclear extremist gets his way and the Earth has been purged of mankind for good. As we've come to expect, it is a wild ride full of insane stunts and dazzling special effects, with this fourth installment's director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) blending action and humor into a thrilling frappe of monumental proportions.
Shot on a combination of 35mm and IMAX film formats, with some minimally perceptible shifts in quality between the two, the 2.4:1 aspect ratio Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Blu-ray wows with its detail, both in static close-ups (our star is aging better than most of us, but the wrinkles are plentiful) and the deep, wide vistas, including the precise, historic beauty of the Eastern European cityscapes. Sandstorms are usually problematic in the home theater, but here the general drift and even individual particles are pleasingly stable and utterly believable. The blacks are inky and natural if not terribly nuanced.
Paramount sent us the three-disc Best-Buy-exclusive edition, which puts no extras whatsoever on the movie platter, thereby assuring a high video bitrate above 30 megabits per second, a boon to the exceptional quality here.
We have also been given a seamless, effortless 7.1-channel mix in lossless Dolby TrueHD, one that embraces us from the first moment 'til the last. Oscar winner Michael Giacchino's musical score superbly drives the story forward, even as the crack and boom and directionality of the action keeps our pulse racing. The surrounds are used aggressively to convey everything from teeming crowds to that raging sandstorm.
Disc Two in the Best Buy set is packed with a host of creative supplements in high definition, organized into three main sections. "Mission Accepted" is a three-part look behind the scenes (48 minutes total) broken down by the primary locales: Prague, Dubai and Vancouver. Each of the eleven featurettes of "Impossible Missions" (51 minutes total) provides insight into one of the many specific aspects of producing a movie on this extraordinary scale. What struck me too was the artistry with which these vignettes were conceived and shot and assembled. The eight deleted scenes run a total of 15 minutes, with optional Brad Bird commentary.
The more commonly available two-disc BD/DVD combo has a few of these same bits, located on the movie platter.
Disc Three here is a DVD of the movie, while a unique printed code is also included so that we may download a Digital Copy for iTunes, and access an UltraViolet version in The Cloud.
Though our expectations may be rising with each new Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol delivers, and then some, with more gadgets, suspense and derring-do than any spy movie we've seen in years. And the audio and video quality are up to the challenge of one of last year's biggest films.
Where to Buy: