How's the movie?
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is the exact kind of movie Tom Cruise needed to remind audiences the world over that his personal life doesn't effect his ability to deliver as one of the most charismatic, entertaining, and impressive action stars around. It's successful on all fronts: comeback vehicle for Cruise's wanning star power, The Incredibles' director Brad Bird's live-action debut, a worthy M:I sequel, and a spectacle-packed, globe trotting action movie that literally goes places no others ever have.
But what say the aggregate stats about Ethan Hunt's, America's most resilient spy asset, fourth feature film?
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% Fresh with critics, 85% liked by audiences
Box Office: $693 million worldwide ($209m domestic, $484m foreign)
What are the vitals on the disc?
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Edition: Blu-ray Combo Pack
Number of Discs: 3 (2 x BD, 1 x DVD)
Digital Copy: Yes, Ultraviolet
Runtime: 133 minutes
Video: 1080p, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, Portuguese DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
How does it look and sound?
M:I-GP is the latest action movie to shoot all of its major set pieces using IMAX cameras. Of course the difference between that higher resolution format and standard film or digital cameras will be most noticeable in an actual IMAX theatre, but its all-encompassing scale is still felt at home on Blu-ray. The consummate fidelity of the practical world Brad Bird and company capture is felt in all the right places. Watching Tom Cruise scale the outside of the Burj Khalifa is still dizzying thanks to every reflection the world's tallest building captures, while watching him run a gauntlet during a sandstorm and play a vertical game of Frogger in a futuristic parking garage all looks and sounds as tactile as it should.
Having said that, the film's more digital moments do suffer a bit from the otherwise desirable clarity of the BD transfer. Sequences that were actually done green screen, such as Cruise running away from the explosion at the Kremlin, do have the kind of noticeable digital compositing that are the tell in the visual poker game that is virtual set building. Those moments are very rare, however, and hardly ruin the experience or overall picture quality, but videophiles may notice them.
As for the film's Dolby TrueHD mix, it's as on par with a mix you'd expect from an action movie of Ghost Protocol's scale. It's a precise and playful mix that truly echoes the entire tone of the film. Michael Giacchino's score is balanced just right to always support the discrete sounds of Tom Cruise's actual body colliding with all kinds of surfaces, while all the fanciful technologies Hunt and company get to use in the film allow for a ton of inorganic sounds that are subtle and futuristic all at once.
What about special features?
The entire second disc of this three-disc set is dedicated to special features, which all told add up to about two-hours worth of bonus materials. They're divided into three sections, Mission Accepted (essentially overview of the entire production), Impossible Missions (how specific sequences were done), and Deleted Scenes (eight in total, all with optional commentary from Brad Bird).
On paper they seem like a lot, particularly since some are only a minute or three in length, but if you use the play all button in each section, they connect together fairly seamlessly. All of them are worth setting aside the time to watch (though curiously there's an abscence of spots dedicated to the non-Cruise cast), but the highlights include:
Suiting Up in Prague (18 minutes) - This looks at the formation of the film's fundamentals, mainly where Tom Cruise wanted to take the film (both as its star and its producer), how Brad Bird was chosen, and what it was like making a movie on such an international scale. It brings you right into the production in a welcoming, candid way, as evidenced by it showing Cruise fumbling the very first take on film.
Heating Up in Dubai (18 minutes) - A good spot dedicated to the film's biggest selling point: the Burj Khalifa. It'll show you exactly how the film's centerpiece was conceived and executed, the latter of which is particularly exciting. Everyone knows Cruise does the majority of his stunt work, but watching him fake fall from a height taller than the Empire State Building never ceases to impress.
Stepping Into the Storm (2 minutes) and The Sandstorm (3 minutes) - Even though they're short, these two bits are actually two of the more surprising specials on the disc, mainly because they show they pulled off a massive piece of visual spectacle in a real way when others probably would have gone the easier way and faked it digitally. Oblivious they didn't create an entire, city-wide sandstorm, but they managed smaller scale ones for everyone to run through and seeing them figure out that process adds a new layer of appreciation.
A Roll of Film (3 minutes) - This is a featurette film nerds will dig the most, but if you're curious about the mundane sides of managing the actual film things are shot on, this does a great job of showing the process from on-set, to dailies, to post-production.
Composer (11 minutes) - A spotlight on the methods Michael Giacchino uses when creating a feature film score. It's particularly noteworthy because it also shows a side of film scoring that most people don't realize: the credited composer doesn't always write all of the music. In the case of GP, it was up to orchestrator Tim Simonec to fill in the gaps between Giacchino's specific themes.
Deleted Scenes (15 minutes) - These eight scenes all deserved to be excised from the film, though the alternate opening does give some welcome backstory and motivation to the film's big bad.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is just a plain 'ole good movie. Not only is it a great reminder of the qualities that made Tom Cruise an international superstar, but it showcases a level and scale of filmmaking that is becoming all the rarer these days. While digital advancements are making it all the easier to realize the wholly impossible on the big screen, director Brad Bird proves that all the processing power in the world pales next to a cast and crew who are willing to stick a man and a camera where normal people don't dare go. Sure, plenty of impossible scenarios are played out here (it is in the title, after all), and there's still a ton of digital work, but the impression M:I-GP will leave is one of sheer awe thanks to how real everything looks and sounds. And thankfully, Paramount has assembled a disc loaded with not only superb audio and visual merit, but two hours worth of entertaining and informative making-of materials. Buy it, you won't be disappointed.