MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Blu-ray)

“Mission:  Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” the first movie to imply an episode name, is brought to us under the skillful eye of Brad Bird.  Building on some of the story pieces of “M:i – III”, a disavowed Hunt is in prison when he is broken out by Benji (Simon Pegg) and Jane (Paula Patton).  Jane’s recent mission to intercept a courier in Budapest went wrong and they lost Agent Hanaway, murdered by assassin Sabine Moreau (Lea Seydoux).    Hunt is recruited to lead Jane and Benjy into the Kremlin to find the files identifying a person of interest, code named “Cobalt”.  When things go wrong, Hunt is extracted by the Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) and Analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner).  Ghost Protocol is invoked and the IMF is disbanded.  The secretary’s car is ambushed.  He is killed, but Hunt and Brandt are able to escape to a safe house where they learn the true identity of Cobalt.

In a few words, “Ghost Protocol” was a fresh breath of air compared to the stuffy and overloaded entries from Abrams and Woo. It brought “Mission” back to not only its television roots, but its theatrical roots as well.

Brad Bird, who primarily made his mark on animated movies with Disney/Pixar, was able to migrate to physical movies quite well.  Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec’s story/screenplay was on point for an impossible mission.

While Rhames was limited to a cameo at the end of the movie, bringing Pegg in fully was a smart choice.  The addition of Jeremy Renner as William Brandt brought some needed tension and counterbalance to Hunt’s roguishness.  Patton was a solid part of the IMF team, but is another of the smaller, random characters.  Her character did have a better screen presence than Maggie Q from the prior movie.  In the tradition of IMF leadership roles, Tom Wilkinson’s cameo as the Secretary was also dynamic, but short lived.

The signature piece of the film is featured at the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, UAE, in which Cruise, Seydoux and Patton all perform stunts from the upper floors of the world’s tallest building, without the use of doubles.

Robert Elswitt’s cinematography is simply stunning.  Between the 30 minutes of IMAX footage captured in Dubai, and the globe-trotting from Prague to Canada (most of the interior sequences were filmed in Vancouver) to Bangalore and Mumbai, India, the visual look of the film is inspired.  Bird’s insistence that they use IMAX cameras was an appropriate and exciting choice.  Michael Giacchino returns to give a fresh spin on Schiffrin’s theme and the score.

Paramount’s Blu-ray™ disc features a MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1080p picture.  The 2.39:1 framed picture brings Elswitt’s cinematography to the smaller screen with brilliance and depth.  It is a shame that Paramount chose not to include the IMAX shot footage, which would have improved the detail even more.  Audio is a 7.1 Dolby True HD mix.  The LFE and surround channels are all used extremely effectively.  Features on the disc include several behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted scenes with optional commentary from Brad Bird.

“Ghost’s” ending implies that The Syndicate is at large and a “Rogue Nation” has formed.

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