Sep 23, 2012

Blu Under Ten- MISSION IMPOSSIBLE : GHOST PROTOCOL is the Best of the Bunch!


    Recently, theater goers were treated to another movie in the Bourne franchise, THE BOURNE LEGACY. Those of us who spend too much time on movie news sites were then treated to a few weeks of the tired Bourne vs. Bond argument. For me, it's always been a FACT that Bond is so much better than Bourne, but I've also always felt that the Bourne or Bond discussion was misguided. They are very different series that just happen to have secret agents as central characters. Whereas Bond is about an agent working for the government with the help of crazy gadgets, the Bourne films are about former agents running from/getting revenge on their government overlords.

    No, I've always thought that if any franchise was trying to take the Bond crown, it was the Mission Impossible films. They are closer to the Bond formula than the Bourne movies, what with the insane stunts, gadgets, and extreme globetrotting.

    I still think Bond wins hands down, but that's not to say the M:I films don't have their moments. I rather enjoyed the first film for what it was, and the second film was - less good. After all of the ridiculous slow mo dove craziness of that second outing, the series reached a new high with the J.J. Abrams helmed third film. It returned to series to more of a team effort than just "Ethan Hunt: Super Spy", which was good since that's what the source material was all about.

    Last year, Brad Bird (in his live action debut) brought the world another IMF adventure with GHOST PROTOCOL, and now I'm here to tell you that it is hands down the best one so far.
I got my copy of the two disc Blu Ray/DVD combo brand new on Amazon for $9.99, which not only falls under my magic price point of ten bucks, but is also way cheaper than I've seen it anywhere else. I never got to see the film in theaters, so this was a blind buy. I was confident in the gamble, though, because I love spy films and the price was just so nice. On top of that, director Brad Bird has earned my loyalty over the years with his phenomenal animated work. THE INCREDIBLES is probably my favorite superhero flick to date, and THE IRON GIANT is an amazing work of retro science fiction.

   Now, then... I really enjoyed this outing for the IMF team. From the first scene with Josh Holloway running from baddies, I was completely pulled into the world of  MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. The plot centers around the whole of IMF being disavowed due to being framed for an act of terrorism. This makes Ethan Hunt and his small band of four the only remnants of the agency, so it's up to them to clear their names and save the world from a fanatic that wants to force nuclear war on the planet. I don't want to get into too many of the particulars since a lot of the fun of spy flicks is all the twists and turns the stories usually take. Instead, I will focus on the things I loved about this movie.

   First off, the stunts are spectacular. In particular, there is a sequence filmed on the tallest building in the world in Dubai that makes you feel the adrenaline in your veins. Seriously, it is amazingly high, and shot in a way that really  makes the audience feel like they could fall to their doom any second. One of the special features on the Blu-Ray focuses on this crazy outside the building climb, and it is amazing to see how much effort went into doing it as real as possible. There's also an insane chase/fight in a parking garage that was another highlight. Oh, and that sandstorm chase... just sublime spy chase gold.

   For that matter, all of the action was very well done. Even the less splashy stuff was pulled off with the proper level of tension. There's a scene where Cruise and Pegg are trying to secretly move down a hallway that was pitch perfect. Any time these guys were using gadgets, I was happy with the results. One big change from the previous films, however, was a lot less use of the famous masks. There's a reason for it written into the script, and the inability to use one of the series go-to tricks only serves to put our heroes in bigger predicaments.

   Another thing that was really well done was the casting. Simon Pegg returns from the third film, and still serves as a kind of comic relief character. However, unlike other movies that have a similar archetype, Pegg is a capable agent who gets out from behind the computer screen and helps in the field. I thought his character was utilized very well. Jeremy Renner plays an IMF office drone who has field skills of his own. There is a sense that maybe they are starting the process of having Renner take over the franchise from Cruise, and I think his character can do it. Of course, he is also taking over the Bourne films (maybe... I hear all kinds of things), so it might be kind of weird if he has too many spy irons in the spy fire. A real surprise for me was Paula Patton, whom I hadn't heard of before. She really kicks ass in this, and at no time did I feel like I had to suspend my disbelief that a girl could take on the thugs she fights.

   So that's how I feel about he supporting players, but what about the biggest name on the poster? Well, Tom Cruise seems to have taken a lot of things said about his onscreen ego to heart, and he seems like he's really trying to let the others play too. That is the biggest plus for this movie. Some of the other ones had moments that felt like they only existed so that Cruise could check something off of his extreme sports to do list or otherwise stroke his inflated ego. The only real ego in this one came in the last scene, and that was just how a few closeups were shot. Of course, maybe that's just me.

   I would be remiss if I didn't give special mention to Michael Giacchino. His music is always spectacular, from THE INCREDIBLES to his TV work, and he really gives this film his all. It reminded me of some of the better Barry scores for the Bond films. I really think he's one of the best composers working today, and I always perk up when I see his name in the credits. The last score I really loved was his work on JOHN CARTER,  a film that I feel was very wrongly derided - but that's a post for another day.

   Overall, this was a really good action packed flick. I'm really glad I got a copy, because i feel that it will be revisited often in the coming years. In a way, it also makes the previous films have more of a draw for me now, so I fully expect to grab that three pack Blu box that's available. I really can't wait to see what Brad Bird does next, because I feel that he has really proven his ability to move from animation to live action.

Previous Blu Under Ten posts:
Blazing Saddles

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