The fourth Mission: Impossible entry exchanges digits for a subtitle, and brings in Brad Bird to direct his first live-action feature. So the man whose The Incredibles made fun of the sort of thing that is the bread-and-butter of the M:I franchise is brought in to revitalize said franchise. Result? Job done.
Gotcha. You thought I was going to say, “Mission accomplished,” didn’t you?
The plot kicks off with two missions going badly wrong. One ends with the assassination of an MI operative. The next ends with the Kremlin blowing up and the entire MI organization disavowed. Tom Cruise and his small group (Simon Pegg, Paula Pattaon, Jeremy Renner) must now operate without sanction to stop Michael Nyqvist from bringing about nuclear war.
The story twists and turns through all sorts of baroque convolutions, and it does get rather difficult at times to keep everything straight. But that is, ultimately, a rather minor problem. The plot is purely functional, existing to get us from one exotic location and elaborate set piece to the next. And these are spectacular. The sequence where Cruise climbs the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai is, or course, the highlight, a tour-de-force of vertigo-inducing suspense, and this bit alone would probably be enough to qualify this film as the most satisfying entry in the series.
What does, I think, clinch that title is the supporting cast. While the film remains very much Cruise’s show, there is a stronger sense of a team than we’ve had.. well.. perhaps ever in the film series. Though Patton doesn’t register as strongly as her character should, Renner solidifies his claim as heir-in-waiting to the action crown. Pegg, meanwhile, radiates the same unqualified delight to be in this kind of a movie as he did in Star Trek, and his sense of fun is Ebola-infectious.
And fun is precisely what the film promises and delivers, and does so in a way that the franchise hasn’t really managed to date.
Oh, look, a mega-budget release, heavy on the eye-candy, that isn’t in 3D. Nor does it have to be. As tempting as it might be to imagine the Burj Khalifa sequence in 3D, it doesn’t need that extra dimension to be utterly dizzying, thank you very much, and the transfer here loses none of the impact of the theatrical version. The image is silky, crystalline, and the AVC codec sticks to about 32 Mbps – sweet. Colours, contrasts, blacks and flesh tones are all superb, and the aspect ratio is the original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The level of sharpness is well nigh perfect, in that the transfer perfectly mimics the theatrical experience without going that extra level and turning into clinical HD that reveals every flaw, human and technical. I was on the lookout for just such excesses, with frequently show up during extreme close-ups in other releases (*cough* Knight and Day *cough*). Rather, the warmth of the original picture is preserved, and viewing the film is an unalloyed pleasure.
Here, too, the experience is a very, very,very pleasing one. The dialogue is perfectly clear and never buried in the mix, which could so easily have been a problem, given that this is a pretty loud film. Score and sound effects are given a luxurious treatment. From the opening seconds of the film, the score swallows the listener. And for a fine example of the environmental effects, check out the wind during the Dubai scenes (yes, we’re back there again, but really, this is where the film is at its apex). The sense of being plunged into the middle of howling chaos is superbly realized. Depending on one’s audio setup, the audio experience here could possibly top the theatrical one.
All the features (other than the DVD version, of course) are on Disc 2. So sorry, no commentary track.
Mission Accepted: (48:04) A three-part making-of documentary. The focus here is on what was shot in what location: “Suiting Up in Prague,” “Heating Up in Dubai” and “Vancouver Fisticuffs.” Prepare to get dizzy all over again when you watch the second part.
Impossible Missions: (50:44) Essentially the second part of the larger documentary, this time divided into 11 smaller pieces, covering other stunt moments, props, music and so on.
Deleted Scenes: (15:02) Eight of them, and here is where we find an optional (but most informative) commentary track from Brad Bird.
Theatrical Trailers: Two of them.
One more card on the table – I’m not the biggest Tom Cruise fan, so the film is going to have to work a bit harder to get me on board. This one succeeded, and then some.