Blu-ray Review: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL

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Blu-ray Review: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol / Cert: 12A / Director: Brad Bird / Screenplay: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec / Starring: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nykvist, Josh Holloway, Tom Wilkinson / Release Date: Out Now

Cinema can, we’re glad to report, still send a little shiver up and down the spine now and again. The Avengers is one big shiver, of course, but the fourth entry in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series gets a couple in too. Cruise’s charismatic Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt is spectacularly - and violently - sprung from a Moscow prison. Racing through a network of underground tunnels primed by his colleagues to explode, Cruise turns, knowingly, towards the camera and mutters “Light the fuse.” Cue the iconic TV series title music and a credits sequence which dares to hint at the thrills and spills to come. The tone is set for the biggest, most exhausting and exhilarating action blockbuster of the last decade, a film which put Tom Cruise back at the top of the Box Office after a string of under-performing vehicles which suggested his star was on the wane.

Impossibly, Ghost Protocol barely puts a foot wrong in its mission to leave its audience gasping at its bravura and its audacity. The film bounces from one extraordinary action sequence to another with the barest of exposition stringing it all together. No sooner has Ethan been sprung from prison than he’s off on a new adventure, with the IMF now disavowed and discredited. Ethan and his new gang - Patton’s sexy spy with a grudge and whose boyfriend has been assassinated, Pegg’s nerdy boffin (reprising his turn from the third movie), and new boy Jeremy Renner who turns out, in some ways, to be Hunt’s protégé. But our Tom’s not ready to be put out to pasture yet as he throws himself into an exuberant series of sizzling fight scenes and bone-jarring stunts and visual set pieces, from the explosive and inventive hi-tech assault on the Kremlin (with the help of a nifty cloaking device thrown up by an iPad… can’t get mine to do that, is there an app?), a car chase through a sandstorm, a fistfight in an elevated car park. Best of all, of course, is Cruise’s magnificent bout of acrobatics suspended from the world’s tallest building, the dizzying Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Tense and nail-bitingly exciting, it’s a sequence so spectacular it dominates the whole film and despite the pace and spectacle of what follows, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that the movie has peaked halfway through as nothing comes close to the adrenalin rush of seeing Cruise suspended from one hand 130 floors  above the ground and running across windows in an attempt to swing himself back into the building.

But there’s still so much to savour in this classy thrill-ride. Considering the higher-than-state-of-the-art kit Hunt and his co use (courtesy of Pegg’s returning comedy relief boffin Benjy), not much of it actually works for long. It’s a decent running gag. The Kremlin cloaking device goes on the blink, Ethan’s building-scaling magnetic gloves run out of steam after about two minutes, the anti-grav device Renner’s character uses to attack a computer server lets him down - literally - and even the “this message will self-destruct in five seconds” gizmo goes on the blink and needs a handy whack from Hunt. The only tech that seems to work, in fact, is the stuff the bad guy - Nykvist’s one-dimensional random nuclear nutter - desperately wants to get his hands on so he can start a war and thus purge the Earth of Mankind. That Ghost Protocol becomes a race against time, with a nuclear warhead launched and on its way to Seattle, is as inevitable and, ultimately, as welcome a denouement as we could wish for in a film that’s really all about the visuals and the spectacle rather than the intricacies of story.

And for once we’re not complaining. It’s a simple story told with so much verve and action and colour it’s easy to forgive a lightweight, almost transparent plot. Bond and Bourne are back on our screens later this year, the former in particular out to recapture his slipped crown as cinema’s biggest and best action hero and super-spy. He’s got his work cut out. Pixar’s Brad Bird has, in his live action debut, set a worryingly-high benchmark for those who dare to follow - and I suspect we’re in for a long wait before we see an action film as utterly, breathlessly enjoyable as Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Go, IMF!

Extras: The Blu-ray has a lengthy piece on the Dubai filming and shorter pieces on the sandstorm sequence, filming in Vancouver and the movie’s props, as well as a couple of deleted scenes with commentary by Brad Bird.

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