Last week, I took a drive through hideous rush hour traffic from my house in Northridge all the way to the IMAX theater that used to be called The Bridge, near the airport. And the crazy thing is that I didn’t do it to see a whole film. Nope. I did it just so I could see 20 minutes of the new “Mission: Impossible” film on an IMAX screen.
And I regret nothing.
There’s a new trailer for the film that is just now launching, and I’ll have that embedded for you below. First, though, let’s set some of what you’re going to see in context.
We saw two full sequences from he film, and producer Bryan Burk was on-hand to set up the two scenes for us. He’s Bad Robot’s producer on the film, and I think it was smart for Cruise to reach out to Bad Robot even though JJ Abrams wasn’t directing this one. Burk and Abrams are very smart commercial producers, and Cruise had a very good experience with them on the last film. Christopher McQuarrie, who also scripted “One Shot,” the currently-shooting Reacher adaptation that Cruise is starring in, was the lead writer on the film, and then Bad Robot brought in Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, writers they loved from “Alias” and a ton of other TV credits. They worked to once again make a “Mission: Impossible” film that feels different than any of the others in the series, something I like about the franchise.
The things that are consistent are certain iconic elements. The face masks. The team vibe. Tom Cruise running. A whole lot of Tom Cruise running. When director Brad Bird came onboard, he was given a very short list of things that they wanted to see in the film, and beyond that, he and the screenwriters were free to do something fresh with this one, and Bird, a huge fan of spy films, decided to try a different kind of challenge for the IMF team. “Ghost Protocol” is what happens when the entire agency is shut down and the team is left on their own in the field, without any resources other than themselves.
How does that play into the plot of the film? I have no idea. All I know is that about a half-hour into the film, there is a meeting set to take place between two parties in the tallest building in the world in Dubai, and Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team are determined to keep the meeting from happening, even though they want both parties to walk away thinking that they had the meeting. To pull this off, they need to take control of the building’s security system, they need to alter door numbers on two different floors, and they have to have full command of the elevators. All of this is explained by Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, one of the first cast-members to last more than one film besides Cruise) to Ethan, Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Carter (Paula Patton), but as he also explains, there’s a hitch. Seems the computer control room can only be accessed from the outside. And it’s very nearly on the top floor of the building.
You may have seen photos of Tom Cruise climbing around on the outside of the Burj Khalifa, which is indeed the tallest building in the world right now. 2, 723 feet. And Tom Cruise really did climb around on the outside of the thing. What you haven’t seen is what it looks like when you use an IMAX camera to shoot real footage looking straight down from that vantage point, and my acrophobia was sent into overdrive by even just the shots looking out the window before Cruise heads outside. When he actually makes the decision to climb out, eight windows over, and three floors up, that first step into nothing is so disturbing, so vertigo-inducing, that I had to close my eyes for a moment.
You want to see a little bit of Tom Cruise actin’ the fool for real? Check this out.
It’s an expertly built sequence that’s more about tension than action. Benji gives Ethan some gloves that adhere on a particle level to the windows. When they’re sealed, the lights on the back are green. Ethan’s told to roll his hands up to break that seal, causing the gloves to go red. He goes move by move, and of course, things do not go smoothly.
I don’t want to describe any more of the scene, because it’s not fair. It’s a major moment, and what’s more important than what happens is how well shot and cut the whole thing is. If you like Bird’s filmmaking in movies like “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” and “Ratatouille,” you’ll most likely dig his work here. There’s that same sense of wit punctuating beat after beat, that same sense of glee in the way he cranks up the stakes and the obstacles. It must have been amazing to get a chance to dangle one of the biggest movie stars on the planet that high up in the air and then shoot it with one of the biggest cameras on the planet, and there’s a real sense of malicious pleasure to the way the whole thing’s constructed.
At one point during the scene, before he heads outside, Ethan looks at a sandstorm that’s just rolling in at the furthest edge of Dubai. It’s still a long way off, and Benji tells Ethan not to worry about it. In the second sequence we saw, Ethan does indeed need to worry about it, and more urgently, he needs to outrun it.
Yes, that’s right. Tom Cruise outruns a sandstorm.
More than that, though. He’s running at first to get away from the sandstorm, but also so he doesn’t lose somebody. It’s masterfully staged stuff, and much of what happens is just outrageous. Ethan goes from foot to motorcycle to car, and well before he gets to the vehicles, he’s smack dab in the middle of the storm. So that chase that goes from foot to motorcycle to car? It’s in two-foot visibility. Cruise and the guy he’s chasing are barely visible, and vehicles loom up out of nowhere, and there are some spectacular near-misses. It’s a very cool, very immersive sequence, and again, shooting in IMAX makes a difference. There’s this crazy otherworldly quality to the footage, hyperclear and huge.
Overall, I walked away with no sense whatsoever of the dramatic or narrative side of the film. I don’t know what the plot is. I don’t know who the characters really are or how they relate. But I do know that Brad Bird’s action chops look to be in fine form in live-action, and if the whole film has the same sort of character humor mixed with high-impact tension, then it could be a great addition to the franchise, and one of the coolest films this Christmas.
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” opens in IMAX on December 16th, and then in regular theaters December 21st, and don’t forget… if you see it in IMAX, you’ll also get an exclusive look at a six-minute sequence from next summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”
For now, here’s the brand-new trailer for the film:
Fingers crossed. The fuse is lit.