Updated: Nov 14, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital copy; 2011; PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: "Mission Accepted" three-part ‘making of’ documentary
PARAMOUNT is quickly becoming the 4K studio of the year, releasing some of the studio’s finest modern classics on the Ultra HD format. Since April, we’ve seen Oscar winners “Saving Private Ryan,” “Gladiator,” “Braveheart” and “Forrest Gump” – all leaps and bounds better than the previous Blu-rays.
As the studio prepares for “Mission: Impossible: Fallout,” the sixth installment in the Tom Cruise franchise in July, Paramount has completely remastered the earlier films in 4K with stunning results: “Mission: Impossible” (1996), “Mission: Impossible II” (2000), “Mission: Impossible III” (2006), “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011) and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015).
THE best of the bunch is “M:I-4 – Ghost Protocol” from whiz-bang director Brad Bird. It got a 92 percent rating on rottentomatoes.com and made $694 million worldwide. Bird is the toast of Hollywood this week after the debut of “Incredibles 2,” which he wrote and directed, had the best domestic opening weekend ($180 million) for an animated feature film. His track record has been incredible ever since “The Iron Giant” (1999), then two back-to-back Disney/Pixar classics “The Incredibles” (2004) and “Ratatouille” (2007); his first live-action “Ghost Protocol,” and then “Tomorrowland” (2015).
Bird has done the IMPOSSIBLE switching between the animated world and live-action and then back. He elevated Cruise’s franchise even above producer/director J.J. Abrams’ efforts on “MI3,” which gave the series a real shot-in-the-arm after the disappointing “MI2” from director John Woo.
Bird's inspiration was Steven Spielberg's classic "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and nail-biter "Die Hard," starring Bruce Willis. "Both are expertly directed and have flawed heroes that really struggle to get through the movie," Bird says during one of the nearly dozen featurettes. Cruise has given each of his directors' plenty of latitude to incorporate their own style and look. "The John Woo one ("Mission Impossible II") is different than the Brian De Palma one ("Mission Impossible") which is different than the J.J. one. It meant I was free to put my own stamp on it," Bird says.
"Ghost Protocol" opens with a well-orchestrated breakout from a Russian prison. Ethan Hunt busts out with a little help from IMF friends, agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and comic relief Benji Dunn played by Simon Pegg. The team follows up trying to retrieve Russian nuclear codes from inside the Kremlin to keep madman Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) from starting World War III.
Bird's visual mark is super clear, key action sequences – especially when filming from the world's tallest skyscraper (Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates), with the super-sized IMAX camera. Agent Hunt hangs 126 floors from the ground, using a gadget-glove that keeps him attached to the side of the building. There's no CGI here, just a special harness, cables and a fearless actor.
Bird admits grabbing the IMAX idea after watching director Christopher Nolan's IMAX work in “The Dark Knight.” Still, the large format has its issues. The camera is extremely noisy making dialogue tough to capture, and the film stock, which is 10 times larger than normal 35mm film, is awfully pricey. But the benefits are enormous. "It's grainless, it's sharp. You can see incredible details, even though the screen is huge, and it fills your point of view," Bird says.
The featurettes hit all aspects of the production filmed in seven countries over 90 days, including iPhone footage from the director who provides a personal video diary throughout. It shows how Prague was transformed into Moscow, using a historic castle as the Kremlin, and an abandoned Czech prison. The prison sequence involved 200 extras. Normally, it would have been six days of shooting, but, Cruise worked day and night without sleep with two different crews and finished in four days. The final results are only four minutes and 46 seconds on screen, but they are fantastic. Cruise's stunt work is – again – astonishing. "If he ever stopped acting he could be a stuntman," says stunt coordinator Gregg Smrz. "He's doing the same stuff that any stunt guy would do, and gets the same bruises."
Other bonus features highlight the production in Vancouver, and a car chase sequence in Dubai; props, a sandstorm, the music, deleted scenes, with commentary from Bird, and an alternate opening scene.
The 4K presentation is magnificent – especially the clarity from the IMAX scenes (12K resolution in the digital realm) filmed in Budapest and Dubai, with the rest captured on 65mm film stock and 35mm (2.40:1 aspect ratio). All of the formats were mastered in 4K for the finest detail at home. The HDR/Dolby Vision toning has the darkest blacks I’ve seen without losing detail. Colors are richer and bolder, with a nice warm cast during a huge party in India as Agent Carter seeks to retrieve a satellite access code from an Indian telecommunications entrepreneur. Facial toning is natural throughout. The film grain is nearly non-distinguishable with the IMAX moments and has a nice wash of grain during the rest. Only in a brief Super 35 format scene does the grain get out of hand; it does not match the rest of “Ghost Protocol.”
These 4K frame shots provide a honest sample of the HDR toning and clarity.
The new disc carries over the original Dolby TrueHD soundtrack featured on the Blu-ray. It was a winner, blasting from eight channels, giving any system a REAL workout from subwoofer to front and rear speakers. Immersion is complete throughout, especially when Benji cues up Dean Martin’s breezy “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” as a signal for the Moscow prison escape.
What an exhilarating ride from start to finish.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer