In his first live-action movie, director Brad Bird has already mastered the use of the giant screen IMAX format (typically at least 72’ tall x 53’ wide –way bigger than what I call the mini-max screens in multiplex cinemas). Even better, Bird interweaves multiple scenes totaling about 25-minutes of cumulative footage into the 2-hour and 12-minute movie to maximum effect.
And what an effect; midway through the film the screen image enlarges to show the vast vista of the desert via a helicopter-type shot flying into Dubai, with every bit of the seven-story height of the screen filled to give a proper sense of awe for the 160-story Burj Khalifa tower just before the camera swoops to the top and tilts to give the audience a look down. It’s not long before the eye-popping view includes Tom Cruise performing stunts on the outside of the building 130-stories high.
This is where the other advantage of IMAX kicks in: the screen image is so large that it fills your entire field of view, enormously heightening the impact and thrill. This is the definition of being immersed in the experience.
The only thing that would have created an even bigger impact would have been to present these scenes in 3D as well.
<Review continues below following video of director Bird explaining about shooting in IMAX and showing video highlights…>
The movie’s jolting pre-title sequence featuring Josh Holloway (Sawyer from “Lost”) in a rather surprising role begins in full-screen format before scaling back to a more standard (but still larger than normal) widescreen rectangular shape. Thereafter Bird seems to rather arbitrarily switch back to the full-screen format for the iconic fuse-burning title sequence and a couple other sequences before later adopting the format specifically for the most visually compelling sequences, including chases and action scenes.
It’s not just the IMAX scenes that are visually compelling: Cruise’s Impossible Mission Force cohort played by Paula Patton is a knockout when dressed to the nines in low-cut, one-shoulder dress and delivers vicious knockout blows to anyone who gets in her way. She’s pretty much the perfect action-movie actress package.
And Cruise’s sleek new ride, the BMW i8 with the see-through doors, is nearly as eye-catching.
Cruise still looks pretty darn good himself, at least when he is wearing clothes (his bare chest, stomach, and arms are starting to show some age) and when donning sunglasses reminiscent of “Risky Business.”
And Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) is a nice addition as a slightly brooding and mysterious new member of the team.
Bird takes a risk by extending the movie well beyond the concluding action climax but the gamble pays off when he scores an unexpectedly poignant moment.
The attempted humor, particularly near the beginning with Simon Pegg returning five years after the last installment in this series as the goofy techno-nerd, doesn’t always work, and some of the storyline and plot elements seem a little more superfluous and less convincing than the J.J. Abrams-directed “Mission: Impossible 3,” still the best in the franchise.
But none of that matters much. “Ghost Protocol,” especially with the IMAX enhancements, offers the biggest thrills and the most fun you will have in a movie theater throughout the entire holiday season.
And that experience will begin exclusively in 300 domestic IMAX theaters this Friday, Dec. 16, and 200 international IMAX theaters this week, before the Paramount Pictures release opens in traditional cinemas five days later on Dec. 21.
— By Scott Hettrick