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Thanks to a character-driven screenplay, and Brad Bird's thrilling live action filmmaking debut, 'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' injects new energy and life into an aging series. It's exciting, suspense and (rare these days) visual coherence fuel the action, and you actually care about the people. As a Blu-ray, it features top flight video and a killer, reference quality 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The high definition special features are well produced, and a cut above pat-on-the-back EPKs.
If you enjoyed 'Ghost Protocol' theatrically and have been anticipating this Blu-ray release, pre-order it now. Hell, there's a button on this page where you can do just that. If you're new to the franchise or haven't seen 'Ghost Protocol', this is a great place to start. As I said above, you might want to watch part three first to get the most out of it, but 'Ghost Protocol' still works as a standalone thriller. If you love audio demos, this is your new must-have disc for 2012.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' debuts on Blu-ray with a near-reference, stunning AVC MPEG-4 encode framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
This film looks great. Everything you love about high definition is on this disc. Inky black levels for night and underground scenes. Primary colors pop off the screen, especially in the India sequences. Skin tones are even (though perhaps a bit flushed) despite changes in the film's color palate to match various locations. Detail and resolution are superb, especially the 30 minutes of IMAX-filmed scenes, which attain a dimensionality akin to 3D. However, popping back and forth can be a little jarring, as the 35mm elements aren't quite as sharp. Film grain is subtle, but adds a nice texture to the experience. And, thankfully, there doesn't seem to be any edge enhancement or digital noise reduction on hand.
In terms are flaws or complaints, I have two. The first is an actual (minor) problem, and is the reason why this is a 4.5 star video rating. The second is more of a personal question, and does not affect the score.
In terms of flaws, while the only thing on the first disc is the film and its soundtracks, I did find one compression issue: banding. I noticed it in the scenes where we get to the team's Dubai hideout. Being smoky, darkly lit, and filled with about 800 variations on the color brown, I noticed a couple subtle, blocky bands in the background walls and stairs. Not the end of the world, really, and pretty hard to find, but there if you look closely.
My other nitpick is the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I'm sure those of you with constant height projection systems are thrilled with Mr. Bird's decision to crop the film for its entirety. However, I saw the film theatrically at an IMAX theatre and, much like 'The Dark Knight' and 'Tron: Legacy', would have enjoyed the various IMAX sequences expanded to a 16:9 aspect ratio (though admittedly, still not the full IMAX framing). The Burj sequence was terrifying thanks to the vertigo-inducing tall IMAX framing, and perhaps that would have translated here. However, I fully respect Mr. Bird's choice and, as I said before, this has no bearing on the score.
Overall, 'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' looks fantastic on Blu-ray and is just shy of perfection.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Simply put, this 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is pure demo material.
With the exception of the lackluster (in terms of surround sound) Paramount 100 Years logo theme music, this track literally opens with a bang and thrusts all listeners into the 'Mission: Impossible' universe. Sure, we expect the big stuff like car chases and explosions to rock our world, but this exemplary track is one of the most lifelike I've ever heard. Echoes of squeaking metal doors, claustrophobic sewers environments, the blowing wind swinging hundreds of feet in the air outside the Burj Dubai, the rippling shockwave of an impending explosion. It's all richly detail and absorbing.
When writing reviews, I often replay the film in the background. As I was typing this paragraph, I forgot about a certain ambush / car crash sequence and just startled myself as my entire living room swirled into action. Please note this isn't a pound-you-over-the-head track that is only loud and aggressive. It's subtle in how certain details appear discretely in all eight channels (again, lifelike). Dialog is always clear. LFE doesn't simply roar, it supports every door closing, gun shot and, as I said before, shockwave. If you're an audio fan who gets an inordinate amount of joy out of hearing your 7.1 system pushed in every direction over the entire dynamic range of sound, you'll love-love-love this track. 7.1 just got even better.
Overall, I couldn't find a single complaint. This is a must-listen disc and auditory perfection.
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