By Richard von Busack
Show up early and get into the sweet spot in a 70mm Imax Theater meaning, near the center and back a row or two. Not only will you be the first person in your block to see Bane’s inadvisable method of catching a plane, via The Dark Knight Rises prelude. Not only will you get some handsome aerial shots of downtown Budapest. You also get the full effect of Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol: The Imax Experience’s money sequence, a technical marvel of cinema, effective on a completely visceral level.
Given no other alternatives, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt crawls up the side of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. He does this wearing some sort of defective electric climbing gloves. The right one fritzs out on him a bit. Whatever you say about Cruise, and however braced and harnessed he was, he was insanely brave to do the actual stunts on this. It’s a physically painful, palm-sweating ordeal to watch. It certainly cleared out the chakras.
Calling the rest of it a good movie, just for this demonstration of Imax’s ability to play soccer with your stomach, would be like describing This Is Cinerama as an unforgettable classic.
See it in a regular aspect ratio at a tinier screen at the multiplex and it’d be mildly diverting. Making his live action film debut, longtime Pixar talent Brad Bird builds three other ingenious, silent-movie comedy quality sequences.
One is a car chase in a blinding haboob. The sequence is not just a discursion; this immense dust storm justifies itself in a movie about nuclear terror, since it looks so much like what happens when an atomic bomb goes off.
Also pleasurable: the Impossible Mission Force hoodwinking a guard in the Kremlin using a digital screen. The third tasty sequence is a finale in a futuristic Mumbai car garage, which ejects parked cars at the fistfighting hero and villain. And eye candy is provided by Paula Patton, who gives and gets a martial arts lesson from Lea Seydoux (of Mysteries of Lisbon) as an assassin of superb blonde insolence.
The matchbook version of the film's plot is that the Cold War is rebooted by an attack on the Kremlin, leaving the IMF in the cold. But the minimum coherency of this easy plot gets tangled, even without the customary combination of masks-and-treachery.
It’s a New Austerity Mission: Impossible. The joke here is that nothing works. Cell phones break up, messages refuse to self-destruct. Even the rubber-mask making apparatus malfunctions, oozing vanilla-colored muck like a broken waffle iron.
Cruise, strange man-without-qualities that he is, is supposed to be darker here, vengeful because of a dead wife. Despite this, he keeps following the path of Barney the Dinosaur, reminding the team that they're a team, and that teamwork will pull the team together. And the film is tougher on the credulity than some Moore-era 007 films; to buy in, you have to believe that (1. a nuclear missile could behave like the one we see here, (2. that Jeremy Renner’s magnetic flying suit wouldn’t lobotomize the electronic gizmos he carries, or 3). that actual human beings would actually say something like “Failure for a terrorist is just a rehearsal for success.”