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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Brad Bird, 2011 (Paramount)
If you have even a little fear of heights — as I do myself — there’s a scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, that should leave you breathless. Producer-star Tom Cruise, playing the Mission Impossible series’ head impossibler, Ethan Hunt, has to sneak from one room to another in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in the United Arab Emirate. That’s the building that’s currently the world‘s tallest: 160 stories or 2,723 feet high. (Compared to Burj Khalifa, The Empire State Builiding (102 floors) and the old World Trade Center (110 floors) would be somewhere way down there.)
Deciding to do things the hard way, Ethan knocks out a window in the Mission Impossible crew‘s apartment, which is, oh, about 123 stories up. (Yikes!) A whole empty wall is now facing Cruise (we‘ll call him Cruise from now on), and he swings outside, with a climbing harness and wires, and suction gloves that stick to the buildings side. (Ai Yi Ai….) All Mission Impossibled up, he goes climbing up the side of the Burj. And, because this scene was shot in deep-deep-deep-focus IMAX, and is being shown on both regular and IMAX screens (I saw it in IMAX) and because cinematographer Robert Elswit and company are very good with cameras, we seem to be able to see all the way down to the ground, or at least to the tops of those other little smidgens of skyscrapers, way, way down there. The effect of being really up there is astonishing, terrifying. (Yow! Yow! Yow!).
Anyway Cruise keeps climbing up. He has that intense, focused Tom Cruise look on his face. But since we’re 123 stories up, it must be a little windy. And — wouldn‘t you now it? — his equipment starts to show some bugs. Specifically, one of the suction gloves starts to peel off the wall, and he has to throw it away. Cruise…has…to…take…off…the…glove…and…throw…it…away. While he’s up there, 123 floors high. And with assassins who want to kill them still in the building. (Ay-yay-yikes!)
I’m not going to tell you the rest. You’ll have to see it yourself — and when you do, see it in IMAX. There’s a big difference. I still think, even after Scorsese’s Hugo, that 3D is a gimmick I can take or leave, but I love IMAX. All I have to say more about “The Scene” — in a movie for which Cruise is reported to have insisted on doing his own stunts — is that if he really did do all of it, without CGI, and without a net, and without fakery of some kind, I think he deserves a special Oscar for the  most totally crazy performance by a star movie actor in 2011 who has succeeded in scaring the living hell out of his audience. He has no competition.
That scene alone though is worth the price of the ticket, especially if you see it in IMAX. And the movie has four or five more that, if not quite as nail-biting (parts of which are obviously faked), are still pretty spectacular, and are better and scarier than what you’ll see in most any other action blockbuster around. This is the fourth of the MI movies, which started in 1995, with the original show directed by Brian De Palma (and the next two by John Woo and J.J. Abrams, who co-produced this one). In the movie, Cruise and a thrown-together supporting crew — tough gal Jane Carter (Paula Patton), wise cracking techno-whiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, a holdover from MI3) and moody agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) — get together on a ghost mission (they have no support, no visibility, no deniability and no help) to foil an insane nuclear terrorist who wants to blow up the world: Michael Nyqvist as Hendricks.
This was the best big-budget action movie out last year not just because it has the best action, but because the characters are interesting too: everyone we‘ve mentioned, plus the uncredited Tom Wilkinson as a spy boss, Lea Seydoux as a cold-blooded knockout killer, and Anil Kapoor (of Slumdog Millionaire) as a fashion plate baddie. Bird, who directed those modern animated feature gems, The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille — has a clean, clear, expert-looking filmmaking technique full of visual gusto and visual wit. His other showpiece sequences here include a terrific prison break, a bizarre gadgety break-in capped by the explosion of the Kremlin, a terrific car-chase and, the second best scene, a fight over a briefcase with the nuclear button, in an indoor garage, with hero and villain battling on independently rising and lowering parking spots.
But that Burj Khalifa Tom Cruise climb sequence: that’s pretty amazing. Not as funny as Harold Lloyd’s human fly routine in Safety Last, but definitely the scariest thing I’ve seem or hope to see in a movie, this year. Tower Heist, eat your heart out. By the way, the Burj Khalifa has a low occupancy rate, due to the world’s economic woes, but they do have somebody up on the 16oth floor. I just hope it isn’t Philippe Petit, the daredevil acrobat French  guy who walked on a high wire between the Twin Towers in Man on Wire, with a guerilla filmmaking crew shooting it. And if it is Petit, I hope he didn’t sneak in a camera and a camera guy. Or Tom Cruise.

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Wilmington

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A Spirited Exchange

“In some ways Christopher Nolan has become our Stanley Kubrick,” reads the first sentence of David Bordwell’s latest blog post–none of which I want or intend to read after that desperate opening sentence. If he’d written “my” or “some people’s” instead of “our”, I might have read further. Instead, I can only surmise that in some ways David Bordwell may have become our Lars von Trier.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum On Facebook

“Jonathan has written a despicable thing in comparing me to Trump. He’s free to read or not read what I write, and even to judge arguments without reading them. It’s not what you’d expect from a sensible critic, but it’s what Jonathan has chosen to do, for reasons of a private nature he has confided to me in an email What I request from him is an apology for comparing my ideas to Trump’s.”
~ David Bordwell Replies

“Yes, I do apologize, sincerely, for such a ridiculous and quite unwarranted comparison. The private nature of my grievance with David probably fueled my post, but it didn’t dictate it, even though I’m willing to concede that I overreacted. Part of what spurred me to post something in the first place is actually related to a positive development in David’s work–an improvement in his prose style ever since he wrote (and wrote very well) about such elegant prose stylists as James Agee and Manny Farber. But this also brought a journalistic edge to his prose, including a dramatic flair for journalistic ‘hooks’ and attention-grabbers, that is part of what I was responding to. Although I realize now that David justifies his opening sentence with what follows, and far less egregiously than I implied he might have, I was responding to the drum roll of that opening sentence as a provocation, which it certainly was and is.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum Replies

“In my own mind, I’ve always been a writer and the fact that I act is, well… it’s been very enjoyable and I love doing it. It has been good for me, but in my own mind I’m just a writer with a bizarre activity—acting—that I undertake.”
~ Wallace Shawn