This December Tom Cruise will bring IMF agent Ethan Hunt and his team of tech-savvy international super spies back into theaters with the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Yesterday Paramount Pictures released a behind-the-scenes featurette  on one of the most impressive stunts in the film — Tom Cruise  in Dubai scaling Burj Khalifa, the side of the tallest building in the world.

Last week, we had the opportunity to attend a special IMAX screening of nearly nearly twenty minutes of Ghost Protocol, which included the full Burj Khalifa stunt. Today, the studio released the latest trailer for film. Watch the new trailer, and check out our thoughts on the footage as well.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol Trailer

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol Footage Response:

The screening was introduced by J.J. Abrams’ frequent partner-in-crime, producer Bryan Burk, who reminded reporters that nearly thirty minutes of Ghost Protocol was shot with IMAX cameras. The last mixed-medium film that utilized the technology to that extent was The Dark Knight, which had four IMAX sequences (about twenty minutes of footage). Another IMAX link between Batman and Ethan Hunt: the full IMAX version of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol will include an exclusive six-minute prologue to The Dark Knight Rises. The Ghost Protocol trailer will screen in front of Paramount’s Puss in Boots (opening  in theaters this weekend).

It’s been five years since the last Mission: Impossible and fifteen years since Cruise initially introduced the rebooted franchise to the world, and as Burk tells it, the actor wanted this film to be bigger, more international, and to freshen the franchise. The first of those goals was met with sequences such as the Burj Khalifa climb, the first and second were addressed by taking the production to Dubai, Prauge, Mumbai, Russia and Los Angeles (among other locations). The third goal was met when the producers brought director Brad Bird onboard to helm the film.

Bird is, of course, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind the animated films The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. He had been putting out feelers to direct a live-action film when the M:I4 team approached him about the project. The producers felt that Bird would be able to capture the danger, suspense and action that a Mission: Impossible film needs, while bringing a sense of levity that would distinguish it from the previous franchise offerings.

Bird is (not surprisingly) a fan of the spy/espionage genre in general, and when he spoke with the producers about his favorite James Bond spy films and Steven Spielberg adventure films, they became convinced that the director could deliver a final product that had a “distinctly Brad Bird tone.” The footage that we screened was selected as prime examples of the feel that the filmmakers were looking to capture.

If the image of Cruise hanging by one hand from the edge of Burj Khalifa induces even the slightest sense of vertigo as you watch it in the online trailer, then allow us to assure you that the full IMAX experience will have you clutching your seat (or the arm of the nearest person) and wondering why any sane person ever travels an inch above sea-level.

As you likely know, M:I4 follows Ethan Hunt and his team as they work to clear the IMF name after the agency is implicated in the bombing of the Russian Kremlin – an event that forces them to go into “ghost protocol,” a condition in which the agency no longer (officially) exists.

The first scene that we screened centered on the (former) agents’ need to prevent two of their enemies (let us call them subjects A and B) from meeting in Burj Khalifa. Their mission: to make the two believe they had met, via a grand scale illusion that would leave even David Blaine impressed.

[WARNING – MILD SPOILERS]

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We open on the team prepping for their operation driving along the dusty (and camel filled) roads of Dubai. Each member knows their place, their role — they are the computer geek, the leader, the lovely lady operative. Everyone, that is, other than Jeremy Renner’s Brandt, who awkwardly tries to find his way in the pack as the undefined “helper guy.”

The unit must attempt to make the impossible possible, sans any of their outside resources.

The plan (involving a combination of tech and good old-fashioned con artistry) is doable except for one obstacle: they cannot control the elevators they need without access to the building’s mainframe – a mainframe that can only be accessed from the outside. For an added bit of spice, there is a massive sandstorm headed their way.

These are the circumstances that force Hunt to ascend the side of the tallest building in the world, equipped with a pair of gloves that mimic the setae (hair-like structures) on a geckos’ toe pads.  (For science nerds, these gloves are actually in development). Unfortunately, the kinks in Hunt’s gloves have not yet been worked out and the failure leaves him (literally) hanging out to dry.

If you see this film in IMAX, I defy you not to get dizzy at least once. Watching the sequence is akin to the laughing thrill you might experience while riding a roller coaster – only from the safety of your theater seat. The scene does indeed deliver on the promise you have seen in the trailers and the behind-the-scenes footage. This is the centerpiece of the film for a reason, and it was also one of the sequences that (clearly crazy) Tom Cruise knew he wanted to do when they began the project.

The second scene follows the events in Burj Khalifa. A full-scale sandstorm has hit and Hunt is running (is there anything quite like watching Tom Cruise run?) directly into the storm. He chases his prey through the increasingly labyrinthine streets of Dubai, utilizing a tracking device that only intermittently works. The conceit works to create a nice sense of tension, and provides us with a unique setting for a classic chase scene.

The tone of the footage was indeed light and playful, the action (that we were able to see) was incredibly well-executed and genuinely effective, and the IMAX images were stunning. Though we cannot yet predict the strength of the story (or the final film) with any certainty, as of now we are looking forward to seeing it.

Stay tuned for more of our Ghost Protocol coverage (including our interview with director Brad Bird) as we move toward the film’s release.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol opens in a limited release in IMAX theaters on December 16th and wide release on December 21st.

Brad Bird directs a cast that includes Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Tom Wilkinson and Ving Rhames.

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