9:30am Bałtyk Kino, Prezydenta Gabriela Narutowicza 20
The thing I love most about being in a city with over 500,000 people and an intense love of film is the fact that you are guaranteed to find at least one cinema screening films at a ridiculously early hour of the day. When I first lived in Łódź, Bałtyk Kino did a particularly good job of catering to my irregular film-going hours, providing me with early morning schedules as well as late-night double feature retrospectives and epic all-night movie marathons. Back in 2001 Bałtyk was still a heavyweight Łodż cinema, with the multiplexes only just having emerged on the Polish cinema landscape. Now owned by the Helios cinema group (who also own Polonia and ran the now defunct Kapitol in the city), Bałtyk has been around since 1927. During the Communist period in Poland it underwent a massive expansion, broadly in line with many of the state-owned Adria cinemas, which left it with a massive main screen, that can comfortably seat 750 viewers in one screening. It’s also one of the few curved screens in Poland, which make it ideal for the perfect presentation of widescreen features.
Until 2003 the cinema was just off Narutowicza, one of the main streets that horizontally bisects Piotrkowksa. Since then the location has remained the same, but the cinema is now at the rear of the newly constructed Philharmonic Hall, with a tunnel-like passageway leading to the main entrance, that oddly lends Bałtyk the air of a grotto. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the cinema’s exterior is the somewhat tacky giant Oscar statue that is appended to the wall beside the foyer.
Having had my early morning caffeine fix and taken the short hop from Piotrkowska to Narutowicza, I was surprised to see how little had changed since I’d last been in the cinema, a few years ago. The foyer is still absurdly poky and entirely disproportionate to the size of the screens that lie behind it. In the foyer you have a decent concessions stand that stocks a selection of sweets and crisps, the usual soft drinks and popcorn, as well as a few more ‘luxurious’ items such as ice-cream and nachos. With it being so early in the day, not even a glutton like myself required any hasty nourishment.
The film I went to see was the latest installment of the Mission Impossible franchise, entitled Mission Impossible: Ghost Franchise. Since the opening of multiplexes like Silver Screen and Cinema City, Bałtyk has tended to focus on screening Polish cinema releases and films that are best suited to projection upon its gigantic main screen. The MI film was being shown on the main screen, which features state-of-the-art Dolby Digital Surround Sound and one of the clearest projections I’ve witnessed in any cinema, ever. The seats are comfortable, being cushioned and yet firm, with plenty of leg space. The rows of seats slope gently upwards away from the screen, but due to the colossal size of the screen there would be little hope of my view being blocked, even if more than the two people in attendance had shown up. Despite being almost alone in the auditorium I felt entirely immersed in a classic cinema-viewing experience and thoroughly enjoyed the film. I can remember previous visits to Bałtyk (the first Lord of the Rings movie in particular) when this main auditorium was packed out and the atmosphere was genuinely electric, seeming much more like a live theatrical event. Despite having to endure increased competition Bałtyk is still an immense cinema, that projects films the way that the director has intended them to be projected. Finally, it doesn’t skimp on the trailers (a vital part of the cinema-going experience) unlike its fellow Helios stablemate Polonia. The price of my ticket was an early morning bargain of just 13 zł (normally 14 zł), with standard ticket prices being 17zł.
Cinema Experience: 10/10
In terms of the film Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was a welcome return to form for a franchise that had looked dead in the water last time out. Tom Cruise may increasingly be looking his age, but he can still deliver a solid performance in the action hero stakes. Cruise obviously had creative control over the project and has been able to equip himself with a solid supporting cast and a good director (Brad Bird coming over from Pixar animation). Jeremy Renner is a welcome addition to the team and lends some dramatic heft to proceedings, whilst Simon Pegg gives good geek as the guy with all the gadgets and Paula Patton is a game and very physical female lead. The movie also manages to find two admirable Euro-villains in Léa Seydoux’s blonde assassin and Michael Nyqvist fanatical physicist, both of whom are eerily self-contained.
There isn’t really much that’s revelatory about the plotting, but MI has rarely been about the story. Intriguingly Cruise and Co. seem to have set their sights on inhabiting the middle-ground between the cool glamour and bravado of the Bond franchise and the gritty, globe-hopping, techno hyper-realism of the Bourne series. The film particular excels in its action set pieces, the most notable of which include: an all-out Russian prison riot, the detonation of the Kremlin and a bit of extreme base-jumping on the world’s tallest building, in Dubai. The BMW corporation clearly provided much of the funding for the movie, as not only do the latest prototype models get an early airing, but the films climactic sequence actually occurs in one of the companies plants. Barely halting to draw breath Cruise seems hell-bent on putting his character, Ethan Hunt, through some of the most adrenalin-fuelled sequences to grace the silver screen in 2011. The film even manages to end with a strangely satisfying emotional coda, that sees Renner and Cruise flex a little acting muscle. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable, big budget romp.
Film Rating: 6/10