Mission: Impossible: Special Collector’s Edition (HD-DVD) Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: PG-13 (Some intense action violence) Aspect Ratio: 2.38:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1 Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Subtitles: English; Spanish; English SDH Time: 110 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date:1996 DVD Release Date: October 30, 2006 Note: Since I recently reviewed the SD DVD, I am porting over my comments on the film itself and the extras, making a couple changes that are specific to the HD-DVD. I have also added new comments and comparisons between the SD and HD-DVD’s. Everything is not as it seems, and that is the charm of these impossible missions. The picture opens with Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) receiving a video briefing of a potential mission for him and his IMF (Impossible Mission Force) should they choose to accept it. The CIA has a NOC-list that contains code names and true names of all their agents working deep cover in Eastern Europe. A traitor has stolen half of the list, and he is attempting to get the other half. Only when the two halves are merged will they match the code name to the true name of the agent. The team is to shadow the traitor to a party at the Prague embassy where he is going to steal the second half of the list. They are to obtain photographic proof of the theft, shadow him and apprehend him and his buyer. Phelps heads to Prague to meet up with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team and brief them about the mission. We get to see tech master Jack’s (Emilio Estevez, in an un-credited role) fun gadgets such as the video glasses, TV wristwatch and gum stick explosives. The mission begins and it seems to be going as scheduled until Jack is killed. The mission continues to go horribly wrong, eventually putting Ethan on the run for his life and letting the disc containing the NOC-list go into the open. He contacts the higher- ups to help him out and realizes there was an overall plot to set up him and his team. It turns out they were just a part of a much larger and complex plot to flush out a mole in the organization believed to be Ethan. They think, since $100,000 mysteriously wound up in Ethan’s parents bank account, he was working in conjunction with an arms dealer, Max, to secure the NOC List. By surviving the mission, Ethan is now “disavowed” and he’s off to clear his name and find the mole. Ethan makes a double deal with Max to steal the real list from Langley, so he assembles a new team of disavowed agents, including Franz Krieger (Jean Reno) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). IMF’s head honcho Kittridge is still hot on his trail too, looking for any sign Ethan is active. Kittridge, becoming increasingly frustrated with Ethan, uses Ethan’s family as a way to aggravate him in order to get him to come in. Phelps “resurfaces” while Ethan is in London, and he helps him to uncover the conspiracy. What happens next uncovers the truth in the lies and shows not everyone is what they seem. “Mission: Impossible” features a fun opening sequence that hearkens back to the opening of the TV series, with quick cuts of upcoming scenes to entice the viewer. It also welcomes us to a Brian De Palma picture. While the plot itself gets convoluted at times and even close attention can yield minimal understanding of what’s going on, De Palma keeps you interested visually. Plot aside, this picture is a pleasure to watch to see De Palma in action. Some consider De Palma a master of suspense, and his previous pictures seem to affirm it (check out “Carrie” and “Body Double”). De Palma uses tricky camera shots (such as the party at the embassy where we are in first person perspective of Cruise) to put you, the viewer, square in the middle of the action and make you feel what it’s like to be Ethan Hunt. To heighten the tension in a subsequent scene, De Palma uses split screens from the elevator and the floor while they’re tracking the traitor, Golitsyn. The best example of De Palma’s style in this picture, however, is the nail-biting scene in the computer room at Langley. Those of you who have seen the movie know what I’m talking about, and those of you who have yet to see it are in for a treat! De Palma and the picture’s editor Paul Hirsch artfully meld music, sound and picture in the scene at the restaurant in Prague where Ethan meets Kittridge. De Palma uses low shots to make Kittridge seem more imposing and evil while framing Cruise in such a way to make you feel as he does, that his whole world is off kilter. As an aside, having not seen this picture since ’96, I found it has begun to date itself. At the time, we were in the early days of the Internet and the picture reflects what was “hi-tech” at the time: Ethan searches for info on Job 3:14 via Usenet searches, not Google; floppy disc capacity was a whopping 230mb; one of the characters mentions “686 prototypes”. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. This is what I had to say about the video on the SD-DVD: “The picture is finally anamorphically enhanced (which is reason enough to upgrade) and it appears to have a correctly framed 2.38:1 image. Close inspection of the picture, however, shows edge enhancement and blurring of fine details. Overall, color detail is rendered very well almost to the point of over saturation, especially in the flesh tones. The flesh tones seem too red to me, and they don’t always appear natural. Black levels are deep and show good detail. Note: Since this is the first time the DVD was presented anamorphically, I did not see much of a reason to do a side-by-side comparison of this release with the previous release.” The HD-DVD showed me just how good SD DVD technology is almost ten years since its introduction. Outside of improved sharpness and clarity, I was hard pressed to see much difference between the two editions. Color saturation and black levels are almost identical. The HD-DVD does not seem to have the edge enhancement or blurring issues the SD DVD exhibited. Detail was improved in the HD disc as well. Audio The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection This is what I had to say about the audio on the SD-DVD “’Mission: Impossible’ features a very dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that delivers a great workout for the surrounds. There are a lot of good stereo effects sweeping across the front channels, while the center channel accurately contains most of the voices of the characters. The bass is good and punchy, giving the subs a good workout. Mid’s and highs are also well represented in the musical soundtrack. The effects and music envelope you and put you in the center of the sound field.” As with the video, the Dolby Digital Plus track is similar, but far more reserved. It is not as loud and it exhibits much tighter mids and a less aggressive bass line. Whereas the SD LFE’s were thunderous and powerful and really standing out, the DD+ LFE’s integrate better with the overall audio presentation. The DD+ also had improved clarity, probably due to the reduction in volume. Bonus Materials: With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG 2 unless otherwise noted. All of the SD-DVD extras have been ported over to the HD-DVD. Mission: Remarkable- 40 Years of Creating the Impossible (11:25) A background doc on the origins of the initial update as well as information on the two sequels, with interviews with Cruise, Producer Paula Wagner, De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and others. It only goes into M:I-2 and M:I-3. This doc seems like they just took the two electronic press kits and slapped them together, and for touting “40 Years…” in the title, it sure doesn’t cover enough of the TV show. Mission: Explosive Exploits: (5:08): Information on the stunts with a lot of background footage, especially of the tank explosion at the restaurant in Prague. Mission: International Spy Museum (6:30): This is pretty cool: a tour of the International Spy Museum that shows us all kinds of real world gadgets used by real world Ethan Hunt’s! Mission: Spies Among Us (8:40): Could there be spies among us? Plain looking men and women who take on impossible missions? Watch and find out! Mission: Catching the Train(2:38):John Knoll, who was also the effects supervisor for the “Star Wars” prequels, briefly explains how the train shots were done. Mission: Agent Dossiers: Video “dossiers” of the seven main characters. Tribute Montages – Excellence in Film: Cruise(12:20): A video montage of memorable Cruise scenes from his movies that was produced for BAFTA/LA’s Stanley Kubrick Brittania Award for Excellence in Film. Also included is Cruise’s acceptance speech at the event. The “Generation Cruise” Tribute Montage (3:32) is followed by his acceptance speech at the MTV Generation Awards (3:40). Mission: Impossible Teaser and Theatrical trailers (VC-1, 2.38:1, DD+). Mission: Marketing: TV Spots: Nine TV spots. Photo Gallery. Conclusions: “Worth the upgrade?” is probably the biggest question one would have, and I would have to say no. When comparing the two editions, I was still very impressed with the quality of the SD-DVD. However, if you have not purchased the title yet, I would definitely recommend the HD-DVD over the SD-DVD for the reasons stated above, plus, you get the same extras.