Mission: Impossible: III 2- Disc Collector’s Edition (HD-DVD) Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: PG-13 Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 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: 125 minutes Disc Format: 2 SS/DL HD-DVD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2006 DVD Release Date: October 30, 2006 Coming off the some of the critical issues that hampered the first two Mission: Impossible pictures, director J.J. Abrams applied his Alias sensibilities to this new impossible mission to make a very satisfying picture. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has taken a teaching job training new agents and he is about to settle down with his girl, Julia (Michelle Monaghan). However, he gets a call telling him one of those trainees has been captured and they want Ethan to get her back. He does, but not without some problems. Ethan learns there is a bad-ass weapons dealer, Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who must be stopped before he gains the mysterious rabbit’s foot, a…something that is presumably, bad. After Ethan’s team captures Davian, he is promptly rescued and goes on to grab Julia. Ethan then must retrieve the rabbit’s foot and give it to Davian in order to exchange Julia. Oh, yeah, and there’s a double agent in the IMF agency. All in a day’s work for our man Hunt. If you noticed, I glossed over what seems to be the main point of the plot, the rabbit’s foot and the end of the world. This is not the case: Abrams tricks us by making this a picture about the characters and their motivations with an “end of the world” type story to move them along. I came out of the picture initially annoyed that there was no “end of the world” business, but in retrospect, this would have failed to set this picture apart from its previous counterparts. Abrams, as he did with the TV show Alias draws the audience in with new angles to Hunt’s character, putting him in a domestic setting, then quickly hurting him to show us that even our hero doesn’t win every time. Even though Hunt got beat up in the other two M:I pictures, this one made me think, at least for a second, they may kill him off. With all the non-sense that surrounds Cruise and his off screen antics (which may have led up to his split with Paramount), this was a fair assessment. Unfortunately, as much as I like Abrams, this picture maintains much of the same pacing and beats as Alias leaving me to wonder on a couple occasions when Sydney Bristow was going to walk in to save Ethan. Aside from that, we are given a lean, exciting picture that dwells in moments of great melodrama played out by a fine supporting cast. Hoffman and Laurence Fishburne get to play very directed characters that save their venom for just the right moment to make the point of their delivery very fine. Keri Russell plays a plot device that deserved a bit more screen time, and Ving Rhames reprises his role to keep Ethan, and us, laughing. 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. The 2.35:1 HD-DVD is encoded at 1080p using the VC-1 codec. As has been noted on several fan reviews of this disc, it is simply outstanding. Sharpness is exceptional without being too hot, showing beautiful detail throughout the picture. Colors are dead on accurate and Abrams and his DP utilized a very broad color palate, so you will have a lot to enjoy. The scenes in Shanghai leap off the screen (as does Cruise!) and maintain their edges and sharpness without bleeding over into one another. Flesh tones are, as expected, accurate, and I suggest spending some time looking at the opening teaser scene prior to the credits to see this in action. Black levels are deep showing great detail without becoming too grainy. I have had concerns with Paramount’s HD discs showing some edge enhancement, but this disc is free of it. Thankfully, they put the feature alone on disc one, so I assume the bit rate is about max’d out. Audio The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection. Although I would have loved a Dolby True HD track, the Dolby Digital + 5.1 track makes up for it. This is one of the most immersive soundtracks I have heard out of DD+, and one of the best I have ever heard. You will find yourself looking around the room to see where the rockets are coming from on the bridge scene and you may try to pick up a phone in the Langley HQ scenes. Although I only have a 5.1 setup, the imaging from the surrounds made me believe I had an additional one or two channels. While there are a few quiet scenes in the soundtrack that rely on dialogue to push the story along, the fronts also maintain good imaging. Deep bass effects are saved for the biggest explosions, such as, again, the bridge scene. Bass is very tight and refined with a beautiful transition from the mid-range to the lows. This is a dynamic and exciting soundtrack! 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. Unless otherwise noted, the docs are in standard definition with MPEG-2 compression. Commentary with Cruise and Abrams: this is the only extra on disc one and you can watch the enhanced version or the audio only. The enhanced version branches out to “related video pods” automatically or user activated when they see the IMF logo. A small video window pops up to show us J.J. and Tom watching the picture and making the usual comments and joking around. At times, the little window grows to a big window and it allows Abrams and Cruise to take an aside about things not specifically related to the scene or to go into further depth on the current scene. The commentary windows also shift off Abrams and Cruise to show some of the other behind the scenes documentary footage. This was the first time I watched one of these enhanced commentaries and I enjoyed the new level of interactivity since it allowed Abrams to visually point out certain things that would not be possible with a traditional audio commentary. Making of the Mission (HD, DD+, various aspect ratios) (28:36): A tour of the making of the picture from the first day. This is a usual EPK type of doc, covering the sets, stunts, costuming, visual effects, etc., traveling from Italy to the US to “Shanghai” (or LA, as it were) and China. Inside the IMF (21:14): this doc focuses on the supporting cast, and everybody explains how great each of them are. My vote is for Simon Pegg’s Benji to take over as the hot shot IMF agent if there’s a Mission: Impossible: IV. 5 deleted scenes (HD, DD+, 2.35:1) (5:30): Ethan fight at top of stairs, Zhen fight in computer room, Musgrave Cemetery conversation, Lindsey graduates and Vatican entry extended. While they are encoded in HD, they are taken from the uncompleted sequences so they still have the time codes and other film mumbo jumbo on the bottom of the screen. Mission Action- Inside the Action Unit (HD, DD+, various aspect ratios) (25:38): Abrams makes some funny comments about watching the second M:I picture and wondering how John Woo and Cruise ever did it. Now he got the chance to figure it out for his picture. There are some great behind the scenes footage of the stunts to see how they look on set compared to the final film. Visualizing the Mission (HD, DD+, various aspect ratios) (10:38): this one covers computer pre-visualization and storyboards. It’s amazing how good the pre-vis computer shots look these days. Mission: Metamorphosis - Solving the Mystery: The Mask Making Process (HD, DD+, various aspect ratios) (8:07): a cool look at the movie magic behind the masks the characters use. Syd Mead comments on the sketches he did for the mask making device, then how the prop department made the machine, and finally ILM’s touchup. Scoring the Mission (HD, DD+, various aspect ratios) (5:00): spotlight on the music! Launching the Mission (14:02): on the red carpet at the openings in New York, Rome, Paris, London and Japan. In case you missed Entertainment Tonight when the movie premiered… Moviefone Unscripted (8:03): Abrams and Cruise question and answer one another as well as sent in queries. Excellence in Film (9:15): for the third time! This was on both of the previous M:I discs and it shows clips from other Cruise films as part of an awards presentation. Teaser, two theatrical trailers and Japanese trailer (HD, DD+, various aspect ratios) (5:30). TV Spots: six TV spots. Photo Gallery. Conclusions: J. J. Abrams surrounds Ethan Hunt with emotional gravitas and some outstanding supporting characters to make this the hippest of these impossible missions. Paramount lays down the challenge to the other studios by presenting an outstanding visual and audio presentation with an incredible set of extras (most of which are in HD, no less!).