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Blu-ray Review Mission: Impossible - Extreme Blu-Ray Trilogy Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Dec 18, 2011.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    I love a good spy movie. In the years that I am not watching a marathon of the James Bond movies, I enjoy offerings from the genre both old and new. Whether it is the light-weight fare of the domestic spy tale Sneakers, or the overly serious international pulp of Spy Game, there is something about the clandestine actions, secret rendezvous and sneaking into and out of seemingly impenetrable locations – exotic and pedestrian – that leaves me entertained. It is perhaps no surprise that I am a fan of the Mission: Impossible movies, even with their flaws.




    Mission: Impossible

    Extreme Blu-Ray Trilogy


    Studio: Paramount Pictures
    Year: 1996, 2000, 2006
    US Rating: Rated PG-13
    Film Length: 125, 123, 110 Minutes
    Video: MPEG-2 1080p High Definition

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Audio: English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1

    Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish


    Release Date: December 6, 2011

    Review Date: December 18, 2011


    “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”


    Introduction




    The Films


    Mission: Impossible: 4/5

    Dir. Brian DePalma


    Mission: Impossible launched the successful film series with two gambles. The first was a distinct side-step of the 1970’s television series from which it is sourced, which weekly challenged a small ensemble of characters, who  became quite beloved, to engage in bold and brave execution of daring missions. The film shifted focus to a central character – that of Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt – and though there is always a close supporting cast, it is upon Ethan’s pursuits that we are asked to place are investment. The second gamble was in the plotting. In his review upon the film’s theatrical release, Roger Ebert described the plot as impenetrable. That’s not a far cry from the truth, but the labyrinthine plotting and Brian DePalma’s knowing direction elevates the film from the trappings of just another action spectacle. In fact, action is at a relative minimum in this inaugural outing, though when the sparks do fly, they fly in styling form.


    The basic plot revolves around a failed mission which turns out to be a fake operation designed to root out a suspected mole in the Impossible Mission Force (IMF). Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, the man suspected of being the mole, and must assemble a team, perform daring operations, find the true mole and clear his name. Luther Stickell is brought in as the technical wizard of the team, played nicely by Ving Rhames. Franz Krieger is a tactical support player, played gruffly by the likeable Jean Reno, and Claire Phelps, played by Emmanuelle Béart - the only other surviving member of the original team – is both demure and lovely.

    Tom Cruise establishes the Ethan Hunt hero as capable but vulnerable, brawny with brains, stylish and sophisticated all at once. The rest of the cast are all well placed in their roles, with Rhames being perhaps the most memorable (memorable enough to have been called back for all of the sequels).


    Jon Voight played the role of Jim Phelps. Peter Graves, who played the role in the television series, was originally slated to appear, but the surprising shift in the nature (and end state) of that character turned him – and as a result any other original cast members who would cameo – away from the project. It is the treatment of this character, and the shift in focus to primarily Hunt’s character which most upset fans.


    In the end, Mission: Impossible relies upon story complexity and true thriller trappings to enthrall the audience. Lots of quiet, understated scenes punctuated with set pieces (like the very memorable infiltration of the CIA headquarters, with Cruise hanging precariously above the touch sensitive floor). There could certainly have been a little more juice in the action and a plot that didn’t require folk to take notes to grasp it the first time around, but for the most part it succeeded in its mission. 



    Mission: Impossible II: 3/5

    Dir. John Woo


    The second installment, helmed by famed Hong Kong action movie director John Woo (Face/Off, Hard Boiled) employed his style over substance formula to infuse the films stunts and action sequences with dramatic slow motion and gravity defying acrobatics, leaving the films story, what there was of it, in the dust. This is as far removed from the first film – and the feel of a Mission: Impossible take – as a sequel could have been, leaving us with a much less satisfying experience.


    Ethan Hunt, recalled from his vacation, must pick up and convince the ex-lover of a former IMF agent to reconnect with her former spark to help bring him down, save the world from a nefarious plot involving a deadly toxin, and – since Hunt became romantically involved in the ‘mark’, navigate her through the dangerous task of infiltrating back into the life her former lover and current madman.


    Mission: Impossible II is entirely style over substance, perhaps in retort for the levied complaints about the first film’s thick plot, but most likely the result of John Woo’s insistence that a film be written around several action set pieces he wanted to have in his film. And the action leans toward the spectacular, with the climactic motorcycle chase and fist fight being the most kinetic and lavish of the entire film. John Woo lays out his requisite trademarks all too easily, with slow motion balletic gun play, fluttering doves in echoing hallways, and exquisitely choreographed chase sequences with various modes of transportation. It’s all good but mostly superfluous.


    Thandie Newton takes the role of the cheeky thief Nyah Nordoff-Hall who must risk her life in the service of IMF (and Ethan), with Dougray Scott playing the twisted bad guy, and former IMF agent Sean Ambrose. Both serve their roles well; with Scott being a surprising bad guy choice but an interested one nonetheless. Hans Zimmer provides a solid score, with a lovely theme played by Spanish guitar, though the heavy metal guitar version of Lalo Schifrin’s memorable score is oddly ill-fitting.



    Mission: Impossible III: 4/5

    Dir. J.J. Abrahms


    The third film in this series is directed by JJ Abrams, creator of the TV shows Alias and LOST and a man destined to direct a Mission: Impossible film. Using every inch of his spy-game techniques accumulated from his hit TV series, Alias, he navigates the story – which is neither to complex nor too simple - with great skill. Abrams crafts moments of genuine tension and surprising intensity without sacrificing the fun and thrills. Throughout, character moments that many films forgo or fail to provide properly, are weaved well into the story.


    Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt who has given up the danger of operations for the quitter yet equally secretive role of instructor at the IMF. He is engaged to be married to Julia (Michelle Monaghan), struggling with the secret he must keep from her, but content to be out of the field. When the first agent he trained is captured on a failed mission, he agrees to lead the rescue team – which pulls him deeper into active duty threatening to unravel his somewhat normal life. Cruise’s interactions with Michelle Monaghan feel very genuine and anchors the film in a drama not felt since moments in the first film. Perhaps it is the more character-centric story, or maybe Cruise is maturing as an actor, but he comes to M:I III with a passion and dramatic intensity that serves the film and story very well.


    Returning once again is Ving Rhames, the only other recurring character in the series. Always able, always fun and genuinely likable, Ving provides much needed comedic counter-balance to the films intensity (along with Simon Pegg). Fresh from his magnificent Oscar-winning performance as ‘Capote’, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman as the films notorious arms dealer, Davian, is deeply effective. The only ripples in his terrifically precise and scary performance are the occasional cringes we have at a few all too typical ‘bad-guy’ lines, but again, easily forgivable. Rounding out the cast is the ever-impressive Laurence Fishburne as an uptight Intelligence director, the beautiful Maggie Q, talented Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg (who Abrams would cast as Scotty in his Star Trek reboot) as Ethan’s elite team members.


    For this installment, the story and the characters are front and center, with exciting action sequences as stepping stones throughout the story (with the bridge attack being the most exciting), making the third outing the best to date.


    The Video


    Mission: Impossible: 3.5 / 5


    Mission: Impossible has been on blu-ray since the very early days of High Definition discs.  This transfer is now quite old and despite moments of solid detail, could use a new master. Dust and other detritus are evident from time to time, the image appears soft at times (and not the soft that comes from DePalma’s style of shooting) and overall, though acceptable, doesn’t show off this still enjoyable film. It is framed at 2.35:1 and for those who have yet to trade up from the DVD release, will show an improvement but a proper redo is in order


    Mission: Impossible II: 4/5


    John Woo’s installment is framed at 2.35:1 and the advent of 1080p High Definition is on better display than its predecessor, though the level of fine detail is not always apparent. Close ups of Tom Cruise and others demonstrate the value of the High Definition transfer, colors are warm, flesh tones natural, and the black levels fine. Setting the film in warmer, brighter locations (versus the rainy or gray of Europe in DePalma’s outing) improves the ‘feel’ of the image throughout, and night sequences – particularly the daring break-in of the high rise in the second act – look considerably better than the night scenes from M:I.


    Mission: Impossible III: 4/5


    Mission: Impossible III, in part from its relative newness, looks the best of the trilogy provided here. Black levels are superb; the image is crisp with very good detail and a faithful preservation of the look of film. Abrams uses close-up shots to enhance tension in a number of great scenes and it is in these scenes that the benefit of the High Definition transfers shines the most. Framed at 2.35:1, the image quality is most pleasing. Improvements over standard DVD are obvious, and about the same as the HD-DVD release (which I still own).



    The Sound


    Mission: Impossible: 3.5 / 5


    The rerelease of these old transfers means that once again the M:I trilogy arrives in stores without a lossless audio option. Generally, the audio is pretty good despite this fact, but the first Mission: Impossible needs and improved audio the most. Despite the action, propulsive score by Danny Elfman, and sound effects (the train in the Channel Tunnel, the explosions during the opening mission, etc), the audio never really comes alive. The audio can be loud, but there is a lack of crispness to the overall audio presentation that is perhaps most notable now with the proliferation of action movies released with DTS-MA audio options. Dialogue is generally clean and clear out of the center channel, and, mainly from the aggressive version of Lalo Schifrin’s score by Elfman, the M:I theme provides the most frequent thump out of the subwoofer.


    Mission: Impossible II: 3.5/5


    Mission: Impossible two makes better use of the audio, with a more aggressive and playful sound design, throaty action sequences, enveloping sound from revving car engines and frequent gun play, and Hans Zimmer’s score. Again dialogue is without issue in the center channel and the surrounds come in to play much more than in the first film, but there is overall and lack of differentiation in the audio throughout the sound design and a crispness that would have put this audio – and experience – into a higher gear.


    Mission: Impossible III: 4/5


    The third entry succeeds the most in the audio department, with even more aggressive sound designs, helicopter and car chases that pinball in the surrounds nicely, and a score by Michael Giacchino that channels his Alias days and is the most faithful to the television series scoring style. The audio is the most crisp of this trilogy and is issue free from all corners. A greater depth and clarity would no doubt have been achieved from a lossless audio (which unconfirmed reports suggest is available on the Asia markets release of these films).



    The Extras


    The special features available with this trilogy are ported over from the original blu-ray release (with the exception of M:I III where the bulk of the special features were available on a second disc. Mission: Impossible’s special features are made up of mostly short mini-features covering various aspects of the film, nothing in depth or terribly revlealing. The Generation: Cruise and Excellence in Film: Cruise extras are repeated on Mission: Impossible II.


     As for the second film’s special features, they include a little more value, including an audio commentary from Director Woo and a collection of 11 featurettes covering the making of that amounts to 30+ minutes of detail (Impossible Shots).


    Most frustrating is the utter lack of special features available with Mission: Impossible III – all that remains from the original Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD) release is the audio commentary by J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise. Though this is a very interested commentary, being all by itself is a shame.



    Mission: Impossible: 3 / 5


    §  Mission: Remarkable - 40 Years of Creating the Impossible

    §  Mission: Explosive Exploits

    §  Mission: Spies Among Us

    §  Mission: Catching the Train

    §  Mission: International Spy Museum

    §  Mission: Agent Dossiers

    §  Excellence in Film: Cruise

    §  Generation: Cruise

    §  Photo Gallery

    §  Theatrical Teaser Trailer (HD)

    §  Theatrical Trailer (HD)



    Mission: Impossible II: 3.5/5


    §  Commentary by Director John Woo

    §  Behind the Mission

    §  Mission Incredible

    §  Impossible Shots

    §  I Disapper – Metallica Music Video

    §  Alternate Title Sequence

    §  Excellence in Film – Cruise

    §  Generation: Cruise



    Mission: Impossible III: 2/5


    §  Commentary by Tom Cruise and Director J.J. Abrams As They Discuss Their Experience Making M:I:III



    Final Thoughts

    I can only recommend this rerelease of the M:I Trilogy for those who do not own it already on Blu-ray and consider the very cheap price (around $19.99) a worthy trade-off for the lack of an upgrade in the audio department.  These are still fun, entertaining movies (the second film’s flimsiness withstanding) and ripe for whetting your appetite to see the fourth installment whose critical reception is perhaps the most positive of them all.


    Overall (Not an average)

    3.5/5


    Neil Middlemiss

    Kernersville,


     
  2. FanboyZ

    FanboyZ Second Unit

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    The Hong Kong edition has AVC and DTS HD-Master Audio, I am assuming these will get stateside when the newest film hits video...
     
  3. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

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    I really only ever enjoyed the third film , and that was almost an impossible task given the treatment of the phelps character in number one. I might go see the 4th film but I still think I'd rather watch my set of Mission Impossible 88.
     
  4. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Second Unit

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    Small point to note: John Woo is a Chinese director, not a Japanese one, specifically, a Hong Kong director, drafted by Hollywood on the strength of his HK films, which took 80s action movie tropes and went them one or two or even three better. I love the purity of his action sequences, the whirling ballet of them; and when you can include a motorcycle in the dance, well, so much the better. And notice how, in a Woo action sequence, you never lose track of where people are in relation to each other. That's skill, and it cannot be achieved by editing alone, it has to be both shot and edited with a deep awareness of the final rhythm of the sequence, what that rhythm will feel like. As to the MI films, I think each of the three has its strengths, but in particular, I really liked the introductory sequence in MI 2, the juxtaposition of Cruise and Newton, sizing each other up, along with the overlapping of the flamenco dance and the theft, with the soundtrack juxtaposing the sounds of the dancers' feet on the hollow floor, and Newton's feet racing up stairs and along hallways. Only the movies can do this kind of artistic magic, and even though this is not an action sequence as such, it illustrates what I mean by the sense of rhythm in Woo's sequences.
     
  5. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    It sounds like these are probably just the exact same discs from the previous set, just with new cover art. Is that the case?
     
  6. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    I don't know why I noted that incorrectly - I've been a Woo fan for years and a fan of Chinese cinema (as noted in my review of his excellent Hard Boiled). I have corrected. Thanks!

    And I agree with your assessment of the opening - with Zimmer's music, it makes for a superb sequence. A shame that the same elegance was not carried through the remainder of the picture.

     

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