It’s hard to believe that we’re already celebrating the 25th anniversary of Mission: Impossible’s first cinematic adventure. Perhaps the most faithful to the original television series in approach (though clearly deviating character-wise), this film stands the test of time. The action sequences are terrifically staged and the simmering intensity of Cruise’s Hunt character standouts. The construction of the scene between Hunt and Kittridge (played by Henry Czerny) is perhaps the film’s most dramatically exciting. While the UHD release is still the absolute best way to watch this film, for those not yet 4K equipped, this remastered Blu-ray is a very close second and is an absolute upgrade from the previous disappointing Blu-ray release.
The Production: 4/5
“Can I ask you something, Kittridge? If you’re dealing with a man who has crushed, shot, stabbed, and detonated five members of his own IMF team, how devastated do you think you’re gonna make him by hauling Mom and Uncle Donald down to the county courthouse?”
In 1996, the Tom Cruise-led Mission: Impossible launched what would become a highly successful film series, and it did so with two gambles. The first was a distinct side step of the original 1970s television series, where each week a small, beloved ensemble of characters, were challenged to engage in the bold and brave execution of daring missions. The film shifted its focus to the Ethan Hunt character played by Tom Cruise. Though there is always a close supporting cast, it is upon Ethan’s pursuits that we, the audience, are asked to invest ourselves. 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, help elevate 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 with style.
The basic plot revolves around a failed mission, one that in which the team were shadowed by a second as part of an effort to root out a suspected mole in the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) organization. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, the only member of his team to survive, apparently, after the mission went sideways, is naturally the primes suspect. Confronted, Hunt makes a daring escape, and, on the run, assembles a team and undertakes daring operations on his new mission to clear his name and find the true mole. Making up his team is Luther Stickell, a technical wizard played nicely by Ving Rhames. Franz Krieger is the tactical support player, played gruffly by the likeable Jean Reno, and the demure and lovely Claire Phelps, is the only other surviving member of the original team, is played with some subtlety by Emmanuelle Béart,
Tom Cruise establishes his Ethan Hunt hero as capable but vulnerable, brawny with brains, stylish and sophisticated all at once. The rest of the cast are well suited though it is Rhames who is perhaps the most memorable; certainly, memorable enough to have been called back for many of the sequels.
Jon Voight plays the role of Jim Phelps. Peter Graves, who played the Phelps role in the television series, was slated at one time to appear, but the surprising shift in the nature (and end state) of that character turned him–and, as a result, other original cast members who might cameo-away from the project. Besides the thick plot, it was the change in the Phelps character, and a heavy focus on Cruise’s Ethan Hunt’s character, which most upset fans.
In the end, Mission: Impossible relies upon story complexity and true thriller trappings to enthrall the audience. Plenty 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. After all these years, having seen the film many times, the complex plot isn’t really complex, and the multiple views revealing of the plot and scene choreography that went into the film–it’s still a rousing adventure.
3D Rating: NA
A few years ago, now, I lamented the video quality on the Blu-ray review and concluded, “a proper redo is in order.” Well, proper redo is exactly what Paramount gave this film when they performed a remaster used for the excellence 4K release a few years ago. That remastering serves as the basis for this Blu-ray edition and the upgrade over the previous Blu-ray release is considerable (though the 4K release is still tops).
Filmed with Panavision cameras on 35mm, Mission: Impossible has always appeared somewhat murky on home video releases, but all that is overcome. While not at the same level of precision detail as the 4K release, the level of details here are still stunningly good. The strengths of this remaster follow those found on the UHD release, though without the extra oomph provided by HDR and the extra resolution. Contrast is strong, colors rich and balanced, whites pure and skin details superb.
The available Dolby TrueHD 5.1 offering is a noticeable upgrade from the previously offered Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The track is fuller, more dynamic than previous releases with greater surround activity during the set pieces, with the Channel Tunnel climax sequences being the most notable improvement. Bass and Low Frequency Effects in the subwoofer are more generous, and the propulsive score by Danny Elfman, once that I have found an even greater appreciation for these past few years, is more crisply and cleanly presented here.
Dialogue is clean and clear out of the center channel.
Special Features: 3/5
Mission: Impossible’s special features are made up of mostly short mini-features covering various aspects of the film, nothing in depth or terribly revealing. The only ‘new’ thing on offer with this package is an IMF car decal which, I can’t lie, I think I might actually put on my car’s rear window.
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 is a better film than some remember. Perhaps the time that has passed, moving us away from how the film shifted away from the television series characters, plus the enduring success of the film franchise, have helped. Brian De Palma’s fingerprints are all over this film and it’s unmistakably a product of his vision and approach merged with high-action and spectacle. This is quite a clever film with the progression of Ethan Hunt’s resolve following the decimation of his team finding great payoff during the climax. It is also a film where the plot ‘twists’ aren’t exactly hidden but obscured enough to give payoff to additional viewings.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already celebrating the 25th anniversary of Mission: Impossible’s first cinematic adventure. Perhaps the most faithful to the original television series in approach (though clearly deviating character-wise), this film stands the test of time. The action sequences are terrifically staged and the simmering intensity of Cruise’s Hunt character standouts. The construction of the scene between Hunt and Kittridge (played by Henry Czerny) is perhaps the film’s most dramatically exciting. While the UHD release is still the best way to watch this film, for those not yet 4K equipped, this remastered Blu-ray is a very close second and is an absolute upgrade from the previous disappointing Blu-ray release.
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