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Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, a secret agent framed for the deaths of his espionage team. Fleeing from government assassins, breaking into the CIA's most impenetrable vault, clinging to the roof of a speeding bullet train, Hunt races like a burning fuse to stay one step ahead of his pursuers... and draw one step closer to discovering the shocking truth.
For more about Mission: Impossible and the Mission: Impossible Blu-ray release, see Mission: Impossible Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 18, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames
Director: Brian De Palma
» See full cast & crew
Mission: Impossible Blu-ray Review
Brian De Palma's spy thriller comes to Blu-ray with lackluster results.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 18, 2009
It's much worse than you think.
It seems eons ago that the major trend in Hollywood centered not on the big-screen adaptations of the world's favorite comic book superheroes, but rather the translation of small-screen favorites from years past into big-budget summer spectaculars. Few such adaptations turned out to be quite as good as 1996's Mission: Impossible, the film expertly covering all the bases, offering a wonderful ensemble cast, each delivering top-notch performances; a vision from a legendary director that lent to the film both a unique and fascinating perspective; and a screenplay that forces audiences to use their intelligence rather than insulting it. It is perhaps the latter -- a story that finds an amazing middle ground between thrilling action and brain-twisting intrigue -- that sets Mission: Impossible far ahead of the curve of summer blockbusters from its -- or any -- era.
The Impossible Missions Force (or IMF for short) is assigned the task of shadowing and ultimately apprehending the buyer and seller of one half of the NOC List, a highly classified document that contains both the code names and actual names of undercover agents. IMF veteran Jim Phelps (Jon Voight, Deliverance) as well as master of disguise Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, A Few Good Men) lead the team. Though the entire team works smoothly in tandem, inching ever so close to their objective, a series of mishaps and tragedies seemingly kills each member but Hunt before the night is over, leaving the agent shaken and confused at the precision of the retaliation against the team. Hunt is finally able to meet with IMF Director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) and learns that the entire mission was a set-up to oust a mole in the agency, and now that the team has been eliminated, Hunt becomes a prime suspect. He manages to escape to a safe house before he is apprehended and begins to track down both the buyer of the list and the identity of the true mole. Hunt and Phelps's wife Claire (Emmanuelle Béart), herself a member of the team and surprise survivor of the botched mission, recruit former IMF agents Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames, Saving God) and Franz Krieger (Jean Reno, Ronin) to aid in the theft of the NOC list from the source at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and reveal the true threats to the security of agents around the world.
Mission: Impossible is the sort of movie that requires viewers to be alert and glued to the screen to allow the film to work its magic. Thankfully, the effort audiences put into it will be rewarded with a story that slowly but surely unravels with small clues and fine details scattered about that hint at what the plot has in store for the thrilling final act. One aspect that sells the finely-woven script is the wonderful performance of the entire ensemble cast. Clearly, the film is headlined by megastar Tom Cruise as the lead in the first of three Mission: Impossible films, the actor's only foray into a bona-fide franchise. His portrayal of Hunt is generally exceptional, creating a character that is both physically capable of daring stunts that mostly stay within the realm of possibility, but relying more on intellect, instinct, and cunning to get the job done rather than brute force and limitless ammunition. The character remains firmly grounded in the realm of "hero" rather than becoming some sort of immortal superman, and given both the tone of the film as well as the covert yet dangerous nature of his profession, Cruise's performance couldn't have been any better. While the film also features standout efforts from Ving Rhames, Jean Reno, Henry Czerny, Vanessa Redgrave, and Emmanuelle Béart, veteran actor Jon Voight steals the show with his fascinating portrayal of Phelps, a key figure in the film's intricate plot. Voight's performance is one that rewards multiple viewings; his mannerisms in practically every frame -- the way he glances about, his body language, and his dialogue delivery -- subtly hint as to his place in the film. In a career filled with standout performances, Voight's effort in Mission: Impossible ranks near the top.
Keeping everything together is the steady -- and oftentimes mesmerizing -- direction of veteran Brian De Palma (Carrie). He often utilizes cockeyed angles in frames that reveal extreme foreground information that contrasts with background details that often make for an intriguing juxtaposition of elements and generally fascinating filmmaking. Such frames often reveal some sort of imminent peril or offer an explanation to a shot or scene simply by the turn of a character's head in the background or the revelation of a detail that ties a scene together. Meanwhile, the director showcases glimpses of varied styles throughout the film, notably the film's noir-ish first act. Viewers will see characters lurking in shadows, dense fog that diminishes visibility past the foreground, and only glimpses of color protruding from the midnight blue and black backgrounds, generally in the form of human faces that offer a distinct contrast to the shroud of darkness that besets the frame. Through this style, De Palma is able to nicely set the tone for the film's portrayal of the clandestine, confused, and dangerous world of spies; elevate the level of tension during this particular mission; and set a somewhat dark tone for the remainder of the film. It takes something of an auteur to pull off such angles and objectives so precisely, and De Palma shows why he is one of the better pure filmmakers of the past quarter century with his effort in Mission: Impossible.
Mission: Impossible Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mission: Impossible comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p, MPEG-2 encoded transfer framed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is rather uninspiring from most every angle, with only an average amount of fine detail, mediocre color reproduction, and little-to-no 3-D "pop." Much of the finer details of the film seem lacking, not necessarily scrubbed away but certainly not offering the lifelike imagery of the best high definition transfers. Still, there is a nice cinematic look to the presentation; a bit of grain is seen over the entirety of the image. Also, plenty of black and white speckles appear over the print throughout the course of the film. Colors are slightly dim and flesh tones tend towards the red side of the spectrum in some scenes, appear normal in others, and in still others appear somewhat pale. Much of the image is soft, which seems to be a culprit in the absence of the finer details. Blacks are decent, and some of the film's intentionally hazy and foggy scenes don't feature any bothersome pixelation. Mission: Impossible easily falls into the lower tier of Blu-ray releases, offering acceptable-at-best high definition imagery.
Mission: Impossible Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mission: Impossible fails to intrigue with its rather pedestrian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Mission: Impossible's famed opening theme plays nicely over the credits but doesn't create a sense of a live performance; it's strong and acceptable for a lossy mix, though no doubt a lossless offering would have benefited this and other aspects of the track. Oddly enough, one of the finest moments of the soundtrack comes in chapter eight as Hunt breaks into the heavily protected computer room. The near-silence of the sequence, punctuated by the faintest of hums of the running equipment in the room, makes for a fascinating listen, a rarity in any movie to feature an extended quiet period. On the opposite end of the spectrum are a few pronounced effects, such as explosions, but most lack the power and oomph that may have elevated the track above the level of "bland." Save for a few moments of percussion-heavy music that creates a nice bit of thumping in the track and the film's climax, there is not much to become excited about. The chase atop a speeding train is easily the highlight. Sound travels effortlessly across the soundstage, generally from front to back, with a fine level of authority and realism; listeners may practically feel the chill of the rushing air is it seemingly blows past. Considering it accompanies the film's one true, extended action sequence, it's presentation, sonically, is befitting the moment. Dialogue reproduction is sufficient throughout. All in all, Mission: Impossible is mostly bland from a sonic perspective.
Mission: Impossible Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Paramount delivers Mission: Impossible to Blu-ray with a lengthy list of supplemental features. Mission: Remarkable - 40 years of Creating the Impossible (480p, 11:26) takes viewers into the storied history of the franchise and focuses on Tom Cruise's desire to play the lead character, the differences between the television show and the films, the cast and crew discussing their favorite scenes, the development of the stories, and a look at the progression of the series in the two sequels. Mission: Explosive Exploits (480p, 5:09) looks at Tom Cruise's physical performance in the film and his insistence on performing the stunt work. Mission: Spies Among Us (480p, 8:40) looks at the hypothetical work an agency like IMF might perform, the roles of real-life spies, and the process of intelligence gathering. Mission: Catching the Train (480p, 2:39) takes a brief look at the creation of the film's climactic action sequence.
Mission: International Spy Museum (480p, 6:31) features host Peter Earnest, Executive Director of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., guiding viewers through some of the museum's highlight exhibits. Mission: Agent Dossiers allows viewers to analyze agent profiles for Ethan Hunt, James Phelps, Sarah Davies, Claire Phelps, Jack Harmon, Hannah Joan Williams, and Luther Stickell. Excellence in Film (480p, 9:15) is the tribute played for Tom Cruise's receipt of the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. Generation: Cruise (480p, 3:36) is the tribute played when Cruise was presented with the first-ever MTV Generation Award. Concluding this supplemental package is a photo gallery and Mission: Marketing, a collection the film's teaser (1080p, 1:11) and theatrical (1080p, 2:01) trailers, in addition to nine TV spots (480p, 3:52 combined runtime).
Mission: Impossible Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mission: Impossible is a breath of fresh air in a world of generally mindless summer blockbusters that require little in the way of thought on behalf of the audience. Generally, all that is required is the decision on what size popcorn and soft drink to buy in the lobby, but in this case, the film delivers plenty of impressive visual stunts and action framed smartly around a plot that dares to move past the mundane, offering a genuinely mysterious narrative that lends both credence and importance to the action. Unfortunately, the latter two films in the series, particularly the second, veer more towards straight Action with minimal plotting, but cinephiles will undoubtedly enjoy De Palma's somewhat avant-garde style of filmmaking found here, particularly as it is combined with elements that make it, superficially, a summer popcorn movie. All in all, Mission: Impossible is a gem of a movie, but it's not so sparkly as one might hope on Blu-ray. Paramount's effort here is adequate, but it doesn't compete with newer Blu-ray releases. The MPEG-2 video is underwhelming, and the lossy soundtrack is merely sufficient. The disc does offer a fair amount of bonus materials, however. Mission: Impossible is a fine movie, but one can only hope that Paramount will revisit both it and its successors on Blu-ray in the near future.
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