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Paramount Home Video presents
Mission: Impossible Ultimate Missions Collection HD-DVD (1996-2006)

"Well, this is not Mission: Difficult, Mr. Hunt. It's Mission: Impossible. Difficult should be a walk in the park for you."
- Swanbeck (Anthony Hopkins)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 11, 2007

Stars: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Thandie Newton, Dougray Scott, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Other Stars: Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Emilio Estevez, Brendan Gleeson, William R. Mapother, Anthony Hopkins, John Polson, Rade Serbedzija, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q
Director: Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense action and frenetic violence, disturbing images and some sensuality
Run Time: 05h:58m:47s
Release Date: October 30, 2006
UPC: 097361199344
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+A B+

DVD Review

This HD DVD boxed set (the first to be issued, if you're keeping track) collects all three of the adventures (so far) of Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in glorious HD. The first two films are as of yet exclusive to this set, while the third entry in the series is available as a separate disc (and thus is addressed under a separate review found here).

Mission: Impossible Special Collector's Edition (DVD Review and Extras Review by Joel Cunningham)

Mission: Impossible was a TV series about a band of secret agents working together to accomplish the impossible. But the only thing impossible for Tom Cruise is, apparently, giving up the limelight—in choosing this property for his debut as a film producer, Cruise promptly chucks the premise and turns it into his own modern-day, gadget-packed take on James Bond-style espionage action. You think you know where it's going when it sets up Cruise as Ethan Hunt, leader of a team of elite IMF agents (that's Impossible Mission Force, which is certainly flashier than anything the real government has come up with). His crew is quickly established, personality quirks and bit-part actors (Emilio Estevez!) and all, and then promptly killed off after about 15 minutes, to a person, leaving Cruise to unravel the mystery.

So, no, not a lot of Mission: Impossible here, though there are plenty of impossible missions, and at least Cruise had the good sense to hire Brian De Palma as a director. Certainly watching Ethan Hunt working to figure out who set him up and ambushed his team would be a lot less interesting without De Palma at the helm. His fingerprints are all over the movie, from the way it plays with time, point of view, and perception, to the fact that he isn't afraid to barrel through, without waiting to make sure the audience is keeping up. It's given the movie a reputation as too complicated and confusing, but really, it's a fairly simple cat and mouse thriller, and without the director's tricks, it wouldn't be half as much fun.

As it happens, the plot, which involves corruption, backstabbing, and misplaced loyalties (or, just another day at the spy office), turns out not to be the point anyway. Beyond the intrigue and romance under pressure and amazingly lifelike masks used more to fool the audience than the characters (used and abused in Mission: Impossible II) this movie exists (and is remembered) for two action/suspense sequences that rank among the best work in the career of a director who has always strived to match Hitchcock when it it comes to putting the screws to an audience.

Everyone remembers the scene in which Cruise is lowered from the ceiling into a room with a pressure sensitive floor—even a drop of sweat will be enough to set off the alarms, so his movements have to be exact as he accesses some secret file or another on a computer database. It's a killer sequence, wordless and near heart-stopping, at least the first time around. De Palma knows just which buttons to press, and aside from the compelling visuals (the biggest star in the world flailing around on ropes, but, you know, with style), the tone is tense, but not without a few moments of humor. It's a classic Cruise sequence, one of those moments you probably will recognize even if you haven't seen the movie. A train versus helicopter chase at the end is more conventional, but still pretty inventive, though the special effects shots of Cruise hanging on for dear life to the roof of a speeding bullet train don't look quite as convincing as they used to.

Speaking of Cruise, he's in top, charismatic form here. Say what you will about his... interesting personal life (and say it to me, because I love dirt); he's a movie star for a reason, and a credible action hero who relies on his wits instead of firepower. The supporting cast is colorful and a lot of fun. Ving Rhames is a good sidekick, Jean Reno always plays shady well, and Jon Voight and Vanessa Redgrave class things up a bit.

The TV series is before my time, and I understand this movie is basically a slap in the face to its fans, but I think it works really well, offering two elaborate tentpole sequences and a complicated, twisty plot that makes enough sense as long as you pay attention.

Mission: Impossible II (DVD Review and Extras Review by Kevin Clemons)

Even before its May 24th debut in 2000r, Mission: Impossible II was already being crowned a summer blockbuster—and it had good reason to be. With superstar Tom Cruise returning to the role of Ethan Hunt from the 1996 M:I film, and the amazing John Woo at the helm, M:I 2 had a license to print money. For those who dubbed the original film "Mission Unfollowable," this is the movie for you. In fact, you can add M:I 2 to the short list of movie sequels that actually improve upon the first outing.

At the start of the film Sean Ambrose (Scott) steals both the virus Chimera and its antidote from Biocyte Pharmaceuticals in Sydney, Australia. Like any movie villain Ambrose plans to unleash it into the world as he gets rich when the antidote is needed. To stop Ambrose, IMF director Swanbeck (Hopkins) calls on Ethan Hunt (Cruise) to recruit Ambrose's old flame, Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Newton). As if it were a Bond film, Hunt falls for Nyah, and things get complicated when saving her is as important as saving the world. Throw in Luther Stickel (Rhames) from the first film, and assorted bad guys and good guys and you have the makings of another impossible mission.

It has been reported that screenwriter Robert Towne wrote the script around several key action scenes that director John Woo had devised. After seeing the film, that story is easy to believe. It seems as though it is divided into two halves: the first, a tightly made homage to Hitchcock's Notorius; the second, an all out John Woo action extravaganza.

What is most impressive is Woo's handling of the action scenes. Woo incorporates his trademark visual style to many of these scenes, including pigeons, billowing clothing, slow motion action shoot-outs, and a seemingly endless supply of bullets. While none of the action sequences match the brilliance of the apartment shoot-out in Face Off, they are still expertly done. Cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball's work is top notch and his scenes at the start of the film are breathtaking.

A Mission: Impossible film wouldn't be the same without Cruise, whose work here caps off an incredible 12 month span for the actor. From his amazing supporting role in Magnolia, to his top billing in Kubrick's final masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut, Cruise has chosen three very diverse roles. But unlike most actors he is able to carry of each of them with aplomb. I will be the first to admit that I think Cruise makes a great action hero, and he is more believable than ever in this film. Doing his own stunts, including the rock climbing that begins the movie, he plays Hunt with a certain swagger that is missing from most action stars. Newton, who is a newcomer to most, is terrific as Nyah, and her scenes with Cruise work very well. There is a certain amount of heat generated between the two that was sadly missing from the love story in the first film with Emmanuelle Beart. Actor Dougray Scott is a bit too much as the villain, but he plays the part so over-the-top that it works. Anthony Hopkins and Ving Rhames turn in good performances in what amounts to essentially cameo roles.

The film has its problems—essentially it becomes a tough wait for the action scenes on the second or third viewing. I would sit through a movie about a guy grocery shopping if it were directed by John Woo because I know that it would have style to spare, and that is essentially what M:I 2 has. It is a movie so amazing to watch unfold that all you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. In other words, this is a perfect summer blockbuster.

Mission: Impossible III is covered in detail in the review of the separate release.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: As is the case with the standard DVD, skintones on Mission: Impossible tend far too much to the red spectrum. Otherwise, the picture looks excellent, with outstanding shadow detail and color. Detail and texture are reasonably good. Edge enhancement, posterization and mosquito noise are hardly noticeable. The action sequences, even when dark, have nice clarity. Inside the Black Vault, the grating covers do have a tendency to moiré. This is a reasonably good upgrade though the reddish skintones are a bit annoying.

The same shimmering issues show up in the first sequel, notably in the shot of the buildings of Sydney in the opening sequence. The torchlight procession looks gorgeous, though, and there's much more detail visible in closeups than in the original film. The virus animations in particular look spectacular. The skintones seem much more normal in this go-round. Other than the shimmering, which isn't consistent, and some occasional edge enhancement, this looks very nice indeed.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The soundtracks have all the impact one could possibly want from an action picture, with tons of LFE in the explosions and the remixed theme, while the original version of Schifrin's classic has excellent presence. The Black Vault sequence is appropriately presented in utter silence, and the subtle hints of sound come across beautifully. All of these discs will rock your house just fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 49 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
6 Original Trailer(s)
15 TV Spots/Teasers
5 Deleted Scenes
4 Documentaries
13 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by John Woo (on II); Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams (on III)
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Agent dossiers
  2. Tom Cruise tribute montages and speeches
  3. Mission Improbable short
  4. Music video
  5. Photo galleries
Extras Review: Mission: Impossible Special Collector's Edition

This "special edition" is an obvious attempt to publicize the new theatrical sequel, and the assorted featurettes are pretty uninspiring. None of the extras on this disc are in HD except for the trailers and the teasers.

Mission: Remarkable (11m:04s) is a cursory summary of the three films in the series, with some chatter about adapting the TV show. Mission: Explosive Exploits (05m:09s) covers a few of the more elaborate stunt sequences, including the fish tank explosion and the government building heist. Mission: Catching the Train (02m:38s) is a very short exploration of the complicated train vs. helicopter sequence, and doesn't provide much more info than the fact that, indeed, special effects were involved. Also provided are hokey Agent Dossiers for many of the cast members and a photo gallery. On the promotional side, there are two trailers and nine TV spots.

The rest of the features have nothing really to do with the movie. I enjoyed Mission International Spy Museum, which (06m:30s) provides a tour of a Washington D.C. museum that exhibits real spy gadgets, including what the host refers to as a "doo doo transmitter," because who wants to pick up a lump of crap to see if it is really a listening device? These are the things CIA agents sit and ponder. Also worth a look is Mission: Spies Among Us (08m:36s), which explores the "real world" of IMF-style spies, outlining a few now-public CIA operations and touching on the Valerie Plame identity leak in the process.

In the Tom Cruise ego stroking department, you'll find not one, but two montages of clips from his film career. One of them lasts about nine minutes, and was shown when the actor received the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film; the other is around three minutes and was shown at the MTV Movie Awards when Cruise was given a "Generation Award." I guess they are kind of neat if, like me, you enjoy Oscar montages, but... why are they here? And why no clips from Legend, eh Tom? You'll also find the actor's acceptance speeches for both awards (in the latter, he's introduced by a doe-eyed Katie Holmes, who creeps everyone out when she points out the fact that she was a little girl when Risky Business came out, and probably had a poster of her future husband in her childhood bedroom, and then creeps out me, personally, by, like, bowing to him before he appears onstage to talk about how "the artist" can provide a sense of relief from "so much happening in the world today, everywhere and seemingly all the time").

Mission: Impossible II

Paramount has loaded this disc with the amount of extras worthy of such a big blockbuster. The best extra feature is a commentary track by the director. Woo never lets the track get too focused on the technical aspects of filmmaking, and spends some time talking about his views on the story. Although his accent gets a bit thick at times it is never really a problem. This is the first track I have heard by Woo and after watching it I am tempted to pop in my laserdiscs of Hard Boiled and The Killer and hear his thoughts on those films.

A fourteen minute making-of entitled Behind the Mission shows some behind-the-scenes footage, as well as interviews with the cast and crew. At only five-and-a-half minutes, Mission Incredible is a bit more interesting as it deals with the stunts done in the film. Eleven short featurettes break down some of the action scenes of the film in a section called Impossible Shots that is an interesting way to see how some of your favorite scenes were filmed. From the Biocyte shoot-out to the fight that closes the film, each of these 11 is worth a look.

On the lighter side of things an alternate title sequence is shown and I can go either way when it comes to which one was used. Unfortunately, the short that was shown on the MTV Movie Awards called Mission Improbable is missing from the HD version of this disc.

If I have a gripe about this disc, it is the lack of two supplements that would have made it great. The first is the surprising lack of both a teaser and theatrical trailer for the film. Paramount is starting to create a trend with their lack of trailers and it is starting to get bothersome. The second is that there is a Metallica video for their song I Disappear, but there is no video for the infinitely better Take a Look Around by Limp Bizkit. Take away the words of Bizkit's song and it makes a great theme for the movie; I for one would rather hear Wes Borland's guitar in the action scenes than Zimmer's overpowering score. Although, I am concerned that by getting this disc free for review, that my having the Metallica video in my collection without paying for it might send Lars Ulrich to my door threatening to kill me!

The imposing array of extras for Mission: Impossible III are covered in the review of the separate release. In all, a very solid set though it would have been nice to get De Palma on a commentary for the original film. Chaptering remains a bit on the thin side.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

If you're a fan of the Mission: Impossible films, this is certainly a must-have set with gorgeous transfers. Even if you're not particularly a fan, seeing three talented directors give their own takes on the series is worth the price of admission.

 


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