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Paramount Home Video presents

Mission: Impossible SE (1996)

Kittridge: I can understand you're very upset.
Ethan Hunt: Kittridge, you've never seen me very upset.- Henry Czerny, Tom Cruise

Stars: Tom Cruise
Other Stars: Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Emilio Estevez
Director: Brian De Palma

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense action violence
Run Time: 01h:50m:04s
Release Date: 2006-04-11
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BC+B+ C-


DVD Review

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.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: An early, nonanamorphic Paramount release, Mission: Impossible is re-issued here for the first time in anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is an improvement, thanks to the enhanced resolution for widescreen TVs, but otherwise, it looks a little shabby. Colors look a bit overdone (fleshtones are too reddish), there's some obvious digital noise in spots, and persistent edge enhancement. It's not awful, but it looks like an early DVD transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio fares better. The action makes good use of all the channels, with a lot of input from the surrounds and good directionality and stereo separation across the front soundstage. There's also some healthy LFE to give your subwoofer a workout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mission: Impossible III
9 TV Spots/Teasers
5 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Agent dossiers
  2. Tom Cruise tribute montages and speeches
Extras Review: This "special edition" is an obvious attempt to publicize the new theatrical sequel, and the assorted featurettes are pretty uninspiring.

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, along with the by now very tired teaser for Mission Impossible III.

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").

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

Mission: Impossible is more of an exercise in style than a coherent thriller, but what an exercise—director Brian De Palma can always be counted on to stage scenes of remarkable action and suspense. The DVD re-issue is worth picking up for the slightly improved transfer more than the fluffy supplements.

Joel Cunningham 2006-04-26