Mission: Impossible II (Extreme Collection) Blu-ray Review
After the downright disappointing video presentation of Mission: Impossible, the first sequel, whilst also not having an upgraded transfer, still comes with a considerably better rendition. It may not be as good as the demo-quality third outing, but it is nevertheless a very pleasant watch with few overt complaints.
It comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition transfer in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is a significant step-up from both the SD-DVD and the Blu-ray version of the first movie, with both the close-up facial shots and the longer panoramic vistas coming across well, revealing fine skin textures and fine object detail respectively. The colour scheme is very different – reflecting the sunny climes of the largely Australian locations – and we get some gorgeous sunrises, beautiful and authentically tanned skin tones, and bright explosive moments to further push the colour envelope. The original print is still ten years’ old, and looks as much, but is mostly clean, retaining a fine layer of suitably filmic grain which leaves you content in the knowledge that the DNR work done has not been too heavy duty. Indeed edge enhancement is never an issue and, other than a hint of black crush, shadow detail and black levels are generally good too. It’s a good, but not great, video presentation.
Again we find ourselves disappointed by the lack of effort Paramount have put into this purportedly new ‘Extreme’ release, as it boasts the same limited standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track that the original Blu-ray release had – frustrating more so when you realise that the Paramount-released Japanese ‘Extreme Trilogy Collection’ has upgraded tracks on all three movies. Still, this entry’s soundtrack is a marked improvement over that for the first movie, beating it out on every level.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, largely dominating the frontal array where appropriate – Cruise’s shouts rising above even a Woo-crafted action maelstrom. Of course the more action-orientated proceedings, and Woo’s innate style, leave the production driven by both an energetic rock-dominated score and by some very loud action set-pieces. There are some excellent directional effects on offer, mostly of the noisier gun-driven variety, but even the more ambient atmospherics get decent presentation – like the crashing waves during the climax. The score is really quite variable, drifting from ethereal Gladiator-esque mourning through to outright guitar-and-drums-driven rock-ballad-renditions of the theme tune, but it always gets prime presentation and certainly engages the viewer in the undeniable momentum of this action piece. It’s a good listen, again not great, but hard to fault really. It’s just disappointing when you imagine just how impressive a remastered DTS-HD track could have been.
Although not upgraded, at least all of the extras from the SD-DVD have been ported over for the Blu-ray; it’s a package that covers all the bases, providing a director’s commentary, a number of revealing and informative featurettes and some promo material.
Commentary by Director John Woo
First up we get a full-length commentary from the Director himself. It’s a fairly decent effort, made really quite hard to enjoy because of the difficulty with fully understanding Woo’s words behind his thick accent. Still, for those who persist, there is plenty of revealing background trivia, honest comments about the shoot, working with Cruise, and what he hoped to bring to the franchise. It’s interesting to hear about his first-hand experience of Cruise’s ethos for the Mission: Impossible movies, the production limitations, worrying over Cruise’s fondness for doing his own stunts, toning down his own trademark violence and his ideas about making the focal point of the movie romance (although you’d be forgiven for thinking he often gets ‘romance’ confused with ‘action’).
Behind the Mission
This 14 minute Featurette has producing partners Cruise and Wagner discussing the Mission: Impossible franchise and the changes made to the style and action of the second instalment with John Woo involved. Screenwriter Robert Towne returns to offer further comments (as he did on the first movie) and John Woo explains the emotional and romantic angle that he was trying to bring to the second chapter (although they are completely and utterly obscured by Woo’s stylisation), and the filmmakers (including the remaining cast members) talk about the more punchy dialogue moments, and the central romantic trio, magically skipping over the overabundance of action until right at the end of the piece. Ving Rhames must have seen a different version of the movie, quipping stuff like “John Woo’s action is never action for action’s sake” – I’d beg to disagree, that’s often exactly what it is, particularly in Mission: Impossible II.
This companion Featurette runs at 5 minutes in length and focuses specifically on the more action-orientated elements of the film, including many of the stunning stunts which, as can be seen here, were mostly performed by Cruise himself. Even though we often hear about how he always does his own stunt-work, it’s still impressive to see the man in action.
This is a sub-section split into 11 segments, totalling over half an hour of behind-the-scenes footage, each mini-featurette looking at the specific scene – or moment – in question. The titles are fairly self-explanatory, and cover all the stand-out bits: Moab, Spanish Chase, Assault on Biocyte, Fire Walk, Flame Ride, Motorcycle Chase, Asphalt Skiing, The Joust, Mano a Mano, and Knife in the Eye.
Music Video: “I Disappear” by Metallica
Metallica’s music video splices clips from the film together with shots of the band playing – and ‘playing’ Mission: Impossible – in the desert.
Alternate Title Sequence
This 37 second alternate sequence at least attempts to inject a few images from the subsequent movie (like the first movie’s title sequence did, and like all the original TV series title sequences used), although it’s still a pretty lame version and could have been vastly improved.
The disc is rounded off by the same Excellence in Film and Generation: Cruise montages that are found on all the other movie discs too.
After the twists and turns of Brian De Palma’s first Mission: Impossible tale, it came as quite a shock to fans when they found the second film in the hands of action maestro John Woo, who drastically shifted the style and tone to make this feel almost like a sequel in name only. With Cruise’s IMF agent counterpart to Bond and Bourne, Ethan Hunt, now wholly entering superspy territory, Mission: Impossible II drifted even farther away from the founding principles of the original classic TV series, and, at times, verges on outright parody. At the end of the day, though, there’s no denying that John Woo’s chapter in the franchise is still bloody good fun, a thoroughly immersive, endlessly stylish and often action-packed experience which, whilst pretty far from perfect, is the kind of extreme example of a guilty-pleasure movie that, no doubt, many fans actually enjoy a whole lot more than they would ever like to admit. More fresh and interesting than just regurgitating everything that worked in the first movie (a trademark of most other franchise sequels), I’m glad they took things in a different direction, even if it was a good move for the next movie to return to the series some sense of normality. Watch it for Cruise at his absolute coolest, and most action-driven, and for all the balletic ballistic slo-mo mayhem that Woo is known and loved for.
Released as part of Paramount’s purportedly new Extreme Trilogy Collection, as with the first movie, this is just the same old Blu-ray recycled in new packaging, with exactly the same video and limited standard Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, as well as all the same extras. Thankfully the video is still a step up from its predecessor, and at least hits ‘good’, and the audio is much the same, besting the first outing but never rising to the ranks it might have achieved with a remastered lossless track. Again, this is the best you’re going to get short of forking out for the expensive-but-superior Japanese set. Certainly there’s no doubt that this overall release is still good value, and this film is an enjoyably different middle-chapter in what is still a reliable series of undeniably entertaining blockbuster spy-action-thrillers; films that you really ought to have in your collection.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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