So here’s the deal: Paramount already released this movie on Blu-ray several years ago. It came with a pretty lame video presentation that, whilst still an upgrade from DVD, was still one of the worst looking Hollywood Blockbuster Blu-ray releases in existence. For this new Blu-ray re-release Paramount have... given us exactly the same transfer. I know this isn’t a lofty prestigious title, but it is being pimped under the moniker of the ‘Extreme Trilogy Collection’. Extremely lacklustre is more like it.
Detail is variable at best, with softness impinging on many shots, even those with better lighting or daytime conditions, although the worst moments do come in lower-level settings. Fine object detail is nowhere to be seen, and you will often ask yourself whether you’re actually watching a Blu-ray or just the old SD-DVD. Edge enhancement is fairly commonplace, and DNR has been liberally applied across the piece. The colour scheme is reasonably well reflected, although colours are a little bit oversaturated, and, whilst black levels do hit good levels, black crush is still apparent.
It’s one of the worst-looking Blu-rays that I’ve come across in quite a while, and a horrendous inclusion in what purports to be a ‘new’ collection. In light of the fact that Paramount have also re-released what appears to be the same ‘Extreme Trilogy Collection’ in Japan, only with improved audio, one has to wonder whether they got new transfers too... unfortunately for those who don’t want to take that rather expensive bet, this comparatively inexpensive box-set still provides the best looking transfer that is currently-available-in-the-West, whatever comfort that fact affords.
Right, so Paramount Studios have recently released a Japanese Blu-ray complete with an upgraded DTS-HD Master Audio track in a triple-pack “Extreme Trilogy Collection”. In the US, Paramount has re-released the movie on Blu-ray as part of what looks to be an identical Extreme Trilogy Collection... only with the same standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track as it’s years-old first edition. Sigh. All that said it isn’t a terrible mix, just a disappointing one.
The initial classically-styled Mission Impossible percussion over the Paramount logo offer up some nice separation, and put you in a good enough frame of mind to make the most of the rest, with the score, whatever your feelings towards some of the more electronically-styled variations, getting prominence across the aural array. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, and, whilst you may have to turn this one up a notch to fully enjoy, it’s still got enough presence to enhance the movie adequately.
Effects vary massively, and whilst we don’t have the same classic De Palma-driven soundstage we got from his top tier efforts in that regard (Blow Out, Carlito’s Way), there are some nice moments, including the near-silent scene where Cruise is dangled into the sound-sensitive computer room. Of course there are some big set-pieces as well, the closing train-based finale allowing for some of the grandest effects. The LFE channel does get one or two things to do, but is rarely noticeably active but for during this scene. Overall, this is the best possible way to listen to this movie if you are restricting yourself to US and UK releases, but that’s little comfort when you consider that Japan got the upgrade that we should have got too.
At least this new release includes all of the previously-released extras and, whilst it’s not a great offering, the half-dozen Featurettes do a reasonably good job at providing up some background into the production.
Mission: Remarkable – 40 Years of Creating the Impossible
This 12 minute Featurette looks initially at the origins of Mission: Impossible in terms of the TV show, with Director Brian De Palma, Producer Paula Wagner, Screenwriter Robert Towne, actors Jon Voight and, of course, Tom Cruise himself on board to take you through how the film project got off the ground, the ideas they kept, the characters they jettisoned and the character and story changes they made, particularly as the project got passed from writer to writer. They all talk about their favourite moments and we get a little bit of behind the scenes footage into the film actually being shot, but there are a few too many final film clips padding out the relatively short runtime. Rather oddly, after nearly 8 minutes, it shifts to look at Mission: Impossible 2, and the changes made to bring a new vision of the Mission: Impossible universe to life. John Woo would join the returning producers Cruise and Wagner, but aside from a few soundbites into the different style of the second movie, we get very little. Finally, around the 10 minute mark we look at the third movie, with J. J. Abrams on board to explain his take on the movie series, although that lasts about 10 seconds before we dive into a two-minute montage of the whole franchise.
Mission: Explosive Exploits
This 5 minute Featurette looks explicitly at the stuntwork; explaining how Tom Cruise likes to do the majority of his own stunts himself, and then looking behind the scenes at the key sequences, including the fishtank escape and the CIA heist. This is quite an informative revealing Featurette, even though it is quite short.
Mission: Spies Among Us
This 8 minute Featurette is a collection of interview snippets from real-life CIA and intelligence operatives, who talk about the reality behind the show: covert operations, intelligence gathering, disguises, and assassination attempts using high tech equipment (ballpoint pens concealing hypodermic needles etc.). Another interesting extra.
Mission: Catching the Train
Running at just a couple of minutes in length this is the briefest of looks behind the scenes at the visual effects used to create some of the train sequence, from storyboards to animatics to effects layers and final footage (including noting the shots where Cruise really was hanging onto a speeding train!). Even though it’s so short, it’s still pretty good and it’s just a shame because the limited runtime leaves it unable to but skim the surface of the pivotal scene.
Mission: International Spy Museum
This 7 minute Featurette looks at what is basically a gadget museum, taking us through technological developments which have scene bugs miniaturised over time, guns being put inside lipstick sticks, listening devices in fake dog poo (I kid you not), and rather deadly umbrellas. Relating the concealed video cameras and the different disguises to the film itself, this is quite a nice, although again brief, addition.
Mission: Agent Dossiers
Here we get to look at text-based background dossiers into the key mission agents, including Ethan Hunt, Jim Phelps etc. etc. I’m not really sure who these are designed but there’s very little to be gleaned here unless you’re an absolute Mission: Impossible addict. In which case: enjoy.
Excellence in Film
In 2005 the British Academy of Film and Television Arts honoured Tom Cruise with the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. This tribute was shown during that award ceremony.
This is basically a 9 minute video montage of hundreds of moments from Tom Cruise’s biggest movies, taking us through his long and illustrious career in chronological order and reminding us of just how many great movies he has done (Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, A Few Good Men, The Firm, Jerry Macguire, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Collateral etc etc)
In 2005 the MTV Movie Awards honoured Tom Cruise with the first ever MTV Generation Award. This tribute was shown during that award ceremony.
Another promotional trailer to sum up Cruise’s work, this one covers all the same movies, only with almost no dialogue clips this time round. 2 minutes.
Here we get a selection of about 40 stills from the movie, some of them behind the scenes blue-screen shots, some of them on set publicity stills.
Finally we get a selection of Trailers, including the Theatrical and Teaser Trailers as well as 9 TV Spots, to round off the disc.
On the eve of the release of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol we take a look back at the three previous instalments, starting with this, the Brian De Palma-flavoured first movie. Controversially jettisoning the founding principles of the original TV series, and opting instead for something of a solo-driven globetrotting spy thriller in the mould of Bond, there’s no doubt that – for good or for bad – this was the first step towards what would soon be regarded as Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series. Irrespective of its slights towards the classic TV series, however, there’s no denying that this is a smart, tense, innovative and unpredictable (first time around) spy thriller peppered with famous faces, snappy dialogue and memorable stunts and driven by Cruise's efforts both on and off-camera. And whilst many likely forgive the dispatching of the classic Mission: Impossible team at the outset, few likely forget the stunning suspended-from-the-ceiling set-piece at the heart of this quality summer Blockbuster.
Released as part of Paramount’s purportedly new Extreme Trilogy Collection, this is just the same old Blu-ray recycled in new packaging, with exactly the same disappointing video and limited standard Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, as well as all the same extras. It wasn’t much of an upgrade from DVD back when it was first released, and it’s not much of an upgrade now, but it’s still the best you can get short of forking out for the expensive-but-superior Japanese set. Certainly there’s no doubt that this release is still good value, and this film is a very good start to a series of undeniably entertaining blockbuster spy-action-thrillers; films that you really ought to have in your collection.
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