What’s not to love about the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series? This is my personal favourite franchise these days as all of the movies are smart, story-driven action pictures made for adults, in a world that seems to be falling to cartoonish superhero titles, sequels and remakes. This has always been a curious series to me as it has lasted over 25 years now with many filmmakers doing very different visions of the original TV show but all starring Tom Cruise in the pivotal role of Ethan Hunt. We have seen big, loud visions from John Woo, JJ Abrahams, Brad Bird and more lately Christopher McQuarrie, and this 1996 picture kicked it all off from what some considered an unusual choice.
Legendary filmmaker Brian De Palma (SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, BLOW OUT and many more) kicked off the film series and even though he had a big budget and crew at his disposal, he still makes feature films on his own terms. Even though it was still a big hit upon release, the movie is far more dialogue driven than the later movies, in a way that I don’t even think would be made today. Which is not to slight the later movies in the series (all three MI movies from the 2010’s all made my respective Top 10’s of that year) but it all had to start here. It’s a tight and very dialogue driven adventure on having secret lists of agents get out into the public, double-crossings, triple-crossings and in the film’s most famous sequence, Ethan Hunt having to silently break-in to the CIA and swap ultra secret floppy disks. Ah, the 90s.
About the Blu Ray release:
This is a 25th Anniversary Blu Ray reissue from Paramount, and what’s surprising is that the studio didn’t decide to re-release the already issued 4k edition or double it up with a new Blu Ray disc also included (it’s typical to use all the 4k disc space towards the movie itself, then put the features on a second disc). So pulling a total “me” move, I redeemed the Apple TV code included in this package and screened the 4k version on Apple TV, along with sampling the Blu Ray. Frequent DePalma collaborator Stephen Burum is up to the task on the look here, with thrilling anamorphic cinematography holds up incredibly well in the 4k restoration. This movie looks and feels more like something really high end out of the 70’s or early 80’s when they used to take movies like this and blow it up to 70mm film presentations in theatres, and I mean that as a compliment to the visual design here. Tradition to DePalma’s style there are a lot of dutch angles, characters filling every inch of the widescreen frame, extreme close-ups, split focus shots and much more to enjoy in this gorgeous visual presentation. The 5.1 soundtrack alternates between very quiet and loud at times and the subwoofers also get a bit of a workout, along with that CIA sequence definitely wanting to make sure you are as silent as possible when you watch it. The Blu Ray also did a Dolby Vision upscale on my monitor and holds up incredibly well on the visual look too!
Along with a cute IMF car decal included in the Blu Ray case, the special features on the Blu Ray (also on the Apple TV version) are mostly all production shorts, mostly with Cruise and producer Paula Wagner, who were big on the scene in this era, and you get a really good sense of how this production came together. With that said, all of the features don’t look great on my newer 4k monitor in low 4×3 letterboxed resolution, and many of the featurettes get repetitive after a while. I also wish we had some more restoration work done on the trailers and marketing section of the disc. This release is screaming for a new documentary from all of the participants on how the series has evolved all the way into the 2018 FALLOUT movie as well as the upcoming MI feature due next year.
This movie is all-out DePalma; having seen BLOW OUT for the first time earlier this year and recent repeat viewings of CASUALTIES OF WAR I have become a die-hard DePalma fan; MISSION IMPOSSIBLE was a rare ultra-budget picture from the auteur and while a lot of it is dated (in particular video-camera glasses that I even remember audience members laughing at in theatres in 1996!), this is still a great example of a franchise getting a solid start. Just keep in mind this is paced FAR different than the more recent MI pictures. This is not a stellar re-release from Paramount as I wish there were some more new features included or even a commentary track along with the old features restored for HD, however this is still an easy purchase for fans of the series.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is now available on Blu Ray along with a separate 4k release which I recommend if you are in 4k territory as you can now access the features through the Apple TV copy. Many thanks to Paramount PR for sending along a copy for review.