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Mission Impossible - Ultimate Missions Collection
Okay, so Tom Cruise has gone nutso. I think we can all agree on that. That doesn't mean that his films aren't good. Some of them are still quite entertaining including Mission Impossible III which was largely overlooked when it was in the theaters due to Tommy's wacko behavior on the talk show circuit. With M:i:III being released as a stand-alone disc in both HD DVD and Blu-ray, Paramount decided that the time was ripe for the first Blu-ray boxed set: The Ultimate Missions Collection. These three films vary in quality, both the quality of the film and the quality of the HD disc, but they are generally enjoyable films that look very good in HD.
IMF operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew go on a relatively easy mission only to have everything go wrong. Soon all of his companions are dead, Hunt discovers that the IMF knew there was a mole in his group, and since he's the only one alive they assume it's him. The only way for Ethan to prove his innocence is to find the real person who set his group up, someone who goes by the code name Job. Doing a little detective work, and with the help of some incriminating evidence left out in the open, Hunt finds out who was paying Job. This person will even reveal who it is if Hunt can get them a list of every undercover CIA agent in the world. Of course, that's kept in CIA headquarters in Langley, carefully guarded. Now all Hunt has to do is steal the data, trade it for Job, trick Job into confessing, and get the list of agents back before anyone gets a chance to look at it. All while trying to stay alive.
This first outing is directed by Brian De Palma and is the best of the bunch. The film's plot is complicated, but that's not a bad thing. You have to pay attention to get some of the twists and turns but at some point it all gets spelled out. This movie has the feel of the original series to a large extent. It sets up a goal and then throws in a number of obstacles to make it appear impossible. There are several "impossible" aspects to this film, and it's a lot of fun watching Cruise circumvent them.
I also enjoyed the plot twists. The first time I saw the movie, I was genuinely surprised when the first team gets killed off. There are a couple of other surprises, some you'll see coming, others you won't, but enough that the film keeps you guessing. I've really always enjoyed the final scene in the movie when Cruise is jetting off after having quit the IMF. It always brings a smile to my face.
Mission Impossible II:
Ethan Hunt has more problems when a rouge IMF agent (not another one!) helps to steal the antidote to an incredibly viral, genetically engineered version of influenza. The problem is that the antidote isn't worth anything without the virus itself. Together they are worth millions, since an unscrupulous individual could release the virus and then sell the cure for astronomical amounts.
In order to discover exactly what the thieves have and know, Ethan recruits an attractive international thief, Nyah (Thandie Newton) who also happens to be the ring leader's ex-girlfriend. She's the only one who would be able to sneak into the terrorist's compound, and though Hunt has developed romantic feelings for her, he lets her go do her job. It becomes a race to see who can steal the virus first and when Nyah gets infected with the deadly disease, Ethan has to break into the villain's stronghold to snatch the antidote.
This time action film director John Woo takes the helm and boy does he create a lousy movie. This Ethan Hunt is nothing like the character from the first film. He's cocky and a bit arrogant, nothing like how he acted in the first film. That's not the worst of it however. While the first film had a complex and slightly convoluted plot, this one is straight forward and simple...and nonsensical.
There are so many dumb things in this movie that it's hard to know where to begin. Ethan and his IMF team (who are almost incidental characters in this movie) create and elaborate way of breaking into the building where the virus is kept from the roof (the building just happens to have a ten story shaft running down the middle that ends over the room Ethan needs to get to) while the bad guys just walk in from the street. Then they decide that having a gun battle in a lab full of lethal disease samples is a great idea. And why didn't they just break into the bad guy's house in the first place and steal the cure? That would have made a lot more sense.
I really admire many of John Woo's Hong Kong films like Hard Boiled and The Killer, but he doesn't show his flair for creating exciting and suspenseful scenes with this movie. All of the action scenes are so over the top that they are almost parodies of themselves. When Tom Cruise jumps off a motorcycle that's speeding down a street, holds onto one side of the handlebars and lets the cycle pull him along, his feet sliding on the asphalt while he shoots at villains the audience is supposed to laugh, right? No one can take that stuff seriously, can they? And what was with the white doves flying around in an underground bunker??? Yes, it looked nice but it was laughably stupid. Suffice to say there's no where to go but up form here.
Mission Impossilbe III:
Ethan Hunt (the third version, this guy bears little resemblance to the character with that name in the previous movies) has just gotten married and has retired from the field. He spends his time training new IMF agents. When the best student he has ever trained, Lindsy Farris (Keri Russell) is captured (and for some reason not 'disavowed' like the recordings always says will happen) Ethan leads a team to go get her. Things get complicated when Farris gives Ethan some information suggesting that the head of the IMF is (get ready for this...) actually a mole! Oh my gosh, what are the odds that there will be three crooked IMF agents in the sequential films??? They really need to work on their internal security.
Anyway, Ethan discovers that the arms dealer that Farris was tailing, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is going to sell something called the Rabbit's Foot for hundreds of millions of dollars. He assumes that this is a weapon of amazing power that could do significant damage in the wrong hands. Without letting his superiors know, Hunt and his team go after Hunt, and when that goes awry after the Rabbit's Foot itself.
This was a good solid action flick. Directed by TV superstar J. J. Abrams (Alias, Lost) this feels a lot like and extended episode of Alias. The movie starts with a suspenseful scene from the later part of the story that really gets your blood pumping. That's an effective way to jumpstart the plot and it keeps the viewers guessing too. It worked well here. The movie also has some much needed humor that the previous films were lacking. The scene where Tom Cruise talks to some of his fiancée's friends at their engagement party was great.
The action was still there in this film, but it wasn't as idiotic as in part 2. Abrams seemed to grasp the idea behind the franchise much better than John Woo did. This film has some great stunts but the action never becomes silly. This was a fun film that is worth watching.
This set comes in three standard Blu-ray cases which are housed in a thin pressboard slipcase. The first two films come on a single disc, but the third one is a two BD set. The first disc has the movie and commentary track while the second disc is reserved for extras.
All three films look good in HD, but the quality decreases as the films get older. Mission Impossible 1 looked much better than the SD DVD that I have, but it is only a bit above average for a Blu-ray disc. The level of detail was good, but not great, and the image had much more dimensionality than the SD disc. Blocking, aliasing, and other compression artifacts weren't to be seen. On the down side there were a few spots and specks on the print used to master the disc, which I was disappointed to see. It wasn't as bad as Fifth Element but they were there, maybe a dozen or less over the course of the film. The flesh tones were slightly off in several scenes with faces being just a tad too red. The picture was also a bit softer than most Blu-ray discs, and a tad on the dark side. Still a nice looking disc, this is just not reference quality.
Things look a bit better with Mission Impossible II. Fine details were definitely stronger in this second film and the flesh tones looked better, though there were a few scenes where they looked ever so slightly too orange. The black levels were also stronger and the movie wasn't as dark as the first film. There was a digital defect or two, the most notable being a bit of cross colorization in the skyscraper windows of Sydney. This was minor though. The film had a nice three dimensional feel to it during the brightly lit scenes which adds to the enjoyment of the movie.
M:i:III is the best looking of the bunch and is a nice looking disc overall. It delivers everything you'd expect to see in a quality HD disc. There was a lot of image 'pop' throughout the movie and the detail was excellent. Even the smallest details were strong and clear. The colors were vivid and bright and seemed to leap off the screen. The contrast was great and this film had an appropriate brightness level. This disc has a nice, sharp look that was very impressive.
I would say that M:i:III had a perfect transfer except for a couple of minor flaws that were irritating none the less. There were a couple of digital defects that managed to sneak in and harm an otherwise wonderful transfer. There were some jittery background details in just one or two scenes, the stairs in the Vatican seemed to be moving on their own for a second or two which was disappointing. There was a very slight bit of aliasing as the camera panned across the skyscrapers of Shanghai too. These were minor flaws though and they seemed to jump out since the rest of the film looked so good.
All three films have a nice DD 5.1 soundtrack which also improves as the movies get younger. All of the tracks are reproduced well, with no hiss, dropouts, distortion, or other audio defects. There is excellent dynamic range and with significant bass in the action scenes that will give really your subwoofer a workout. The newly recorded theme song sounds great, a forceful tune that is very exciting and fits the movies well. The main qualms I have is with the mixing itself. In the first movie the surrounds are not used as fully as they could have been. The track wasn't as engulfing as I would have liked, with a lack of background noise thrown to the rears. The action scenes were full and active, but sometimes the sound was more powerful than the action on screen. When Ethan blows up the aquarium in a restaurant at the beginning, it sounded like Hover Dam had just burst instead of 150 gallons of water falling onto the floor.
The second and third movies both sounded very good. In each case the DD 5.1 track really went a long way towards immersing the viewer in the film. The full soundstage was used with discrete sound effects coming from all corners of the room, even during the more mundane scenes. When it comes to the action sequences, these films were amazing. Not only did they produce powerful, rumbling low bass sound effects, but the fight scenes had a lot of very tight sounds layered on top of each other that gave the feeling you were in the middle to the action. From the battle in the lab in M:i:II where you could hear the discharged shell casings hit the floor to the bridge fight in M:i:III where the explosions seemed to hit you in the chest, both of these were top-notch discs.
All three films come with a full compliment of extras, more than enough for any fan of the franchise. The first film has all of the extras included with the 10th Anniversary Edition DVD. There are several featurettes that look at the stunts, real life spies, creating the train tunnel scene and an overview of the series. There are also nine TV spots and a photo gallery. All of these are in standard definition. A HD teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer for the film are also included.
Moving along to the second film, director John Woo provides a commentary, there's a fifteen minute 'making of' featurette where the cast and crew all jump in front of the camera and proclaim how much fun it is to work with everyone else and how great the movie will be. The five-minute look at the stunts in the film and a 30-minute breakdown of 11 scenes were more solid extras and fun to watch if you are interested in that sort of thing. There's also a montage of Cruise films, an alternative title sequence, and a music video.
The final film in the trilogy is also packed with bonus material. Where the extras on the first two films were presented in standard definition however, on the third film they are in HD. That was a nice move and one I expect more studios will start to emulate as time goes on.
The commentary by director J. J. Abrams and star Tom Cruise is the only extra on the first disc, but it's a good one. This track is really a lot of fun to listen to, with Abrams and Cruise talking practically non-stop and being very entertaining through the entire film. This Blu-ray disc does not have the 'enhanced commentary' that the HD DVD disc boasts.
The second disc is devoted to extras. It starts off with a nearly half-hour 'making-of' featurette that's pretty much a fluff piece. Everyone is happy to be making the film and working with everyone involved. 'nuff said.
There are also eight other featurettes that run about an hour and a half all together. They cover the casting, stunts, music, the tear away masks, and the CG animatics. There are 5 minutes worth of deleted scenes too. This was a mixed bag, with the bad outweighing the good for the most part. The footage of Cruise at the movie's premiers in various cities around the world didn't do much for me, but the look at the stunts was interesting. Overall a very complete set of extras.
This was a fun set of films. Even the second movie, which I didn't like, had a certain amount of charm and wasn't too bad for a popcorn film. The transfers look very good overall. While the first mission was only about average for a Blu-ray disc, the second fared much better and the third movie looked outstanding. The fact that these are packed with extras makes them even more attractive. Recommended.