Quantcast

Mission: Impossible (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

In preparation and celebration of the upcoming Mission: Impossible: Fallout, the sixth film in the Tom Cruise-led spy fantasy series, Paramount Home Entertainment will be releasing the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debuts of each of the five previous films in the franchise. You’ll be able to relive all the exciting espionage, mask wearing trickery and death defying stunts that have captivated audiences for the last 22 years. From Ethan Hunt dangling from the ceiling of a top secret room in CIA headquarters to holding onto a plane 1,000 feet in the air, the Mission: Impossible series has known how to constantly push the envelope within the confines of its own world. On June 26th, your mission – should you choose to accept – will be to upgrade your collection with all five films on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Why So Blu will be reviewing each one. We start where it all began, the original summer blockbuster helmed by legendary director Brian De Palma.

Film 

When U.S. government operative Ethan Hunt and his mentor, Jim Phelps, go on a covert assignment that takes a disastrous turn, Jim is killed, and Ethan becomes the prime murder suspect. Now a fugitive, Hunt recruits brilliant hacker Luther Stickell and maverick pilot Franz Krieger to help him sneak into a heavily guarded CIA building to retrieve a confidential computer file that will prove his innocence.

Mission: Impossible is the perfect storm of resurrecting an old property with big blockbuster intentions (Something, folks, has always been a thing), one of the biggest stars leading the way and a master craftsman at the helm elevating the material above popcorn level. While the film was a massive hit, its impression was almost a passive aggressive favorable as it featured an interesting reaction from general audiences and some critics. Luckily, the film has aged itself away from it and continues to be ever so strong today as it was when it release back in the summer of 1996.

In today’s television world, one of two things can happen to a once popular show that currently isn’t airing new episodes. One, you can just un-cancel the program and just pick up where it was left off. Another approach is to reboot the series and try to do a modern reimagining of it with today’s storytelling motifs and special effects. Back in the 1990s, your show had “returned” when Hollywood deemed you worthy of making a feature film version of your show. Mostly, these films would not be continuations, but just a fresh start (The Flintstones, The Avengers). Some would just parody (The Brady Bunch Movies). Of course The X-Files and Star Trek would continue on their stories, but those are a different breed. Mission: Impossible chose to go that route and continue with the character of Jim Phelps, who led the show from the second season onward and for the short lived revival show. The role would have to be recast with Jon Voight, as star Peter Graves disagreed with the direction of the character.

Let’s jump ahead quickly here; Peter Graves did not want to return because Jim Phelps was the villain of the film. And he wasn’t the only one upset, many of the longtime fans of the television series were quite upset with that revelation. This was in 1995, the very early days of internet film culture, and pre-dating social media. Could you imagine the outcry today if this happened? Mission: Impossible has gone on to become a very popular film series with almost 3 billion dollars in box office receipts. Obviously those upset weren’t many and it also drew in many new fans. The reveal comes unexpected, but is a worthwhile and clever move that fanboys seem to turn on for being outsmarted or not willing to go in a new direction akin to another great surprise like the truth about the Mandarin in Iron Man Three.

Tom Cruise is no dummy when it comes to being a film fanatic and knowledgeable. He wanted to produce a blockbuster version of the series that honored the series’ smarts. Hand picking Brian De Palma immediately turned this film from popcorn munching into some outstanding cinema. Long known as someone who either exercises his adoration for Alfred Hitchcock or rips him off (However you choose to see it), De Palma had never tapped into Hitch’s little espionage well that he consistently returned to (Think The 39 Steps, North By Northwest and Torn Curtain). In Mission: Impossible, De Palma gives us that man with certain knowledge, on the run, able to trust no one and doing his best to find the source of it all to stop the chase. Usually these films feature a classic MacGuffin, and our plot here revolves around a highly coveted NOC list. If you made a checklist, I’m sure De Palma marks off most of the boxes, but you get the picture here.

We shouldn’t just dismiss De Palma because of him borrowing the outline/structure of an “Ultimate Hitchock” plot. The director is far more impressive in his technique with which he tells Mission: Impossible. I particularly am amused by the constant use of zooms in the film. His cinematic language on display is outstanding and something I appreciate more and more with each watch. You aren’t being served some random big budget action blockbuster. Spectacle is one thing, but conveying an entire plot visually is incredibly impressive. De Palma is so on point and beyond control of the camera that the visuals in the film tell the story above all else. One could watch Mission: Impossible either silent or with an isolated score track and likely fully understand the entire plot of the film with no audible (or subtitle) assistance. Its an incredible feat for a blockbuster like this, with as intricate the details of this plot can become, but its all there and it truly needs no words.

De Palma’s craft really steps up when it comes to the action sequences in the film. The set ups and pay offs work in close proximity and also play the long game. Every one of the main action/suspense set pieces give the audience a focused set up, mission objectives, possibilities, geography, obstacle details and clear pathway to success. Its lived in by you and in turn the characters. Visually you’re invested because you are clearly given the ins and outs of all the sequences and when they go just a hair left of what you’re expecting it has you leaning just a bit more forward and works the nerves a tad more. You also know you have an all-timer sequence in here with the CIA break-in, as it was constantly parodied, marketed and showcased during that era. Its an incredibly fun, over the top sequence that you just can’t help but invest yourself in. It involves so many pieces to the puzzle, steps and rules that are clearly established that make every bit of conflict that happens in it quite joyful. And for every bit of quite and slow burning suspense that brings, the train/helicopter finish counters with loud, punchy intensity.

Many words were said about the film following its release, as it somehow confused audiences. The film is pretty clear and goes out of its way to overstate its purpose and pull the curtain back on how everything worked out. Heck, it actually goes to some absurd levels to overcompensate in case anyone is confused. Yet, still, the film sailed right over the audiences’ heads. In today’s film climate, I don’t think this would have been a problem, but here in 1996, the filmgoing public wasn’t used to having to do much thinking during a summer movie of this kind of magnitude. And to be fair, it was akin to being the next sort of Jame Bond film, and those are primarily a relaxant when it comes to spy fantasy entertainment. But, maybe Mission: Impossible takes the hit and is the one that needed to happen in order to make our big budget films a little bit smarter and more dignified. Today, this movie is quite easy to figure out just in terms of some casting. Back then it was a shocker that movie stars like Jon Voight, Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott Thomas were all killed off before the first reel change. The rug had been pulled out from everyone and it left an uncertainty over the rest of the film. Today, however, nobody was going to buy that Jon Voight was really dead and it would just be a ticking clock until he returned as the big bad of the film.

Tom Cruise’s initial turn as Ethan Hunt is a smarter than your average blockbuster spy thriller that has the elevates itself above the normal popcorn flick bunch. Its a great start that manages to take the low key spy fun of the original series and evolve it to big screen level thrills. De Palma directs the hell out of this movie, which is probably the last great film we’ve seen from him (Though there are impressive things to be found in the films that follow Mission: Impossible). It may not play as surprising as it once did, but the thrills and impressive cinematic visual language holds up quite well and makes it all the worth the while. The film features a good nucleus, with other ingredients that would assist in finding the formula. While I wonder what the following film would be had been had audiences received it differently, I’m glad it went the way it did. Their reaction absolutely helped to shape the some of the bigger behind the scenes strengths of the series and began the path to which we would be brought to today.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: During the early days of Blu-ray, Mission: Impossible III was released in theaters and Paramount rightfully took the opportunity to bump the first two films to the format. It was early and the encoding process was still in its early stages of being figured out. The original release of this film found itself with an MPEG-2 encoding that was never followed up or redone. The results were harshly looked upon by some. It was okay, but nothing impressive for the format and something that just kinda felt like getting it out there. That had lasted for 11 years. I can refreshingly say that the work and effort has finally gone into restoring the original film. It looks goddman marvelous in a its fully flushed, bold image. Details run rampant and just the overall performance of the movie feels like a breath of fresh air and takes on a new experience. Grain holds fine here and the image just has so much to offer. Colors have really been stepped up here as there is a wonderful palette being displayed here in grandiose fashion. This has never been a film that I’ve remembered as being super colorful, but what they have going in this new transfer has given me a new light with which to see it. Once again, Paramount has really gone back and delivered on a catalog title for the inaugural outing of one of their big franchises. This has me looking very forward to see what’s in store for the other four films.

Depth:  In this new display, the film breathes a lot more. It features a much more European look to the cinematography. Distance between foreground and background is much more pronounced. Actors feel more free in their space. Movements are much more cinematic, more fluid and smoother than before. No jitters or blurring occurs during the more rapidly moving action sequences. Everything looks quite clear.

Black Levels: Blacks are now more natural, but find some good deep displays. Details on clothes, surfaces and in the darkness all feature strong details and hold onto their textures. Leather jackets shows all the wrinkles and cracks, hair follicles are plenty split up and you can almost feel Jim Phelps helicopter suit(?) that he wears in the climax. No crushing present at all during the viewing of the film

Color Reproduction: The colors in the film are pretty luscious and pronounced. Blues and reds flourish quite wonderfully. Red is all over, as a matter of fact, from the helicopter at the end, the seats on the train, the firetruck and more. Blues come in the form of a lot of lighting and glare, but also in many other more solid spots. Greens are strong when you see grass and other forestry. HDR gets put to use but not abused. Car lights, explosions, and monitor displays all feature a really cool glow that bounces right off your screen. Filters used in scenes are now a bit more apparent, but there are good crisp detail and shapes more defined under them.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain consistency from the opening to the conclusion of the film. Color looks quite full. Facial features like stubble, wrinkles, scars, freckles, lip texture, make-up lines and any bit of texture come through impressively clear as day from most given distances.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English Audio Description, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin America) 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portguese Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Danish, German, Spanish, Spanish (Latin America), French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish

Dynamics: Before being bummed at the absence of a Dolby Atmos track, note that the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is an absolute leap above its Blu-ray counterpart. Previously, the film has only been offered with Dolby Digital. On this release, it is finally able to breath, and the dynamics are pretty outstanding. Paramount’s track is a loud one, that really packs a punch during action scene and when the score really kicks into gear. Explosions are felt and the theme song makes you alert in your seat. Sound effects feature a terrific range, with terrific depth that either bring realism to a quiet dramatic scene or heighten the intensity of a suspenseful one. Vocals are woven in with good prominence. Its a rather balanced mix that works its magic, letting all its players take center stage and never step on another’s toes.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer is kept plenty busy with the bigger, boisterous score alone. Yet, we also find ourselves with rather large, powerful explosions that make us jump in our seats. Gunfire, the train and helicopter also power through the channel with good rumbling. Mission: Impossible likes to rock the room and does so effectively and efficiently.

Surround Sound Presentation: A lot of the movie tends to focus up front, but don’t let that fool you. The back channels put the work in to create ambiance and toss in the unique effects that are relative to the scene when required. You’ll hear bullets, crowd conversation, a door shut and more. Sound travel is very fun in this film, with any direction moving with gusto. Of course the finale features a doozy in terms of sound design and home theater presentation.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and crisp. Its plenty audible, taking center stage during a lot of moments. There is a pretty solid attention to diction captured and presented in this mix.

Extras 

Mission: Impossible 4K Ultra-HD comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. All bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Mission: Remarkable – 40 Years of Creating the Impossible (SD, 11:26) 

Mission: Explosive Exploits (SD, 5:09) 

Mission: Spies Among Us (SD, 8:40)

Mission: Catching the Train (SD, 2:39) 

Mission: International Spy Museum (SD, 6:31)

Mission: Agent Dossiers

  • Ethan Hunt
  • Jim (James) Phelps
  • Sarah Davies
  • Claire Phelps
  • Jack Harmon
  • Hannah Joan Williams
  • Luther Stickell

Excellence in Film (SD, 9:15)

Generation: Cruise (SD, 3:36)

Photo Gallery

Mission: Marketing

  • Theatrical Trailers (HD, 3:13)
  • TV Spots (SD, 3:52)

Summary 

Mission: Impossible is one of my favorite summer blockbuster movies of the 1990s and one of the finest spy thrillers crafted. Paramount’s 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut for the film shows a large improvement over the previous Blu-ray counterpart. The jump in both audio and video are instantly noticeable, which is both refreshing and rewarding to see. This release also retains all the previously released bonus content as well. Finally, good care has been put into restoring and putting this film onto home video. An instant, no-brainer, purchase for this brainy spy film.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments