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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
Special Collector's Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave
Director: Brian De Palma
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: April 11, 2006

“I can understand you’re very upset.”

“KITTRIDGE, YOU’VE NEVER SEEN ME VERY UPSET!”

Film ****

Upon my first viewing of Mission: Impossible, I had never seen a single episode of the popular television series upon which the movie is based. Of course, I knew the theme song note for note. My main reason for seeing it was that it happened to be directed by my all time favorite director, Brian De Palma.

De Palma seemed even to me like an unlikely choice to make a movie like Mission: Impossible, but his sense of style and unique talent for creating and maintaining suspense is what makes this one of the finest “popcorn” movies of our time. And as for its star, Tom Cruise, who had double success in 1996 with this film and Jerry Maguire, I can certainly say that this ranks among the best films he has done.

Critics and audiences alike were no doubt entertained by the film, but many panned the plot of the film, which seemed too confusing. I guess you could say a lot of people wanted to call the movie “Mission: Incomprehensible”. I will confess, after my first viewing, I was a little puzzled by the plotting, mostly because I was too busy being awe struck by the visual style of the movie, as well as movie’s key action sequences.

It took several viewings of the movie to really understand the mystery of the story, which I now find to be extremely clever in Robert Towne’s screenplay. I watched the movie again prior to composing this review, and now more than ever, I find the plotting of the movie is ingenious because it makes it more distinctive than your average spy adventure.

The movie begins with IMF (Impossible Mission Force) team leader Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) dispatching his team with their latest assignment, which they have chosen to accept. It involves the recovery of a computer disk, which contains a highly confidential listing of double agents in the CIA, known as the NOC-list. The mission goes down in Prague, and it becomes botched faster than you can frame a member of an IMF team, which is exactly what happens to point man Ethan Hunt (Cruise).

Hunt is the only team member left standing after witnessing all of his fellow agents killed, including Phelps. He then discovers that the mission was a fake, and was actually a mole hunt, and Hunt is then disavowed, as he’s suspected by his agency of being a double agent, and under the employment of an arms dealer named Max.

Have I lost you yet? This is probably the most detailed analysis of a plot I’ve ever written. Hunt eventually comes face to face with Max, who appears in the form of none other than Vanessa Redgrave, who cuts him a deal; to deliver the actual NOC-list, and in return will find out who it was that framed him. To retrieve the real list, he’ll have to break into CIA Headquarters in Langley. Hunt then enlists of two other agents, Luther (Ving Rhames) and Krieger (Jean Reno), who are also disavowed. And thus the real mission begins…

Two sequences in particular standout in the film, the break-in sequence in CIA Headquarters and the movie’s climatic mano a mano on a high-speed bullet train. The computer theft scene is one of De Palma’s finest moments. It’s an extended scene shot in near complete silence, which is the key to a successful theft in this particular building, since we are informed that even the slightest change in weight or body temperature will set off the alarm. The only way for our hero to pull this off is to dangle from a harness as he downloads the NOC-list to a computer disc.

The climatic chase sequence ranks among the absolute best action sequences I have ever seen. Cruise pursues the movie’s villain, whose name I won’t reveal, on top of a speeding bullet train, that’s being followed by a helicopter, which leads all the way into the English Chunnel. It’s outrageous and filled with numerous over-the-top stunts, and that’s what makes it so great. It’s a sequence that I must admit, came right out of left field the first time I saw it. Up until this point, there were not any action scene of this kind of spectacle in the movie, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it.

Mission: Impossible is a rare thinking-man’s action thriller, which is a somewhat rarity in today’s moviemaking. It has already evolved into a franchise, boasting an equally thrilling and explosive sequel directed by John Woo, hoping to rival the James Bond series. I can certainly say that with this film, and its sequel, Cruise and co. are off to a more than impressive start.

Video ****

It’s always great to see a De Palma movie get a good makeover on DVD. Actually, I do remember stating that the original disc included what is still the BEST NON-ANAMORPHIC widescreen presentation ever to be put on DVD. But now Paramount has given the proper anamorphic look to the ultra-stylish thriller, and it has never looked better. Image clarity is a hundred percent clear and crisp, and colors look more vibrant than before. And thank heavens Paramount ditched the Full Screen version that was included before, because like so many of De Palma’s films, Mission is a disaster to watch in pan and scan. A remarkable job!

Audio ****

Nothing much more to say about the 5.1 mix, except that it’s still as explosive and effective as it was on the original disc. All of the suspense and action is brought to amazing life through this incredible piece of audio, highlighted by Danny Elfman’s one of a kind score, in particular his thunderous re-creation of the theme song. And yes, the climatic bullet train sequence remains one of the grandest moments to be played on a home theater system.

Features ***1/2

Definitely the section of the disc I was waiting for. Some nice list of extras for this Special Collector’s Edition, including the Featurettes “40 Years Of Creating The Impossible”, “Explosive Exploits”, “Spies Among Us”, “Catching The Train”, “International Spy Museum”, “Agent Dossiers”, as well as the Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Filmmaking Acceptance Speech and Generation: Cruise Feature. Lastly, there is a Photo Gallery, Trailers & TV Spots and an Easter Egg.

Summary:

Mission: Impossible ignited a franchise that I am still a huge fan of. With Mission III set to hit theaters real soon, there’s no better time than to catch up with the one that started it all, as well as the one that followed!

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