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You’d be hard pressed to argue that 1996 wasn’t a great year for Tom Cruise at the box office. He was once again nominated for an Academy Award for his work in the year’s fourth highest grossing film, Jerry Maguire, and Mission: Impossible would finish out the summer as the year’s third highest grosser and his biggest box office hit ever at the time—not to mention it was a film in which he had a personal stake in as a first time producer.

Mission: Impossible: Special Collector's Edition
Now unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years you already know the basic plot of the film, but if you don’t Mission: Impossible is very loosely based on the television series that first aired in the late sixties, and again during a short lived revival in the late eighties, which followed the exploits of a revolving team of secret agents trotting around the globe and saving the day on a week-to-week basis. The 1996 update finds IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) at the center of the action, and after a mission to intercept a spy goes horribly wrong his entire team is killed leaving him as the sole survivor. Hunt quickly learns that the entire operation was a ruse to flush out a possible mole in the department, and since he remains the only member of his team left all fingers point to him as the traitor. Determined to catch the real mole, clear his name, and make the world safe again, Hunt goes on the offensive, and in typical secret agent fashion, begins playing all sides of the conspiracy against one another to get his man.

There isn’t much that already hasn’t been written about this blockbuster flick over the past ten years since it first showed up in theatres, but for the most part Mission: Impossible is a well crafted espionage thriller, even if the interchangeable characters are fairly cardboard and the plot that drives it gets in the way at times by getting overly complicated. It’s one of those movies that if you miss a few minutes, it’ll take a little time to get back into the swing of things but you won’t pull your hair out in doing so.

Mission: Impossible is also quite atypical of what you would expect from a major summer movie in that it was widely touted as an action picture, but outside of its climax actually contains very few scenes of what most moviegoers would consider high octane thrills. Instead, director Brain De Palma does what he does best in creating tense moments where inaction, rather than action, is the operative word. Scenes such as the one that finds Cruise dangling above the floor of a highly secured room in CIA headquarters provide edge of your seat stuff, and the whole scene is pulled off without a single gunshot.

Mission: Impossible: Special Collector's Edition
Those who like a little more action with their spies will more than likely find the John Woo directed Mission: Impossible-II with it’s roundhouse-kick-a-minute hijinks more to their liking, but I’ll take this first Mission over it any day of the week. Sure, it’s mostly just an opportunity for Tom Cruise to play James Bond without infringing on any trademarks or copyrights, but it’s all good fun and ten years later still an enjoyable, two-hour diversion.

Video
Paramount Home Entertainment has given fans of Mission: Impossible what they have been waiting for since its first release to DVD by providing this edition with an anamorphically enhanced picture at the film’s theatrically exhibited aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The new transfer on this disc is leaps and bounds better than the previous disc and should be the main reason that those who already own the older one will want to purchase the title for a second time.

The higher bit rate afforded this transfer allows for a nice, detailed picture that suffers from very little in the way of edge enhancement, grain, or pixilation, and darker colours are rich and deep while the film’s brighter scenes pop off the screen. On the down side, the movie itself looks a bit soft at times, and artefacts caused by debris on the source print, though not present to the extent that they detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie, are present throughout, which is a bit of a disappointment seeing as the film was released just ten years ago. Overall, Paramount has done well by the title, but a major release such as this should be near perfect and this transfer, starting with its source, just isn’t.

Audio
This new edition of Mission: Impossible features in its bag of tricks a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, accompanied by Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks in English and French along with English and Spanish subtitles. The 5.1 track showcased on the disc is near reference quality as far as such tracks go, allowing the film’s ambient at times and raucous at others soundtrack to take full advantage of your home theatre setup. Dialogue is crisp and clear from the centre channel and actions scenes, such as the train sequence, utilize the surround channels to full effect, while Danny Elfman’s score is richly reproduced and effective throughout the movie. Overall, Dolby Digital tracks don’t get much better than this, but the upgrade to a DTS track to go along with it and the improved video would have made the technical side of the disc all the sweeter.

Mission: Impossible: Special Collector's Edition
Extras
While Paramount’s original release of Mission: Impossible contained only the film’s theatrical trailer as its lone special feature, this new edition comes with a series of extras that include several featurettes, the film’s teaser and TV spots, and a few other items in addition to the previously mentioned trailer.

First up is a series of five featurettes, Mission: Remarkable – 40 Years of Creating the Impossible (11 mins.), Mission: Explosive Exploits (5 mins.), Mission: Catching the Train (3 mins.), Mission: Spies Among Us (9 mins.), and Mission: International Spy Museum (6 mins.), which make up the bulk of the special features on the disc, and all are full screen with optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The first three featurettes listed focus on certain aspects of the film such as the genesis of bringing Mission: Impossible from the small to the silver screen, the stunt work involved in the film and an explanation of the effects work behind the picture’s explosive finale respectively.

Most of the interview footage found in each of the three pieces is older material dating back to the time when either the first film or the second were originally made, and at a combined running time of about eighteen minutes barely scratches the surface on what was surely a major undertaking in producing the film. In addition to the relative brevity of the featurettes, the pieces aren’t all that informative anyway and are padded with a lot of the usual pats on the back and “we made a great movie” moments.

Mission: Impossible: Special Collector's Edition
The next two featurettes are not focused on the actual production of the film, but are at least more interesting— Mission: International Spy Museum is a look at the history and gadgets found in Washington D.C.’s International Spy Museum, while Mission: Spies Among Us features interviews with various individuals who are, shall we say, experts in the field. Like I said, they’re a bit more interesting than the actual behind-the-scenes stuff, but in truth that really isn’t saying much and you’ll quickly forget about them after switching over to something else on the disc’s menu.

The next features you’ll encounter are two montages featuring various clips, dialogue, and music from the films spanning the career of Tom Cruise, each with running times of approximately nine and three minutes, and each followed by acceptance speeches given by Cruise as the recipient of both the 2005 Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film and MTV’s Generation Award. For Tom Cruise fans I’m sure the inclusion of these tidbits are nice-to-haves, but for everyone else disappointed with the first five featurettes and looking for some more info on Mission: Impossible they are a total waste of disc space.

Rounding out the disc are the movie’s teaser and theatrical trailers, nine television spots, a still gallery, detailed profiles on each of the IMF agents in the film (which is curiously missing Jean Reno’s character), and, surprise, the teaser trailer for the upcoming Mission Impossible-III.

Overall—as if it weren’t obvious to you by now—I was quite letdown by both the quality and quantity of the extras included with this ‘Special Collector’s Edition’ of the movie. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by it, but with no decent information on the production, something that a commentary track of some sort would have aided in immensely, I get the distinct impression that this disc has more to do with promoting the new movie than giving fans of the film a worthwhile disc—and the inclusion of a free movie ticket to the third film just solidifies those feelings. Comparing this release to some other discs, there are plenty of older catalog titles re-released for the exact same reason that have a lot more to offer, and most of those discs are for movies far less superior to this one. The upside to this, however, is that since a free ticket is included, this disc could end up costing you only a few dollars depending on movie theatre prices in your area and the amount you paid for the DVD. This is assuming that you plan on seeing Mission Impossible-III during its first couple weeks of release of course, but when someone else is paying why wouldn't you?

Mission: Impossible: Special Collector's Edition
Overall
Mission: Impossible is a fun, escapist ride for most of its 110 minute running time and contains plenty of intrigue and just enough action to keep most people entertained, even if it’s rather simple plot tends to get a bit unnecessarily convoluted from time to time. For a DVD marking the film’s tenth anniversary a lot of fans are going to find themselves more disappointed than thrilled; while the decent video transfer is a big step up from Paramount’s original, non-anamorphic release and the Dolby 5.1 audio is near reference quality, the bevy of extras that you would expect to be included is rather thin and at times completely pointless to those interested in just some behind-the-scenes information on the making of the film. Overall, if it weren’t for the enhanced video found here I would’ve been just as happy sticking with my older disc, so it remains up to you to decide if the upgrade is worth taking another dip yourself.


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