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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Espionage > Mystery > Thriller > Adventure > Cold War > TV > The Double (2011/Image Blu-ray)/Mission: Impossible: The ’88 TV Season (CBS DVD Set)

The Double (2011/Image Blu-ray)/Mission: Impossible: The ’88 TV Season (CBS DVD Set)


Picture: B/C     Sound: B/C+     Extras: C+/D     Main Programs: C+



Hollywood is stuck in the 1980s for the worst, including the strangest development in the action genre, trying to almost revive The Cold War, which is practically an insult a decade after the events of 9/11 and is the epitome of how bizarre the town has become more out of touch with its audience since anytime since the later 1960s.  The fourth Mission: Impossible film (2011 and note they dropped the “4” to sell it better) uses a scenario as fodder for its comic (sometimes unintentionally) popcorn plot, though the original show was a product of the Cold War era, even the first Tom Cruise film in the series wanted to trash the series to some extent (not like the new one does though) to be its own version of the franchise.


That brings us to two new releases on disc that line up and happen to show this trend.



First we have Michael Brandt’s The Double (2011) with Richard Gere called back into working with the CIA he left behind to get a one-time Soviet agent.  Topher Grace 9in a good performance) is the young FBI agent who has tracked the story of him and his adversary since Gere’s departure, but Gere concludes a new killing is a copycat and the real killer is gone, though he never killed him personally.  To the credit of writers Brandt and Derek Haas (who at their best wrote the underrated remake of 3:10 To Yuma) are trying to do something new and different with this scenario, but the whole Cold War spy cycle was so played out by the time the Soviet Union fell that studios were dumping their tired thrillers as write-offs as such storytelling had worn thin as the reactionary 1980s wore all Soviet scenarios thin to the breaking point.  This was evidenced by how big a bomb Rambo III was and how the 1989 Bond film Licence To Kill turned away from that territory (for which they were masters) and made an ultra-violent drug kingpin/revenge thriller instead.


However, this is still a surprisingly energetic, ambitious action film with fight scenes that convince even when the storyline has issues and Gere gives his best performance since the underrated Shall We Dance (2004) and best action work since the somewhat similar and itself mixed The Jackal (1997).  Unlike most of the formula action garbage we have seen lately however, this takes the audience and its intelligence seriously and you might want to give it a look if it sounds like something you might want to see.  Hope Brandt and Haas try something like this again soon.

Extras include a Featurette, Trailer and feature length audio commentary track by Brandt and Haas.



To further prove how thin Cold War stories were getting, Mission: Impossible: The ’88 TV Season was Paramount’s earlier attempt to revive the classic TV series and they even got Peter Graves to return as the one and only Jim Phelps.  Made in Australia, the show added newer technology (some of which is amusing to see now) and a mix of Cold war and non-Cold War scripts, but the results were very mixed, too talky like the later seasons of the original show that ruined it (which I was re-reminded of watching the show again) and when the writer’s strike happened at that time (even affecting work on Licence To Kill), the show started recycling scripts from the later seasons of the old show, so it was sabotaged on some level.


Phelps gets little PC mini-books with 3-inch CDs that include video (his scanned thumb print gets the disc out of the machine) and he gets his mission on a computer screen.  Some of this is amusing, but the show lacks suspense and like later seasons of the original show, watching for dated technology becomes one of the reasons to revisit it in the face of weaker teleplays.  All 19 hour-long shows are here across five DVDs.


The new show managed to land Phil Morris (now known as The Martian Manhunter from Smallville) as the electronics expert on the team, a role his father Greg Morris had on the original series and their characters were also father and son.  Thaao Penghlis (Russell’s Altered States) played disguise expert Nicholas Black, Antony Hamilton (who almost became the first blond James Bond) played strongman Max Harte, Terry Markwell played lady agent Casey Randall and Jane Badler (the original “V”, Falcon Crest) played lady agent Shannon Reed (no joke intended).


At least the show was trying to be Mission: Impossible, but it was a revival that had too many things working against it.  I hope to revisit the rest of the show when the other half of the series hits DVD.  There are no extras, but for more of the original series, try these links:


Mission: Impossible: The Complete First Season



Mission: Impossible: The Complete Second Season




The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Double is slightly stylized, but had more good shots throughout than expected, helped by the fact that Director of Photography Jeffrey L. Kimball, A.S.C. (Star Trek: Nemesis, Glory Road, True Romance, Top Gun and Mission: Impossible II among his many films with John Woo) shot this in the Super 35mm format and is a good choice to lens this genre.  The scope frame is used more effectively than I have seen on many larger blockbuster releases.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is also decent even with its amount of dialogue, but the surrounds are used well.  No demo moments here, but John Debney’s score is not bad and most effective since Idlewild (2006)


The 1.33 X 1 image on the episodes of Mission: Impossible were originally shot on 35mm film, but like so many shows at this time on TV, credits and visual effects  (and possibly final editing) were finished on analog videotape and that makes these transfers softer than they should be.  Like the HD upgrades Paramount/CBS is doing on Star Trek: The Next Generation for Blu-ray and other HD markets & outlets, this series needs the same treatment, especially as compared to how great the original seasons looked on DVD alone.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo holds up better, but the lossy codec has its sonic limits.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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