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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > Mission: Impossible - Special Collector's Edition (1996/Paramount DVD)

Mission: Impossible – Special Collector’s Edition (1996 film)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: C+     Film: B



After it has been a hit series for seven seasons, Mission: Impossible finally folded in the early 1970s, long after the Spy craze ended and every other TV series in the genre had folded.  Of course, the James Bond films found a new life with Roger Moore, but that was it.  When the series began, it was produced by Desilu, Lucille Ball’s production company.  In the end, Paramount bought Lucy out and they owned it.  For many years, they wanted to revive it and many attempts fell through.  Not thinking it could work as a feature film, they finally launched a revival series in the late 1980s with Peter Graves back as the head of the Impossible Mission force, but bad scripts, lack of energy and a writer’s strike killed the show after two seasons despite an interesting cast.


Then, Tom Cruise, one of the biggest movie stars in the world, decided to finally set up shop at a movie studio and when Paramount cut the deal, Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner asked about the status of Mission: Impossible.  The result was a relaunching of the name that exceeded expectations and became the biggest hit of Cruise’s career, one with so many hits already that few stars will ever match it.  By pulling in Brian De Palma to direct, having the legendary Robert Towne, join red-hot David Koepp and the ever-amazing Steven Zaillian to write the story, the film helped launch a revival of the genre like nothing since the Roger Moore trilogy of The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only.


This film harkened back to something more like For Your Eyes Only, with its darker take on the world of espionage, one that seemed lost after the end of The Cold War that this film and Goldeneye managed to revive.  The film begins in much the style of the original show as a take off point, something the sequels decided to leave behind.  There was still a team, with Graves’ Jim Phelps now being played by John Voight.  Cruise, Emmanuelle Béart, Emilio Estevez, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Jean Reno and Ving Rhames become the new force out to find out the source of a deadly virus.  Of course, this is the MacGuffin and a double cross is afoot.  Harkening back to Hitchcock in a way most people only dream of, it greatest heir (De Palma) particularly is interested in his black and white films for David Selznick (Notorious, Spellbound) in reaching the desired world of intrigue, then the film kicks in and Cruise gets his hands dirty in a way many wondered if he would have the guts to.  The result was a new megastar period for him he is still in and the film holds up very well considering what has followed in the genre and big budget filmmaking in general.  Vanessa Redgrave makes a terrific appearance as a spymaster, Henry Czerny is underappreciated as Cruise’s alternate spymaster contact, the locations are terrific and all are lit in a way they will never be lit again.  Though not as complex as episodes from the early three seasons of the show, the film has plenty of fun with the original structure of the show without pandering to the audience.  Reviving the show in any way, especially for the big screen, was a Mission: Impossible.  However, this film achieved just that and the Spy genre has stayed alive since.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was masterfully shot by cinematographer Stephen Burum, A.S.C., in real anamorphic Panavision and brought back the pre-Reagan-era look of Spy genre films.  With rich production design by Norman Reynolds, the film just could not miss and the resulting look is rich and clever.  The transfer is good, but just cannot capture all the detail the 35mm print offered, so we’ll have to wait for the Blu-ray and HD-DVD versions for that possibility.  However, this still is decent on DVD here, though Video Black has some issues.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also impressive, though this was more impressive theatrically in DTS, a soundtrack option that should have been included here and is not.  Too bad, because the mix on the film holds up as well as the bass-rich 5.1 mix for the James Bond film Goldeneye that arrived late the previous year.  The combination is still strong enough, including one of Danny Elfman’s better scores, with De Palma once again (with longtime editor Paul Hirsch) proving as he did with The Untouchables (1987) that he knows what to do with multi-channel sound.  Even his brilliant Blow Out (1981) showed an exceptional use of music and sound mixing outside of the plot.


Extras include six featurettes, most of which were produced at the time, but offer high quality new opening titles, to montages of Cruise’s films, stills and promotional materials.  This includes TV spots, original theatrical teaser and trailer for this film, plus a preview for Mission: Impossible III.  The comic book is even noted on the DVD case that was issued at the time, which is worth getting if you enjoy the film as a back-issue comic, while an action figure series was issued briefly.  Mission: Impossible II was also supposed to come out in a special edition and even with DTS, while the first season of the original series has been delayed temporarily.  Either way, the blitz is on and we’ll see what comes our way next.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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