Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is a top-secret agent, framed for the deaths of his espionage team. Fleeing from government assassins, breaking into the CIA's most impenetrable vault, clinging to the roof of a speeding bullet train, Hunt races like a burning fuse to stay one step ahead of his pursuers...and draw one step closer to discovering the shocking truth. (from Paramount Pictures)
Just a couple months before creating this very website, I accompanied my dad and brother to a discount movie theater to see the 1996 feature film, Mission: Impossible, based on the classic TV series from the 60's. While the movie was a bit rough at times for my young self (who hadn't seen many PG-13 movies at the time), I ended up really loving the movie. Four years later, Mission: Impossible saw its first sequel, the John Woo-directed, M:I 2, and then the franchise would add on another four sequels - of which one could arguably say got better with each new installment. So it is, with the success of 2018's Mission: Impossible - Fallout that two more sequels are in the works (the 7th was originally slated for this year, with the 8th coming out next year, but each has been pushed back a year due to the pandemic). But 2021 marks 25 years since the debut of the first Mission: Impossible film, and to commemorate it, Paramount has released a newly remastered Blu-Ray disc.
Before I get into the movie, I'll touch on what exactly is this 25th Anniversary release of Mission: Impossible. The movie has been remastered, so the picture you get here is the best you'll have seen it on Blu-Ray disc yet. I compared my original trilogy Blu-Ray box set release of Mission: Impossible with this one to give you an idea. The original Blu-Ray transfer isn't bad, but there was a softness to the picture, and white dust specks flickered on the screen at times throughout the movie. This 2021 release is spotless - literally. Sure, there's grain from the film, but the white specks are entirely gone. They did a really great job cleaning up the image. However, the movie is available in 4K UHD elsewhere, and if you have a digital copy of it (like on iTunes), you likely already have the movie in 4K UHD. That version of the film is even clearer and more colorful than this 25th Anniversary release. I suspect that they used the 4K-restored version of the movie for this new Blu-Ray release. As for the Blu-Ray disc itself, the menu and Extras are EXACTLY the same as the original Blu-Ray release, save for one new Extra. With this release, they've included trailers for all six films. It's a nice little bonus, but it's minor to say the least. (There's also a pretty cool IMF logo sticker included, but again, is it worth double dipping for? Probably not.) The special features themselves are good, but they're all presented in standard definition. They even float in the middle of the screen as if formatted for an old square television. It's unfortunate that they couldn't have at least updated those featurettes somehow.
Now, on to the movie. As a 16-year-old seeing it for the first time, I probably would have given it a glowing (albeit sloppy) review, but I think the movie does hold up well. Sure, the technology the characters employ is laughable by today's standards (especially Luther's description of what a high tech computer was at the time), but the acting is solid and the story is still good. I wasn't well-versed in the original TV series, so I didn't realize they kind of deconstruct the characters from that show to pave the way for Cruise's new character, Ethan Hunt. If I'd been a huge fan of the series, I would have been miffed that they did that for sure. The plot of the 1996 movie was largely criticized for being confusing. 25 years later, I can honestly say I understand it pretty well. I think some of director Brian De Palma's plot devices were a bit disorienting, like when Hunt is confronting a character and they're talking about someone else being a traitor, but he's envisioning the person he's talking to being the traitor. Also, the whole "mole hunt" operation was a bit confusing at the time, as was what it was they were stealing, but again, time and rewatching has cleared it up pretty well. The plot involves an intriguing use of the Bible and scripture in that a villain masquerades as someone called Job, which leads Hunt to realize an operation "Job 314" is actually a reference to the scripture Job 3:14. Sadly, that's really the only spiritual presence in the film, as some characters still take the Lord's name in vain profanely (something that always bugged me about this movie).
The action scenes are all pretty good, too, still - even though Ethan's iconic rope-dangling scene has been mocked mercilessly in other movies (including one of the Shrek sequels). It still plays out well within the movie at least. The finale on the train remains as one of my favorite parts in the movie (along with Hunt's restaurant escape), and that helicopter crash at the end is just over the top and delicious. I have to say, though, that this Ethan Hunt doesn't really feel like the same one in the later films, but his character does grow and mature over time, so I suppose that can account for those differences. Overall, though, I'd probably rank this movie closer to the bottom of the Mission: Impossible movies (with M:I 2 being at the distant bottom). The 1996 film feels the most dated of the bunch, while the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th movies feel like one continuous story that play well off each other. 1996's Mission: Impossible does a decent job of launching Ethan Hunt's character, but the story really comes alive starting in Mission: Impossible III.
The content for Mission: Impossible can be kind of rough at times. First off, profanity isn't pervasive, but there's some blasphemy peppered throughout, there's at least one use of the "S" word, and several uses of "S.O.B." There is no direct sexual content, although it's largely hinted at that Ethan and Claire have an affair. There's even a scene in one of the original trailers that was ultimately cut out of the final film that shows the two kissing. What's left in the film is some kind of sexual tension between the two, with awkward cheek kisses and her caressing and kissing his hand in another scene. A character also tells Ethan, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." There's quite a bit of violence in the movie, some of it being pretty bloody. We see a couple shots of a knife being pulled out of a bloody shirt (one during the opening credits, and again during a flashback). From that same moment, however, we see a man pulled up against a fence and hear what sounds like mulitple stab wounds happening. We then see a bloody knife, a blood-covered computer disk, and more bloody clothing when the camera pulls back. Other scenes show a character with hands completely covered in blood, and an explosion at the end of the film consumes a couple characters. (Other characters are also shot, but the result isn't bloody).
Overall, Mission: Impossible has become a 90's action genre classic. Sure, it's flawed and far from perfect, but there's definitely something nostalgic about it. This new Blu-Ray transfer is pretty great, so if you're a fan of the movie and a Blu-Ray watcher, this is a great disc to grab. It appears that the digital copy that comes with the Blu-Ray set gives the user a 4K copy (at least on iTunes; I'm not sure about VUDU), so if you have 4K streaming capabilities, your best bet would be to check out that UHD version because the 4K transfer is definitely even better.
**Note: The screenshots included with this review were provided by Paramount Pictures and are not directly representative of the 2021 Blu-Ray transfer.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/15/21)
Exclusive Car Decal - This is actually pretty cool. It's a solid white-with-gray-design IMF logo sticker that you can slap on your car, laptop, binder, or wherever you'd like to display your Mission: Impossible fandom.
Digital Copy - For the digital copy, you can choose iTunes or VUDU. We chose iTunes and it looks like it gives the user a 4K copy. That's a nice upgrade from just a regular Blu-Ray, too!
Previously Released Bonus Features also included:
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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