on 7 February 2010
Coming off of the back of the viewing of the very average Blu-ray Matrix Trilogy set that I recently reviewed, this Mission Impossible Trilogy Blu-ray set felt like a bit of light relief to be honest. It's really rather good, and quite unlike 99% of other motion picture trilogies in many respects. Let me break it down for you.
This slightly claustrophobic 1996 release seems strangely low-key by modern day standards. The majority of the film played out in confined areas, lift-shafts, ventilation systems, sealed rooms - even the finale involves a train going into a tunnel. All of the action and major (very impressive) CGI elements happen in just the 3 to 4 main action scenes in the movie - reminiscent perhaps of 2006's Casino Royale in that respect, but like Casino Royale they are all handled really beautifully.
It's a rather simple cloak and dagger style spy/espionage picture, with it's fair share of twists and turns to keep you guessing what's coming next. In truth it's not particularly great and is maybe lacking in a few more human elements, like nearly all 90's action movies it's aged alarmingly quickly - but it's still a solid beginning to the Mission Impossible film universe. Cruise does just about enough to keep the momentum going with his enigmatic performance, and excels in doing his own stunt work, which still looks great. Baring in mind how long ago this film was made now, the several CGI mask-removal scenes have held up splendidly, as has the entire finale involving the CGI elements of the helicopter and train hurtling along Channel Tunnel - the sense of pure danger and speed in a few of the scenes is incredible, it's hard to think of another mid-nineties action movie where the CGI and stunt-work looks as convincing as it would in modern day movie making.
Mission Impossible II:
Now this is where things get interesting. This film bears almost no resemblance to it predecessor, and I mean in every way, literally. Even Cruise himself is different enough so as to make you not really associate the Ethan Hunt of MI:I with the Ethan Hunt of MI:II. The influence of 'The Matrix' on this film is rather unavoidable when viewing the stunt-work, but it's all the better for that fact - and some would say that the action sequences in this film are more convincing than of any shown in 'The Matrix'. The film starts out with the memorable shot of Ethan Hunt climbing a sheer rock-face with his bare hands. I don't know what they used, be it scaffolding or platforms beneath Tom Cruise to give you the impression of an impending free-fall - but all I know is that if you suffer from vertigo the scene will make you feel rather ill.
This picture is helped greatly by the aligning of a love interest with Tom Cruise - in the form of the lovely English actress, Thandie Newton, right from the get-go. It does bring a more human element to Cruise's performance - this time with the viewer feeling that Ethan Hunt has something to lose. The main plot in involves a much used device - a produced virus, with the villain of the piece having access to an antidote.
John Woo's style of key slow-motion moments, graceful stunt choreography, well rehearsed vehicular stunts and more all looks great - even if I did cringe at the sight of a white dove. Again, it's not the best film ever, but it's highly enjoyable and harmless fun all the same.
Mission Impossible III:
The third movie is always the worst, right? Wrong, this time J.J. Abrams(Alias/Star Trek XI/Lost)is at the helm and does a great job in making this easily the biggest and best Mission Impossible yet. The casting in particular is strong, and succeeds in making the Mission Impossible universe all the richer, colourful and more varied - especially when compared to the original, MI:I. A wife and a civilian life are now a part of Ethan Hunt's world, Hunt having taken up a job now training future operatives. In true Hollywood tradition, Hunt is pulled back in one more time to extract a IMF operative taken captive in Berlin. A chain of events leads Ethan Hunt into the firing line of a smoking gun named 'The Rabbits Foot'. Further complications coming in the form of Philip Seymour Hoffman's wonderfully despicable character, 'Owen Davian', whom after Ethan Hunt makes a fool of him in an early scene, is then hell bent on ruining Hunt's life by kidnapping Hunt's new wife, Julia, and making Hunt suffer. The likes of Laurence Fishburne, Maggie Q, John Rhys Mayers and Simon Pegg flesh out the characters. With Pegg's (practically a) cameo role as 'Benji' being one of the many highlights - truthfully, I wonder how many gigs that role got him?
Again the stuntwork and CGI is brilliantly executed, with an action scene played out across a bridge almost as good as any action scene you'll see outside a Bond/Bourne movie - talk about exciting. That's without mentioning the extraction action scene in the first act played out in Berlin, featuring helicopters going in between the rotating arms of mills on a mill farm. At 126 mins long, it does almost outstay it's welcome, with the scenes in China just about managing to keep you interested right up until the end, with another fine Simon Pegg cameo.
The Blu-ray set:
Ah, now here's where my only criticism lies with this set. the first and second films are not going to be the Blu-ray's you would want to show off your HD telly with. Neither film has the definition to make any long shots or large stunt scenes look particularly detailed. The first in particular is grainy, with lots of noise visible in the picture and a lack of colour. The second is much better on those issues, but still lacks the sharpness to really look that great. They're both still better than the DVD editions, with the facial close-ups showing alot more detail, obviously. The third film is fine, a good transfer, good colours and details - but is by no means 'The Dark Knight'.
The extras are good across all three films, I've watched all of them, with plenty on each disc to keep you watching for another hour and a half after the main feature has ended. The first two films are one Blu-ray each, but the third is a 2X Blu-ray affair, with even more extra features.
A hugely enjoyable trilogy of films, it's easy to brand these movies as just a star vehicle for Tom Cruise - which, in all honesty they may well be, BUT the way in which each film improves on the last and the growth in cast tends to tell you otherwise. The only reason not to purchase this set is if you already own them all on DVD.
What awaits in Mission Impossible IV?