Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Mission Impossible: Extreme Blu-ray Trilogy

Street Date:
December 6th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
December 7th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
1996
Studio:
Paramount
Length:
359 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Since this is a triple-dip release of the 'Mission: Impossible' movies, portions of this review can also be found in Peter M. Bracke's reviews of 'Mission: Impossible,' 'Mission: Impossible II,' 'Mission: Impossible III' and 'Mission: Impossible – Ultimate Missions Collection.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I know what you're asking yourself – Isn't two releases of the same trilogy enough? Did Paramount make new transfers, putting the movies on BD-50s, giving them lossless audio and new special features? Is there any 'Ghost Protocol' incentive included with the packaging? A special trailer? Movie cash? The same answer applies to all of those questions – NO. So, what's the difference between the 'Ultimate Missions Collection' and the new 'Extreme Blu-ray Trilogy' – two things: one, the case. Each disc is housed in its own individual keepcase that slides right into the side of a new collector's box. The artwork on each case is different from the standard individual movie releases, all matching one another in artwork design, and the outward facing sides have a retro multicolored design that's quite cool looking. Two, 'Mission: Impossible III' – the only one of the first three movies to originally receive a two-disc Blu-ray release – but this set only comes with disc one. No 'Mission: Impossible III' special features are to be found here (other than the main feature commentary with J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise, but we'll get to that later). Other than those two changes, everything else is completely the same except for the new low sales price.

As a kid, my family would watch old re-runs of the 'Mission: Impossible' series. Although I cannot remember a single specific episode, I remember loving it. When trailers showed up for the first movie, we couldn't have been more excited. Walking out of the weekday afternoon showing, my parents were bothered by what was done to the classic series, but since I wasn't as much of a long-time fan as were they, I was clueless as to why it bugged them so much. I was still on a high from the amazing train / chopper climax.

Looking back now, I still love the first movie as much as I did when I was 16 years old – maybe even more. Brian De Palma gave it a fantastic "film" feeling. The story is smart, fun, intense and unpredictable. And ILM's special effects are great – even compared to today's standards. It's tragic to see the direction Paramount took with the franchise by handing it over to John Woo for 'Mission: Impossible II.'

Cruise and Woo took everything good that De Palma established and flushed it down the toilet, steering the series in the direction of weak mindless action movies. The fight scenes are way too long, the over-stylized camerawork which was suitable for 'Face/Off' doesn't fit the 'Mission: Impossible' series and the action is utterly ridiculous and wildly unbelievable. Long-hair Ethan Hunt and the cheesy crew of Bond-esque caricature bad guys are a joke. Overall, the film is absurdly over-stylized. Just like I refuse to watch 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' ever again because of how bad it is compared to the others, I will never watch 'Mission: Impossible II' again. Not only is it that bad, but it destroys everything worthwhile that De Palma built.

Considering how tragic the first sequel was, we are quite lucky to have the J.J. Abrams 'Mission: Impossible' movies be so good – that is, if 'Ghost Protocol' is as amazing as it looks. 'Mission: Impossible III' grabs the bull by the horns and steers it back in the direction that it should be going. While it's definitely more of an action flick than De Palma's, J.J. Abrams made the series fun again. The opening scene – which is actually a large chunk of a scene from the film's climax – is still one of the best opening scenes of all time. It's intense, loud and immediately gets you wrapped up and invested in the story at hand. What Abrams achieves in those first few minutes, Woo couldn't do at all in the 123-minute runtime of 'Mission: Impossible II.'

The series was off to a great start, had a major hiccup, but is now back on track. With Abrams producing and Pixar's Brad Bird in the director's seat, 'Ghost Protocol' is shaping up to be worthy of joining the three films included in the 'Extreme Blu-ray Trilogy.' If you need a refresher before seeing 'Ghost Protocol' or simply haven't had the chance to buy the set in HD yet, at an exceptionally low price, this set is definitely worth picking up.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

The packaging for the 'Mission: Impossible Extreme Blu-ray Trilogy' is very similar to that of the 'Ultimate Missions Collection' – a large cardboard slipcase houses each of the movies in three different eco-friendly keepcases. Since they slip into the side of the case, the multicolored binding face outward, giving it a very cool retro look on your shelf. The cover art sheets on each disc are somewhat new, featuring similar re-adjusted images. The three discs themselves are Region A BD-25s that only play Paramount's HD vanity reel and a look at Paramount's Blu-ray catalog (which can easily be skipped over) before taking you to the menu.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

All films in the box set are presented on Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p/MPEG-2 video transfer.

'Mission: Impossible'

The quality of the presentations increases noticeably with the roman numeral. The first 'Mission' is the weakest of the bunch, though to Paramount's credit, they have released the flick on video many times over the past 15 years. Despite a bit of dirt here and there, the source material is in nice shape with no major wear and tear. Still, transfer is rather dark and soft. Black crush is a bit steep, which hampers shadow delineation. Colors are also oversaturated and fleshtones can look funny, skewing quite noticeably towards the red end of the scale. Detail is somewhat above-average for a film a decade old, but not spectacular. On the bright side, the transfer still packs a good amount of depth, and brighter daylight scenes in particular really excel. I was also impressed with the smoothness and clarity of the image, and I noticed no compression artifacts or macroblocking, even during fast action.

'Mission: Impossible II'

The first sequel looks better than 'Mission: Impossible,' but not as good as 'Mission: Impossible III.' The print is in pretty good shape with no major blemishes and only slight film grain. Colors are less overbaked than the first flick, which helps detail, and fleshtones are a proper, lovely shade of orange. However, the transfer looks a bit dark to me, with some scenes suffering from too much black crush in the shadows. Sharpness remains superior to 'Mission: Impossible,' and brightly lit scenes deliver the kind of striking high-def experience you'd expect from a newer film (not one a decade old, as this is). There are no evident compression issues and I didn't find edge enhancement intrusive.

'Mission: Impossible III'

This transfer is hands down the best I've seen MPEG-2 deliver. This is definitely first-rate demo material. The source material is predictably pristine. Interestingly, 'Mission: Impossible III' was shot using both anamorphic 35mm film and 24 frames-per-second HD video, yet the image looks, for the most part, surprisingly consistent. I imagine director J.J. Abrams chose this dual-format approach to filming to both allow for flexibility when it came to filming effects-heavy scenes in HD, yet the two disparate technologies actually match up quite well. Blacks and contrast are terrific throughout. Sure, there are many low-light, rather "hot" sequences with slightly blown-out whites and noticeable film/video "grain," but it replicates the theatrical showing I saw and gives the movie the appropriate slick but gritty texture. Some may complain that a specific shot here or there looks slightly less sharp than another, or more grainy, but I'm not going to knock any points of this transfer for what appears to be stylistically intentional.

Detail and depth are also fabulous. 'Mission: Impossible III' boasts one of the most three-dimensional images I've yet seen on high-def, period. For example, in the very cool scene where Ethan Hunt "impersonates" the evil Owen Davian, the amount of visible detail and texture to the interiors of the art museum Hunt and company infiltrate is often extraordinary. I was also impressed by the nighttime sequence in Shanghai, where Hunt performs a death-defying (if completely ludicrous) building-to-building bungee jump. The glittery surfaces of the structures looks great, even in the wide shots. The dual-format filming technique also benefits the colors. Reproduction is heightened -- these are impossibly real colors, so vibrant that they can literally leap off the screen (I know, hyperbole, but I couldn't resist). Yet stability is always dead-on, and smearing and chroma noise don't intrude.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The only disappointment in these discs is that none of them features lossless audio. All are presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks.

'Mission: Impossible'

Granted it is now a decade old, but the first 'Mission: Impossible' just doesn't dazzle. Sure, the film still sounds good -- dynamic range is predictably terrific for a big-budget action spectacle, with impeccable sound reproduction (impressive are all the constructed sounds for the various gadgets and the like) and strong clarity to the dialogue -- which, alas, didn't help my comprehension of the plot. However, surround use is a bit more sporadic than in a totally modern mix. The action scenes come alive, with a some nice whoosh-pans in the rears and solid imaging, but atmosphere is generally lacking, with even scenes in crowded restaurants and the like failing to create that bustling, realistic ambiance I hoped for. The film's score by Danny Elfman, however, comes through loud and clear, as does the great opening montage featuring U2's modern updating of the series' classic theme song.

'Mission: Impossible II'

Dynamics are very strong, with discrete effects near-constant during action sequences. Imaging is near-transparent, with wonderful seamless pans that engage the listener in an immersive 360-degree soundfield. The best scenes are the motorcycle chase and the extended climax in the underground bunker -- demo-worthy material for sure. Low bass is also rock solid, and the use of score is far more pronounced and atmospheric than on the first 'Mission.' Though pretty silly, the "car ballet" love scene benefits greatly from strong score deployment to the rears. Dialogue holds firm throughout, with clear intelligibility and no obvious issues with volume balance.

'Mission: Impossible III'

'Mission: Impossible III' may look great, but if it didn't sound great, too, this release would be a wash. Thankfully, the Dolby Digital rack on this Blu-ray disc is pretty kick ass. 'Mission: Impossible III' just about breaks the sound barrier even in its compressed form. This is one gangbusters soundtrack, and I expected no less. Dynamics are fantastic. Rare is the Dolby Digital soundtrack I've heard with such transparent imaging and highly aggressive discrete effects. Notable sequences include the early helicopter-through-the-windmills chase, the big bridge destruction mash-up, and the high-rise bungee jump. These are reference quality scenes that belong on the top shelf of every enthusiast's library of great demo material. Pure tonal quality of sounds is also stunning. Low bass is incredibly deep and rock solid. Also very impressive is how differentiated minor sounds are - even hushed dialogue and minor ambient effects, such as the crowd noise and songs in the early party scenes, is incredibly intricate and detailed. I can only imagine what a TrueHD or DTS-HD version of this soundtrack would feel like -- I actually hope Paramount someday re-issues this one someday. But even as is, this is likely the best Dolby Digital track you're going to hear on Blu-ray.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

All of the special features are the same as the previous releases, only it does not come with the second disc of the 'Mission: Impossible III' Blu-ray set, so only one special feature is included for 'III.' Aside from the lacking features from 'III,' this collection is loaded with plenty of other features. Unfortunately, all are presented in standard definition with the exception of a few trailers.

'Mission: Impossible'

  • Mission: Remarkable – 40 Years of Creating the Impossible (SD, 11 min.) - This great feature offers a solid introduction to the original series and its transition to the big screen, including the first three 'Mission: Impossible' films.

  • Mission: Explosive Exploits (SD, 5 min.) - Another great feature, this one shows Cruise's love of performing his own stunts – including the water tank explosions and the air vent cable dangle (the train stunt is saved for a mild feature of its own). Producing partner Paula Wagner also talks about how much Cruise physically puts into achieving these fantastic-looking sequences.

  • Mission: Spies Among Us (SD, 9 min.) - The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) may or may not be a real organization, this feature takes a look into the history and science of the special intelligence agencies that the public does know about.

  • Mission: Catching the Train (SD, 3 min.) - This all-too-brief feature exposes how the unforgettable seven-minute and twenty-second train sequence was created, but manages to avoid showing just how ILM brought the scene to life. Where this feature could really benefit by showing the making-of this sequence in depth, it merely glazes over it.

  • Mission: International Spy Museum (SD, 7 min.) - The director of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. walks you through the museum and shows some of the exact tools used in reality that also pop up in 'Mission: Impossible.'

  • Mission: Agent Dossiers - Flip through the profiles of Ethan's team and read about their past and experiences.

  • Excellence in Film: Cruise (SD, 9 min.) - In 2005, BAFTA awarded Cruise with the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. Featuring uncensored clips from most of his movies up to 2005, this is the montage of Cruise performances that ran along with it. It's fun to look back and remember all of the great films he's appeared in.

  • Generation: Cruise (SD, 4 min.) - Also in 2005, the MTV Movie Awards gave Cruise the first ever MTV Generation Award. Also uncensored, this is their stylized montage of Cruise clips.

  • Photo Gallery - 41 still shots from the shoot of 'Mission: Impossible.'

  • Theatrical Teaser Trailer HD (HD, 1 min.) - Remastered from a dirty old print, it's fun to see the same teaser that made me an excited 15-year-old.

  • Theatrical Trailer HD (HD, 2 min.) - From another dirt print, this is the remastered trailer that reveals the plot and characters.

  • TV Spots (SD, 4 min.) - Watch these nine spots continuously or individually.

'Mission: Impossible II'

  • Audio Commentary by Director John Woo - Woo's accent is so thick that it's occasionally hard to understand his speech. Unless you're a hardcore 'Mission: Impossible' or Woo fan, you might want to skip this feature. But it's interesting to hear him describe Cruise's take on the franchise – a new spy with a new director each time, always taking the series in a new direction. Now we can place blame on Cruise too for 'Mission: Impossible II' being so bad!

  • Behind the Mission (SD, 14 min.) - Cruise and Wagner explain how hard it is to produce big films like these, but make sure that we know how fun and worthy the end product is. Via interviews with the cast, crew, writer and director, learn how the second "mission" came about.

  • Mission Incredible (SD, 5 min.) - Learn how the intense and wildly dangerous stunts were brought to life – most of them with Cruise doing the tricks on his own.

  • Impossible Shots (SD, 34 min.) - 11 featurettes about the film's (mostly) awesome action sequences "Moab," "Spanish Chase," "Assault on Biocyte," "Fire Walk," "Flame Ride," "Motorcycle Chase," "Asphalt Skiing," "The Joust," "Mano a Mano" and "Knife in the Eye." Watch them continuously or watch them individually.

  • "I Disappear" – Metallica Music Video (SD, 5 min.) - This video features clips from the movie as well as footage of the band playing in Moab and performing "impossible" stunts of their own.

  • Alternate Title Sequence (SD, 1 min.) - Let's just say that we're better off with the one that actually appears in the film.

  • Excellence in Film: Cruise (SD, 9 min.) - This is the same BAFTA montage from the first disc.

  • Generation: Cruise (SD, 4 min.) - This is the same MTV montage also from the first disc.

'Mission: Impossible III'

  • Audio Commentary by Tom Cruise and Director J.J. Abrams - Abrams and Cruise deliver one of the most purely entertaining and informative commentaries I've ever heard. If you're a fan of one or the other, you'll appreciate this feature a lot.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Sadly, there are no HD Bonus Features.

Easter Eggs

The only Easter Egg found in the set is on the 'Mission: Impossible II' disc. It lies in the "Extras" section under the sub-menu "Impossible Shots." From the "Moab" selection, push the arrow up and a small wire-frame globe with appear in the top center part of the screen. When you press "enter", the 2000 MTV Movie Awards spoof segment rolls with Ben Stiller acting like Cruise's idiotic stunt double.

Final Thoughts

The 'Mission: Impossible' franchise hasn't been perfect, but for the most part, it's been extremely worthwhile. If you've put off owning the movies, now is the perfect time to buy them. You wont find all three films any cheaper than you do with the 'Extreme Blu-ray Trilogy' – less than $10 per film. With 'Mission: Impossible II' aside, revisiting this series is the perfect way to get in the excited mood for next week's release of 'Ghost Protocol.' Although the picture and audio qualities of the first two installments isn't up to par with what we expect from catalog releases today, considering this is the third release of the exact same discs, I don't think that we're going to see them remastered and re-released any time in the near future. At least the transfer of 'Mission: Impossible III' is perfectly demo-worthy. With it's retro design, the cool matching packaging unifies the trilogy on your Blu-ray shelf. If you don't already own it, now is the perfect time to add this delightful series to your collection.

Technical Specs

  • 3 BD-25 Blu-ray Discs

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Commentaries
  • Featurettes

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