MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (Blu-ray)

Just after the start of the Pierce Brosnan Bond series and before Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt graced 3,012 screens throughout the United States on Memorial Day weekend, 1996.  Armed with a $70 million budget on a script that, initially, no one liked, and on a project that Paramount could not previously get off the ground, Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner rolled out a fresh and exciting take on Bruce Geller’s TV series, “Mission: Impossible”.

Set in locations around the globe, including for the first time, modern day Prague, London and the Virginia hillside, director Brian De Palma skillfully translates Bruce Geller’s creation the big screen.

The IMF team, led by Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as his point man, is assigned to infiltrate a reception in Prague to prevent a list of operatives from getting out into the open.  The mission goes wrong and the entire team is killed, including Phelps.  Hunt, the only survivor, is debriefed by IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny). Hunt is assumed to be a mole they were searching for.  After a spectacular escape Claire (Emmanuelle Beart) mysteriously appears at the safe house, offering to help Hunt figure out who set him up. He enlists the aid of two other disavowed agents, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Franz Krieger (Jean Reno) to recover the list from inside CIA headquarters.  The list in hand, Hunt meets Max (Vanessa Redgrave) on the London – Paris train.  In the ensuing action, Phelps reappears, his cover blown.

“Mission: Impossible” is undeniable fun and it really showed on the screen.  De Palma really stamped his style on the story, which felt modern.  The pacing of the story never really lets up requiring you to be ‘in the moment’.  Danny Elfman would be the beginning note in a strong series of film music composers to recreate the famous Lalo Schiffrin TV theme, while bringing a modern score to the movie.  Set design was stellar and stunts, a signature part of the series, start off on a very high note.

The Paramount Blu – ray™ has a rich picture with nice black levels and decent colors.  Unfortunately, the image looked a little crushed.  The anamorphic 1080p video is encoded in MPEG-2 with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1).  The compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 track is dynamic and engaging, bringing Danny Elfman’s score and the on screen action to life.  Vocals are effectively rendered.  Special features on the disc include a retrospective look at the “Mission: Impossible” television series, several featurettes on spy craft and the technology, two award pieces celebrating Tom Cruise, several TV spots and the teaser and theatrical trailers.  The trailers are in 1080p.

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