The maiden “Mission: Impossible” at its stunning best
Updated: Nov 22, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Tom Cruise as I.M.F. agent Ethan Hunt during the climatic bullet train sequence filmed at Pinewood Studios in England for six weeks.
(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital copy; 1996; PG-13 for intense action violence; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Mission: Remarkable” featurette
THE CRUISE/WAGNER partnership had a simple mission: Let actor Tom Cruise develop and control his own movie projects and retain as much of the profits as possible.
Paula Wagner and her husband Rick Nicita had been Cruise’s agents for years, until Wagner and Cruise decided to launch their own production company in 1993. They developed 20 films over the years, including the first three “M:I” films, “Vanilla Sky,” “Minority Report,” “The Last Samurai,” “War of the Worlds,” both “Jack Reacher” films, “Valkyrie” and the upcoming sequel “Top Gun: Maverick.”
For months they kicked ideas around for their first movie, but nothing stuck. Then, recalls Wagner in the Blu-ray featurette, Cruise called her and said, “I’ve always loved the ‘Mission: Impossible’ TV show. I’m a huge fan.” As a kid, Cruise was intrigued with the CBS network series that ran for seven seasons (1966-1973). It starred Peter Graves, as I.M.F. (Impossible Missions Force) agent James Phelps, head of a small team of secret agents during the heat of the Cold War. For each episode, a tape recording began, “Good morning, Mr. Phelps,” and then self-destructed five seconds after revealing the latest mission.
Paramount owned “Mission: Impossible” and Cruise and Wagner had signed an exclusive agreement with the studio. Screenwriter David Kopek (“Jurassic Park”) developed the first draft, then Robert Towne (“Chinatown”) gave the storyline its final direction. “I was fascinated with the original TV show’s con game and misdirection,” says Towne.
Director Brian De Palma (“Carrie,” “The Untouchables”), a master of thrillers, was hired to orchestrate the visual style of “Mission: Impossible,” which was mostly filmed in historic Prague, Czech Republic. Veteran Jon Voight would be Phelps, with Cruise as Ethan Hunt, Phelps’ able understudy. The rest of the team included British actress Kristen Scott-Thomas, as agent Sarah Davies; French actress Emmanuelle Béart, as Phelps’ wife and agent Claire; Lithuanian actress Ingeborga Dapkunaite, as agent Hannah Williams; and Emilio Estevez, as computer whiz Jack Harmon.
Three of the team members are killed within the first act and replaced with Ving Rhames, as tech expert Luther; and French actor Jean Reno, as the cocky Krieger, always with a 6-inch knife at the ready.
For this restoration project, Paramount pulled De Palma’s original 35mm camera negative and scanned each frame in 4K, giving us a stunning 4K/HDR/Dolby Vision presentation, with rich striking colors, especially blues and warm tones purposely dialed by the director during the production. The sharpness is unreal with the right amount of natural film grain; you’re seeing clarity and depth that wasn’t visible on the out-of-date Blu-ray. It’s like a completely different movie.
The Blu-ray had been sourced from an old 2K master that looked digital and not cinematic, originally created for DVD. It’s the same problem that’s plagued Paramount’s Tom Clancy films: “The Hunt for the Red October” (1990), “Patriot Games” (1992) and “Clear and Present Danger” (1994), which we’re told are being restored for a major 4K release when the CIA analyst “Jack Ryan” TV series hits Amazon Prime on August 31. Many of the “Star Trek” films also suffered the same fate, as does De Palma’s “The Untouchables.”
We can only hope Paramount continues giving their most treasured films the same tender loving care.
These 4K frame shots provide an honest sample of the HDR toning and clarity.
The Dolby TrueHD 8-channel soundtrack is well-balanced, from the bass response to mids and highs, with sound effects, the musical score from Danny Elfman, and the iconic “Mission: Impossible” theme song by classical/jazz composer Lalo Schifrin.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer