- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A 22-year-old film franchise based on a classic espionage-themed television show from the 1960s debuts on ultra-high definition to give home theater viewers five extended reasons to appreciate Tom Cruise in action.

Sold separately as two-disc combo packs, the “Mission: Impossible” films (Paramount Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2:39.1 aspect ratio, $31.99 each) include “Mission: Impossible” (1996, 110 minutes), “Mission: Impossible 2” (2000, 124 minutes), “Mission: Impossible III” (2006, 125 minutes), “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011, 133 minutes) and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015, 132 minutes).

Each delivers a popcorn-munching, blockbuster approach to the spy-thriller genre.

With the combined might of directors Brian De Palma (“Dressed to Kill”), John Woo (“Face/Off”), J. J. Abrams (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”) and Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”), each tackling a film and the star power of Mr. Cruise, these five movies alone have generated almost $3 billion worldwide at the box office.

The plots all feature covert Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt running into trouble with his bosses and going above the call of duty to stop a variety of villains out to destroy the world.



The series certainly parallels adventures from James Bond and Jason Bourne while actors such as Dougray Scott Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sean Harris portray bad guys who a truly deranged Dr. Evil would love.

However, the true appeal comes from the ridiculously dangerous stunt work performed by Mr. Cruise and the team of experts on every movie.

Just a few examples include watching Ethan Hunt fight a helicopter while in a tunnel, hang out on the side of an Airbus 400 taking off, climb the side of a sheer cliff thousands of feet above the ground (with only his hands and feet), spin on a mountainside in a sports car, avoid a drone missile attack on a bridge, climb the tallest building in the world (Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower) and nearly get entombed in an underwater server farm.

By the way, that was really Mr. Cruise displaying a death wish as he clung to that sheer cliff, dropped down on the face of the building and hung on to the plane to name a few moments. His insanity alone is worth the price of admission to every one of these movies.

4K UHD in action: Going back 22 years to look at the original film, it’s obvious that Paramount has done a meticulous job in upscaling the classic that now far surpasses its Blu-ray equivalent release from 11 years ago.

Despite Mr. De Palma’s noirish approach to the movie, sometimes more murder mystery than action thriller, it’s crystal clear throughout, complete with appreciating shadowy moments shrouded in foggy locations.

Better yet, enjoying the antics of Mr. Hunt as he drops into a sterile white computer room to hack the CIA mainframe gets a fresh appreciation, especially when viewers can now practically analyze a drop of perspiration falling from the hero that nearly blows the operation.

That visual punch and a color expansion carry forth on all of the new rereleases, combining 2160p clarity with high dynamic range color enhancements.

The results not only deliver a severe case of vertigo during many of the high-wire action scenes but also, through a myriad of the film shooting locations, a stunning travelogue for the viewer.

Sit back and prepare to visit Dubai during a sandstorm, revel at nighttime partying in Seville, inspect green grass on a horse racetrack in Sydney, examine the architectural beauty of Vatican City, witness the destruction of the Kremlin in Moscow, view a motorcycle chase through the streets of Casablanca, and stop by Vienna to respect the Turandot opera house.

Best extras: Every combo pack also offers one or more Blu-ray discs filled with bonus content from previous releases. In total, it’s almost a dozen hours of featurettes and optional commentary tracks with plenty of kissing of Mr. Cruise’s derriere by cast and crew.

Here’s a look at some of the extras highlights compiled from all of the packs.

• “Mission: Impossible” features a 12-minute look at the first three films of the series touching on the franchise’s TV origins, Mr. Cruise’s motivations to be Ethan Hunt and a pinch about the directors’ visions.

• An optional commentary track from legendary action-movie director John Woo in “Mission: Impossible 2” delivers an informative track. Highlights include Mr. Woo explaining that he was scared to death with Mr. Cruise’s demanding to perform insane stunts and his frayed nerves about working with Anthony Hopkins (playing Ethan Hunt’s boss).

• “Mission: Impossible 2” provides the most entertaining extra of all the films through an optional commentary track with Mr. Cruise and director J.J. Abrams. It’s obvious through the light banter and detailed discussion on the filmmaking process that these two not only enjoyed making the movie but also became friends in the process.

• “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” includes a separate Blu-ray disc that was released as a Best Buy exclusive in 2011. It has over 90 minutes of production featurettes that gives fans a ton of behind-the-scenes information.

• The fifth film of the series offers another optional commentary track with Mr. Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie. Both talk about production minutiae including scenes such as Mr. Hunt’s escape from the Syndicate and the opera assassination attempt. Both also point out many of the homages to classic spy movies.

Throughout all of the commentaries and featurettes on the films, it’s very clear that Mr. Cruise is a passionate and hands-on actor as well as producer to the series and has helped craft each movie’s success through his sheer creative and sometimes reckless (to his body) energy.

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