Mission Impossible delivers predictable thrills in 4K
By Jim Bray
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning part 1 is a rollicking ride in the home theatre.
It's also very much like cotton candy – fun to consume but with little nutritional value – not that that's necessarily a bad thing. And, as is traditional in this series, it's a lot of fun to watch and full of really nifty action, stunts, and locations.
The film takes 163 minutes to set up Part 2, and it succeeded in making me anxious to see how it all ends.
The movie not only delivers exactly what you expect going in: big action, big stunts, big excitement, but it also appears (assuming Part 2 doesn't change everything, which is a distinct possibility) to be a bit of a cautionary tale about the dangers of artificial intelligence.
And that makes it particularly timely, since AI seems to be the buzzword of the year. Well, that and Hamas…
As with Skynet and Colossus in movies that came before this one, the enemy this time is "uber AI", and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his band of little IMF member friends (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, etc.) are tasked with tracking down this frightening new weapon that threatens to wipe out all of humanity.
My goodness: it sounds even worse than COVID!
As often happens in Mission Impossible movies, certain questions are raised and, perhaps, dealt with. Stuff like "Who can you trust?" "Are things really what they seem to be?" and of course "How are they going to get out of this one?"
Well, that latter question will have to wait for the second part but we do get quite a look at the first two questions as Hunt and his gang travel the world trying to get to the bottom of things before all heck breaks loose.
Well, all heck is breaking loose already, to be fair, and the 163 minutes (including credits) is spent trying to put a lid on it. And boy, do they try! But, as should be obvious to anyone who realizes this is Part ONE, they definitely do not succeed. Otherwise, why save up your shekels for Part Two?
I won't spoil the story other than to say this globetrotting adventure is a lot of fun to watch and participate in vicariously (I'd love to do some of the stuff Cruise gets paid to do, the lucky bastard!). Suffice it to say that if you enjoyed the other Missions: Impossible, you'll be hard pressed not to love this one as well. It's the kind of edge-of-the-seat techno-thriller we've come to expect and it's done very well and mostly "in camera" (which means "live action, not computer stuff") – except for one stunt that uses CG to create a mountaintop in order to hide the ramp Cruise drove his motorcycle up before leaping off the cliff and, well, you'll just have to watch to see what happens then.
That CG seems to be a necessary compromise because there's no way in heck that anyone, let alone a big movie star/adrenaline junkie, would be able to do it in reality reasonably safety otherwise. It's one of the few moments where CG takes over from live action stunts and though the mountaintop does look rather fake, having seen the "making of" scene in the extras, I can forgive it.
As seems typical of Mission: Impossible movies I've seen on 4K disc, the picture quality is really up to snuff, but not quite as good as I had hoped for. Cruise's last film, Top Gun: Maverick, looked better, but this version will certainly do in a pinch. Colours are terrific, there's good detail in and out of shadows, and it's overall extremely watchable.
One thing I noticed was that, unlike some of the other MI and Tom Cruise films, this one doesn't use the large format IMAX aspect ratio. It isn't a big deal, though I do love how the big screen gets "even bigger" when the black bars disappear. On the other hand, folks who don't like the ever-changing aspect ratios should be comfortable here.
Ditto for the Dolby Atmos audio, which is powerful and clean and will give your system a good workout.
Paramount includes a digital code in the 4K disc package and it also puts in a second disc, a conventional Blu-ray, to hold the extras. I like the idea of leaving the feature by itself to maximize the potential picture quality (even if, as in this case, it may not have mattered) but the Blu-ray only contains the extras and, since there's only about half an hour's worth, it's kind of wasted. Why not put the feature there, too, for people who plan to go 4K but haven't yet? It would be a good way to encourage 4K adoption without penalizing folks for not having done it as of this release.
And I do encourage the adoption of 4K disc media. I haven't run a stream side by side with a 4K disc recently, but with streaming you never really know what you're getting (bandwidth issues, etc.), whereas the discs rarely disappoint.
The extras are interesting but not particularly in depth. We do get to see some of the lovely locations they used (such as Abu Dhabi – where apparently the favourite rock band is "the Dubai Brothers", but I digress – as well as Rome, and Venice). There's also a pretty neat look at the "motorcycle off a cliff" stunt, the "speed flying" stunts and more. I hope they're saving some more stuff for Part 2, but won't hold my breath. Besides, it'll probably have its own exciting stuff to show us.
Overall, this is another fun entry into the Mission: Impossible universe and it delivers everything one might expect from the franchise. It also does a good job of whetting the appetite for Part 2 and I look forward to seeing how they wrap things up.
Copyright 2023 Jim Bray