Mission: Impossible II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The sequel came with a mediocre presentation.
Sharpness was adequate but rarely better. While the movie showed generally acceptable delineation, I didn’t see much fine detail, and wider shots seemed somewhat dodgy. Those lacked great definition and showed some edge haloes and blockiness.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and the image lacked obvious flaws like specks or marks. It did seem surprisingly grainy for a recent film, though. While I normally applaud the sight of grain because it means an absence of digital noise reduction, MI:2 showed so much grain that it seemed unnatural.
Colors tended to be on the somewhat heavy side, with an emphasis on reds. The tones were generally fine but could be a bit oppressive. Blacks veered toward the dense side of the street, and shadow detail was decent at best. This wasn’t a bad image but it lacked obvious positives.
I felt more pleased with the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Audio used the speakers effectively throughout the movie, usually through various exaggerated swoops and bangs. For example, when we saw dancers spin, their dresses "whooshed" around us. Director John Woo loves that kind of hyper-realistic audio, and it was on display during most of M:I2.
When the action picked up in tose scenes, the track became even more aggressive and ballistic. Ultimately, the soundscape seemed impressive and engulfing.
Audio quality appeared mostly fine. Dialogue showed good clarity and definition, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded fairly peppy and full, and effects demonstrated nice punch and accuracy. This was a pretty solid mix.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2000? Audio remained identical, which became a disappointment, as the Blu-ray should’ve offered a lossless soundtrack. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was still very good, but it would’ve been better with a lossless upgrade.
Although I loved the DVD’s picture, that was 15 years ago. The Blu-ray offered improvements in the visual domain, but not to the expected degree. Sure, the Blu-ray looked tighter and smoother, but I think it should’ve been stronger than it was. Honestly, I’d not be surprised to learn the Blu-ray just reused the old DVD transfer, as it was a disappointment.
The Blu-ray offers many of the same extras as the DVD, and first we find an audio commentary from director John Woo. In this running, screen-specific piece, Woo looks at stunts/action, cast and performances, story/characters, sets and locations, effects and related areas.
My biggest problem with this track? It suffers from many empty spaces; Woo can go for extended periods without remarks. However, when he speaks, he generally offers some pretty interesting information.
Woo covers a variety of topics about M:I2 itself - from casting to effects to stunts to story - and he also mentions a lot of his thoughts about filmmaking in general. Happily, Woo devotes some time to a discussion of his past, and even reveals why he started to use the double-gun technique that he made so popular! Due to all of the gaps, this can be a frustrating commentary, but Woo fans will definitely want to give it a listen.
Behind the Mission lasts 14 minutes, 28 seconds and provides a glossy overview of the film. We hear interview snippets from Woo, producer Paula Wagner, writer Robert Towne, and actors Cruise, Newton, Scott, John Polson and Ving Rhames. For all intents and purposes, this is a promotional piece that provides little insight into the film. It's a well-executed program but the lack of detail makes it less than compelling.
Briefer but better is Mission Incredible, a five minute and 12 second piece that discusses the film's stunts. In this program, we hear from Woo, Cruise, Wagner, Scott, Polson, climbing expert Ron Kauk, stunt coordinator Brian Smrz, first assistant director Arthur Anderson and second assistant director Joan Cunningham. The brevity of the featurette is its weakness, and it also suffers from some of the glossiness found in "Behind the Mission". Still, at least "Incredbile" includes some interesting information, and it makes for a decent little hors d'oeuvre if you want to get just a taste of stunt facts.
For those who crave a more substantial meal, Impossible Shots is the place to go. In this section, we find 11 brief featurettes, each of which covers a different stunt. These range from the mountain climbing at the start of the film through the car chase, the break-in at BioCyte, and the climactic scenes. The featurettes take up a total of 34 minutes and 17 seconds.
Once again, these pieces bear a slick appearance that I don't much like; at times they seem more interested in looking cool than providing useful information. Nonetheless, we do learn a lot about the various stunts, and the programs convey these details in a fairly effective manner. I would prefer to see more footage from the set and fewer "talking head" shots - Woo and Smrz receive a lot of face-time - but we still get decent insight as to how the work was done, and that's the most important part.
Next comes a music video for Metallica's "I Disappear". I'm not a big fan of the band, and I don't think the song itself is one of their better tunes, but the four minute and 28 second video is a lot of fun. It combines the traditional lip-synching shots with a bunch in which band members are placed in various scenes of danger; none really echo M:I2 itself but they manage to evoke the spirit of the piece. Happily, actual movie clips are almost non-existent. It's not one of the all-time great music videos, but it's above-average and is a nice addition to the disc.
Less compelling is an Alternate Title Sequence. This 37-second snippet starts when the sunglasses explode and mainly shows the movie's title. It seems only mildly different from the existing credits and isn't very interesting. From the name of this extra, I thought it might be a different scene than the one used, but it's actually much more mundane.
The next two pieces connect to the same event. Excellence in Film: Cruise is a nine-minute and 15-second compilation of clips from Cruise movie’s created to precede his receipt of an award. It doesn’t seem especially interesting.
For more praise of the actor, we get a three-minute and 36-second montage called Generation: Cruise. It serves the same purpose as the “Excellence in Film” collection and presents shots from the actor’s flicks. Yawn.
With Mission: Impossible II, we get a fairly good action adventure. It doesn’t offer the best of the franchise, but it improves on the first film. The Blu-ray brings us mediocre visuals along with generally good audio and supplements. MI:2 delivers a mostly enjoyable movie but it could use an upgrade on Blu-ray, as this release doesn’t live up to the format’s potential.