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Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

In preparation and celebration of the upcoming Mission: Impossible: Fallout, the sixth film in the Tom Cruise-led spy fantasy series, Paramount Home Entertainment will be releasing the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debuts of each of the five previous films in the franchise. You’ll be able to relive all the exciting espionage, mask wearing trickery and death defying stunts that have captivated audiences for the last 22 years. From Ethan Hunt dangling from the ceiling of a top secret room in CIA headquarters to holding onto a plane 1,000 feet in the air, the Mission: Impossible series has known how to constantly push the envelope within the confines of its own world. On June 26th, your mission – should you choose to accept – will be to upgrade your collection with all five films on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Why So Blu will be reviewing each one. With the bar set extremely high on the previous film, its crazy to think it could be topped, but, here we are at Rogue Nation.

Film 

With the IMF now disbanded and Ethan Hunt out in the cold, a new threat — called the Syndicate — soon emerges. The Syndicate is a network of highly skilled operatives who are dedicated to establishing a new world order via an escalating series of terrorist attacks. Faced with what may be the most impossible mission yet, Ethan gathers his team and joins forces with Ilsa Faust, a disavowed British agent who may or may not be a member of this deadly rogue nation.

Four years between entries is a rather short time between IMF missions and surprising since they needed to strike while the iron was hot coming off of Ghost Protocol. Tom Cruise has mentioned (Despite our belief in him) that he’s not getting any younger and would like to crank off as many as he can before he needs to pass the buck and hang it up. Hence, Fallout is coming 3 years following this film. And with that, certain decisions have to be made and if people’s schedules don’t line up, then they have to move out.

Brad Bird declined to return to the film in favor of Tomorrowland, so Tom Cruise turned to long time collaborator Chrstiopher McQuarrie to direct. They had previously just done an action/secret agent-esque film called Jack Reacher which maybe served as an audition. McQuarrie may not have many director credits to his name (Go watch his first film Way Of The Gun, its awesome), but he’s been very successful in the screenplay game, having written or fixed many projects in the past. Personally, there are things here and there that make a Christopher McQuarrie film, but I’m not super confident on some others. However, there’s a road he took to this one where that does and doesn’t matter.

With the fifth film, there was a decision to try and aim for a “greatest hits” approach to the film. McQuarrie and Cruise’s approach actually includes the television show as “hits” as they make good on the promise on using The Syndicate as teased at the end of the first film and the early scene in the record store is straight out of the very first episode of the original series. None of the homages to the other films feel forced or obvious and you really don’t realize them until its pointed out. That’s to a great strength in the film. Everything thing feels like another fresh, new adventure that is quite different than anything that came before it.

While keeping with what worked in Ghost Protocol for what to do to make a successful film in the series, Rogue Nation does stake its own identity. McQuarrie’s film grounds things a bit more, whereas Ghost Protocol felt a little more big and comic book like in its moments. There is also a feel of a classical 1960s elegance to the appearance and play on the film. There is a lot of Hitchcock (Like the first film) on display here. From the North By Northwest opening where our Cary Grant actually runs at the plane instead of dodging, to the insanely great opera house sequence to the “bomb under the table” scenario with Benji before the finale showdown…the mast is put to great use in his inspiration. Of course we also are delivered upon some great motorcycle action and bigger spectacle as the second film introduced, with the ties and character work started in Abrams film continuing through.

Let’s go back to the opera house sequence. This is quite possibly one of the most perfectly executed action sequences in modern film. Everything is laid out tremendously, done with precision from the choreography, camera work, music and point a to point b dynamics. We start with Benji getting off a train and just keep naturally flowing and moving through until the escape. Nobody (Cruise, Pegg, Ferguson) is together to start and they all weave and wander until they are in a car at the end of the sequence. Its absolutely brilliant. And the shot of Ferguson’s arrival is just flat out marvelous. This sequence injects thrills, suspense, scenarios playing in your head, communications with no words and also isn’t afraid to pull some humor. Its everything the finest films (Big or independent) should be. Pure cinema has become an overused and easily handed out term, but when something actually is, like this, it shoudl be lauded.

What has always worked in Mission: Impossible is a great team structure. Cruise is the star, but in the successful entries he’s never had a problem deferring to them. They had an awesome team the last outing and they attempting to bring them back plus Luther. I’ve mentioned the ever-changing carousel of female leads for the series, even those that made a big impact. Paula Patton was unable to return for Rogue Nation and then Maggie Q was to come back but had scheduling problems. As bummed as some fans were, it turned out for the best. Rebecca Fergurson makes the biggest star turn of anyone not named Tom Cruise in the series. Her Ilsa Faust is electrifying, engaging and excellent in an action scene. A HUGE sigh of relief came about when she was brought on board for the upcoming Fallout as her work here was insanely popular and hailed.

With her inclusion in the plot, there is another angle that the film takes on that we haven’t seen before and it works “swimmingly”; a Spy Vs Spy tale.  They are both working against and for each other toward the same goals in the film. Ilsa plays a fine game of trust throughout with Ethan and his team. Its makes for a terrific guessing game as an audience member. Once again, Ferguson absolutely owns the screen with every look she makes. She is both expressive and reserved all in one swoop. Its a great foil to Ethan Hunts all to eager to go for the kill or be killed approach. She’s sly, calculated and stealthy while Hunt has a more improvisational and unintentionally acrobatic angle.

While I’ve had all this talk of heroes, Sean Harris makes for a pretty damn good villain too. He’s not a brute by any means, but he’s very snake-like in his voice and looks very weasel faced as an almost lifelike Disney fairytale cartoon villain come to life. If you want to argue he’s better than Hoffman, I’m not going to argue. He plays a cold, detached game, but is fixated and fascinated by Ethan Hunt. Lane is covered in every scenario and manages to sneak away at every turn. He’s sinister and creepy. There’s more to him than just timing things out until he and Ethan Hunt exchange punches. This is a game of the mind and a game of dedication to one’s service/cause.

Mission: Impossible’s fifth film may be the best PART 5 of all time. In this day and age, that isn’t unspeakable to have a good later entry, but its crazy that this one lept over the previous film which was a clear high bar and series’ best. Rogue Nation is the ultimate thrill ride that also delivers everything you’d want form a low key spy game of espionage and deceit. The story and characters all excel, the action is top of the line and it all just flows so damn well for a great amount of fun and suspense. When Rogue Nation’s credits begin, I am immediately tempted to hit play again and just go through it all over. Here’s looking forward to Fallout, but Rogue Nation may be too tough to match up to (And that’s perfectly fine).

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation was shot at 3.4K with some scenes in 6.5K, being finished with 2K DI master. Likely this is an upconvert, but damn if it doesn’t look wonderful. The action spins and hits with great clarity, and detail runs quite rambunctious throughout. It has a crisp, sharp look to it with a nice looking layer of grain that is enough there to make its presence felt. There are other little elements at play too, in this natural looking image that make this a nice jump in quality from the standard Blu-ray edition. Overall, this looks is impressive in a different way than Ghost Protocol, akin more to a helluva classic film restoration, but still looking in appearance like a film that’s only 3 years old.

Depth:  There’s a rather good depth of field on display from background to foreground.  Motion is excellent as everything plays very cinematic and smooth, without running into any blurring or motion problems. Every performer and camera motion goes freely through any scene.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and can get rather luscious and deep. Details are strongly held with good intricacies staying put like hair and clothing texture. Darker scenes have a nice rich classical look to them with their lighting that shows much more stronger her in this 4K image.

Color Reproduction: Colors are very natural but boy are there some good pops with rich blues and reds. HDR bursts out to perfection here. Glows from monitors and technology is outstanding and stings right off the screen. Ethan Hunts wet suit that has a lot of LED lighting and such. The whole scene underwater is quite impressive to be quite honest. Fancy clothing, like at the opera house, Ferguson’s dress in particular, really boldens the screen and impresses. Benji wears a glow in the dark shirt during a meeting before the final act that now looks to actually have that light green glow to it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural with a consistent look from the beginning to the end of the film. Facial features like freckles, scuffs, scrapes, wrinkles, stubble, moles and more come through plain as day from any given camera distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English Audio Description, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin America) 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, French (Canada) Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Danish, German, Spanish, Spanish (Latin America), French, French (Canada), Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish

Dynamics: Finally an Atmos track, eh? Well, this one was already part of the standard Blu-ray release, so the film was already set to go from the outset. This is a helluva fun track that is both grounded and plays big at the same time. Every scene is full realized, loud and packs quite the punch. From a boisterous orchestra pit at the opera, to the thundering waters that have Tom Cruise holding his breath for dear life, this film rages through its impossible mission with great detail, intricacies, layering and fun traveling sound. Its all mixed with great balance and terrific dynamics.

Height: Your ceiling wonderfully contributes to the action in the film. Water falling or pressuring overhead, helicopters, gunfire from above, orchestral echoes and even the little chamber Benji walks through for confirmation build integral experiences for your listening pleasure.  Birds even squawk from up top.

Low Frequency Extension: Machinery, explosions, punches, rushing water, engines, car crashes and much more all really beat your subwoofer and rumble the viewing room.

Surround Sound Presentation: Sound travel is a big strength here. You can really feel the currents of water or the trajectory of all the action with great ease. Even just hanging in a quiet sewer environment has all the speakers providing some crisp sounds to bring life and simulate being a part of these moments.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp with great clarity and attention to diction. They are apparent throughout the heaviest action or commanding the quieter scenes.

Extras 

Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation 4K Ultra-HD comes with the standard Blu-ray edition, an additional Blu-ray bonus disc and a digital copy of the film. All bonus features on the standard Blu-ray discs, which both contain some overlapping features.

4K UHD

Audio Commentary

  • By Tom Cruise and Director Christopher McQuarrie

Blu-ray Disc 1

  • Lighting The Fuse (HD, 5:57)
  • Cruise Control (HD, 6:33)
  • Heroes… (HD, 8:06) 
  • Cruising Altitude (HD, 8:23)
  • Mission: Immersible (HD, 6:45)
  • Sand Theft Auto (HD, 5:35)
  • The Missions Continue (HD, 7:08)

Blu-ray Disc 2

  • Lighting The Fuse (HD, 5:57)
  • Cruise Control (HD, 6:33)
  • Heroes… (HD, 8:06) 
  • … And Rogues (HD, 5:43)
  • Top Crews (HD, 6:40)
  • Travel Agents (HD, 5:47)
  • Opera-tion Turnout (HD, 4:16)
  • Practically Impossible (HD, 5:59)
  • Stunts (HD, 30:20)
  • Cut! (HD, 7:17)
  • Variations On A Theme (HD, 4:50)
  • The Missions Continue (HD, 7:08)

Summary 

Rogue Nation wound up doing the impossible and leaping right over Ghost Protocol in becoming the series’ high point. Paramount delivers this 4K Ultra-HD with a top of the line picture quality and retains their fantastic Atmos track to boot. It appears they have collected all the bonus materials possible from 2 separate exclusive store releases via the Blu-ray discs with some overlapped content (Kudos!). Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation is the series’ best, a modern spy fantasy/action classic and one that should position itself nicely in your 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray collection day 1.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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