Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner
The Mission Impossible franchise seems like it’s executing its own impossible mission: telling great action packed stories. With only one exception (MI:2) every entry in this franchise has brought us over the top action, fun characters, and smart stories. A new director stepped behind the camera for Rogue Nation, Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie previously direct Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise in the divisive Jack Reacher, and he was a writer on the Cruise led sci-fi hit Edge of Tomorrow. Obviously the two have developed a working relationship and based on the bonus features on this blu-ray a friendship. Heading into this film though I couldn’t help thinking of all of the failed films where filmmakers brought in their friend to work with them (Fantastic Four anybody?).
The plot for this installment of Mission Impossible is slim but muscular. The film jumps right into the meat of the story but not at the loss of a story. The story we get is exciting, suspenseful, and smart. This is no Michael bay movie. Ethan Hunt has been hot on the trail of a nefarious organization set on restructuring the world in its own image. What he learns in the opening moments of the movie is that the covert organization is on to him as well. Ethan assumes there’s a turncoat in his own agency so he is forced underground to continue his work.
The gang is all back for this installment of the franchise including Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, and Simon Pegg. Newcomers to this franchise are Alec Baldwin and the lovely Rebeca Ferguson. While everyone puts in solid performances it’s Sean Harris that stands out in the ensemble by bringing us a menacing and fascinating villain. Cruise is charismatic as always and he shows us a little sense of humor in this installment that plays really well against Simon Pegg’s silliness. These two share some of the most entertaining scenes in the movie.
At 53 Tom Cruise is still easily believable as an action star and the fact that he does his own stunts (including being hung off the side of a cargo plane while it takes off) makes the action more visceral and exciting. Based off the bonus features the fear on his face during the opening scene of him hanging off the side of a plane while it takes off isn’t acting, he’s scared Sh#@less, in his words.
Rogue Nation doesn’t dumb down some scenes for the audience either. Michael Bay approaches action films with the same formula as makers of horror films, and well porn films. There must be an action scene every so many minutes in an action films, there must be a kill every so many minutes in a horror film, and well you know the rest. Rogue Nation spends 20 minutes in an opera house building up an action set piece, something that just isn’t often done in summer action flicks. The scenes in the opera house call back to old school Bond films with glitz, color, and elegance being central. Even the iconic shot of Ilsa hoisting that sniper rifle up and balancing it on her exposed leg feels very Bondesque and that’s a compliment.
The video presentation here is very solid with warm skin tones, vibrant colors, and exceptional detail levels. There are a few instances of softness in the image and the black levels are just slightly crushed leading to very minor digital grain in places. This isn’t the blu-ray you demo your system with but if you just want to watch the movie you won’t be disappointed.
This blu-ray offers a Dolby Atmos mix which we don’t have access to yet. In the absence of Atmos equipment the movie defaults to a TrueHD 7.1 mix. This surround mix is stellar offering immersive atmospheric sounds, plenty of full surround whiz-bang during action scenes, solid sub woofer use, and crystal clear dialogue and score. There are no flaws in this 7.1 presentation, definitely demo worthy.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The cover art for this combo DVD/Blu-Ray pack is honestly boring. This box doesn’t jump off the shelf the way it deserves too. What we have are floating heads.
The best bonus feature on the blu-ray is the audio commentary from the director and star Tom Cruise. These two artists have a great working rapport and friendship for sure. The most shocking thing about this commentary is just how the story came to be. It’s honestly amazing that the movie ended up being so good. The reason I say this is that the pair reveal that they started with a series of action set pieces they wanted to shoot and built a story around them. They also share all of the instances where the story morphed because one of them came up with a great idea during shooting. This of course led to many re-shoots. I have to believe this was a challenging filming environment at best for the rest of the cast and crew. This is a very enlightening commentary.
There are a series of featurettes that focus on character, on Tom Cruise’s overall involvement in the films, and specific action set pieces. These are good but not amazing. These featurettes are of the single watch variety. There is one brief featurette that stands out called The Missions Continue. This short doc features directors past and present and other cast and crew involved in the franchise discussing the franchise’s longevity.
While the commentary is great most everything else feels like it came from an electronic marketing kit.
Mission Impossible Rogue Nation is a complete blast to watch. The film offers suspense, twists and turns, great action set pieces, and even a clever sense of humor. The Mission Impossible franchise may be the most under appreciated franchise in modern film.