Release Date(s)2015 (December 15, 2015)
Studio(s)Bad Robot/Skydance/Alibaba (Paramount)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C+
It’s almost inconceivable to think that Paramount’s big screen Mission: Impossible franchise is nearly twenty years old now. It’s even more difficult to believe that the franchise has actually gotten better with age. Nevertheless, the proof is clear. Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) was a rip-roaring good action film and the biggest box office success of the series to that point. Four years later, in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, director Chris McQuarrie has delivered the best entry in the franchise bar none. Not only is this a great spy film, with deftly-staged action sequences, if this were a Bond film it would be the best entry in that series since Casino Royale (2006). Notably, it puts the recent SPECTRE to shame. (EON Productions should be paying close attention.)
Set in Ghost Protocol’s aftermath, Rogue Nation finds the IMF being called to account by Congress for their reckless actions in the previous film. Upon the recommendation of CIA director Hunley (Alec Baldwin), the IMF is officially disbanded, but not before Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team uncover evidence of their greatest adversary yet… a mysterious criminal organization known as The Syndicate. As Benji (Simon Pegg) suggests in the film, The Syndicate is a kind of anti-IMF bent on spreading chaos and destruction around the world… and Hunt is determined to stop them or die trying. Naturally, Benji, Brandt, and Luther (the latter played once again by Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames) are unwilling to let the CIA prevent them from assisting Hunt in this effort. The far greater complication for the team arises in the form of a female Syndicate operative named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who is every bit Hunt’s match and whose loyalties are unclear.
There’s so much to like about Rogue Nation. First of all, it churns along at a brisk clip, but never seems rushed. Without spoiling any of the film’s set pieces (except to say this: There’s an opera sequence! Who doesn’t love a great opera sequence in a spy film?), they’re wonderfully designed and inventive, not to mention beautifully directed and edited. For all the work that’s clearly gone into crafting them, what’s most impressive is the realization that this is really just accomplished filmmaking – the kind of old-school creation of suspense on screen that Hitchcock himself would appreciate. Once again, Cruise does all his own stunts and that actually does matter, as it sells the reality of the danger in each sequence beautifully. The regular cast delivers great performances across the board, and they’re all well used. This is a true ensemble, with everyone making an important contribution. The script is sly in tone, playing everything straight and yet never quite taking itself completely seriously. There’s much humor here that arises out of genuine character interactions, and the actors deliver just the right hint of eye-twinkle to punctuate each moment. The new additions to the cast comport themselves well too. Baldwin is wonderful here as both adversary and reluctant ally, Sean Harris is a perfectly convicing and effective movie villain, and Ferguson is a genuine discovery. She goes toe-to-toe with Cruise in this film from beginning to end, both in action and acting, and she makes you damn well believe she can. She’s simply terrific.
Paramount’s Blu-ray release features an excellent widescreen HD image (2.39:1 aspect ratio) with fine color, contrast, and detail. The English audio is available in a lively and immersive Dolby Atmos mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible) that features excellent clarity and ample bass. 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes are also available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and there’s English descriptive audio too (note that subtitles are included in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English SDH). Both the Blu-ray’s picture and sound are near reference quality.
In terms of bonus features on Blu-ray, the disc offers an interesting feature-length commentary with Cruise and McQuarrie – which is rather shocking in that it reveals just how much of this film was shot without a completed script. That’s some confident filmmaking. The two worked together previously on the also good Edge of Tomorrow, and that shared experience clearly pays dividends here. There’s also 7 behind-the-scenes featurettes that provide something under an hour’s worth of additional content. They include Lighting the Fuse (5:57), Cruise Control (6:33), Heroes… (8:06), Cruising Altitude (8:23), Mission: Immersible (6:45), Sand Theft Auto (5:35), and The Missions Continue (7:08). When you start the disc in your player, you’re also shown trailers for the upcoming 13 Hours and Terminator Genisys. And the package includes a DVD version of the film as well as a code for a Digital Copy. Unfortunately, Paramount has continued their ill-advised practice of splitting up Blu-ray special features as retail-exclusives: Target’s Blu-ray edition has a bonus disc with an additional hour of behind-the-scenes content. There’s just one word that can adequately describe this: Infuriating.
Paramount’s retail blundering aside, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a terrific example of what a great modern spy movie can be. Against all odds, every single aspect of this film works to near perfection. Rogue Nation is smart, thrilling, funny… and a tremendous amount of fun. Whichever Blu-ray version you buy, if you love this genre like we do here at The Bits, absolutely do not miss it.
- Bill Hunt