With the IMF disbanded, and Ethan (Tom Cruise) out in the cold, the team now faces off against a network of highly skilled special agents, the Syndicate. These highly trained operatives are hellbent on creating a new world order through an escalating series of terrorist attacks. Ethan gathers his team and joins forces with disavowed British agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who may or may not be a member of this rogue nation, as the group faces their most impossible mission yet.
Twenty to thirty years ago, movie franchises were a much different ballgame. Outside of a few blockbuster trilogies and the James Bond films, franchises plodded along, making cheaper and cheaper sequels with diminishing box office returns.
Fast forward to 2015 and the third highest grossing movie of all time is the fourth 'Jurassic Park' film, while the seventh 'Fast and the Furious' movie made over a billion dollars, every studio in Hollywood is trying to launch its own cinematic universe, and the seventh 'Star Wars' might just be the biggest movie of all time. In a way, we're living in an era where movie studios are making really expensive TV series over the course of several years (or decades).
The 'Mission: Impossible' franchise is an interesting one. While the star remains the same, each entry has seen a new director with his own sense of tone and visual flourishes. The first two are, effectively, standalone entries, while parts three through five have attempted to infuse more of an emotional core (Ethan Hunt's romantic entanglements as well as his friendships).
'Rogue Nation' picks up shortly after the events of 'Ghost Protocol'. The IMF may have saved the world, but CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) sees the IMF as an outdated threat to national security and convinces the senate to shutter the impossible mission agency and fold its assets into the CIA.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) refuses the order to come in out of the field; instead he is hell bent on discovering the truth behind The Syndicate, which is best described as an anti-IMF, or the titular Rogue Nation. His only clues: the face of a mysterious man (Sam Harris) clad in horn-rimmed glasses, and a beautiful-but-feirce mystery woman (Rebecca Ferguson) who saved Ethan's life and may or may not be a double agent.
Ultimately, to find the truth and take down The Syndicate, Hunt and his IMF colleagues (Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner, and Simon Pegg) must all go rogue and play an intricate game of cat n' mouse with the CIA, British Intelligence, and The Syndicate.
It's been a while since we've had competing-premise films -- your 'Armageddon' vs 'Deep Impact' -- from rival studios, but I think it's safe to say 2015 is the year of the super agent going rogue after his agency is shuttered to uncover the truth behind a shadowy enemy agency. For my two pennies, I enjoyed 'Rogue Nation' more than the still-in-cinemas 'Spectre'. Heck, even the subversive 'Kingsman' has an element of this.
'Mission: Impossible' film premises, which often involve Ethan Hunt going rogue in the search for a MacGuffin, are always the least interesting part. Perhaps I've simply seen too many 'Bourne' and 'Bond' films as well as '70s thrillers. What matters to me more are Ethan Hunt's interpersonal relationships and, of course, the action set-pieces. That sensation of turning down the lights and going on a globe-trotting thrill ride.
In those departments, 'Rogue Nation' delivers on every level. Tom Cruise is a dynamic presence. His dedication to performance and physicality are second to none. Hunt's team relationship humanizes him and offers strong bits of tension-releasing comedy. And franchise newcomer Rebecca Ferguson absolutely nails it as Hunt's equal, Ilsa Faust. The pair have strong chemistry, and she goes toe-to-toe with his physicality; I hope her character returns for future entries.
Then there are the stunt and action set-pieces. While nothing may top seeing Tom Cruise sliding across the face of the Burj Khalifa in 'Ghost Protocol', 'Rogue Nation' offers up numerous signature sequences, including the heavily advertised plane stunt, a riveting underwater dive, a motorcycle / car chase shot at real speeds, and a magnificent sequence where Hunt needs to thwart an assassination attempt while backstage at the opera (an excellent homage to 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'). In fact, thriller and spy genre aficionados will love all the easter eggs and callbacks to classic movies as well as earlier franchise entries.
If you've enjoyed any of the 'Mission: Impossible' movies -- particularly 'M:i:III' and 'Ghost Protocol' -- 'Rogue Nation' offers up more thrilling action, fun twists and turns, globe trotting, strong character interplay, and a clever sense of humor. I enjoyed this entry and look forward to seeing where the series goes.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
NOTE: HDD received the 'Mission: Impossible The 5 Movie Collection' for this review, so please feel free to let us know if any contents are missing from this review of the standalone release or any other section of the review.
'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' storms onto Blu-ray as part of a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack. The Digital HD code will work with Ultraviolet & iTunes, and expires 12/15/2017. There are no forced trailers, nor is there mention of region coding on the disc itself.
'Rogue Nation' slips onto Blu-ray with a strong, highly detailed transfer that has been encoded in AVC MPEG-4 and framed in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
Most intriguing about 'Rogue Nation', visually, is how much it resembles 'Ghost Protocol'. Warm skin tones. Fine detail in close ups. Long lenses with shallow depth of field. Deep black levels with just a hint of crush. It's as if they were shot back-to-back. Then I noticed cinematographer Robert Elswitt, who often collaborates with Paul Thomas Anderson and lensed the gorgeous 'Nightcrawler', also shot 'Ghost Protocol'. This is, on the whole, a very good thing. The image is quite filmic. There are no encoding errors or odd digital enhancements. The only issue, at times, is occasional softness and some less-than-photo-real CGI, both of which are inherent to the production.
Overall, 'Rogue Nation' looks terrific on Blu-ray, but due to certain production choices and some black crush, doesn't represent full 5-star picture quality.
[NOTE: for this Blu-ray review, I used a Denon AVR-X6200W and Marantz MM7025 to power a full 7.2.4 KEF Q-series system consisting of one Q600C center channel, two Q900 floorstanders on front right and left, four Q300 bookshelf loudspeakers for side and back surrounds, dual 10' Q400 subwoofers, and four Ci200RR THX in-ceiling speakers handling front and rear height channels.]
'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' roars, bangs, and screeches its way into one of this year's best Blu-ray sound mixes that never fully embrances Dolby Atmos' height immersion capabilities.
'Rogue Nation' is the latest Blu-ray to offer Dolby's game changing Atmos mixing, which swaps in individual objects capable of moving across an entire 180-degree hemisphere instead of a traditional channel-based mix. This track, in the absence of Dolby Atmos enabled gear, defaults to 7.1 Dolby TrueHD.
'Rogue Nation' is a hard sound mix to review because the filmmakers elected to keep most of the mix a ear level, saving height or elevation speakers for only a few sound effects, and never those with much gusto (I know because I stood up on a chair, put my ear to my ceiling speakers, and checked). On one hand, Atmos enthusiasts look to engaging height speakers as a sign of a truly immersive mix; on the other, Atmos is about flexibility and putting sound wherever filmmakers need or want. IE, height speakers are optional.
But how does it sound? Awesome. Ear-level sound effects are superb. Dynamic range is excellent. World building atmospherics are precise and detailed. LFE grunts and kicks as needed. Dialog is crisp. Joe Kraemer's musical score is enveloping. Surround panning is engaging and lifelike. The only thing missing, as mentioned, is the height speaker objects, which engage for some helicopter rotors, cawing crows, and a handful of other minor effects. There's no "wow look at me' showstopper for height where as the rest of the mix's ear-level effects are one long demo. Given that, in the home, the main benefit of Atmos is adding height speakers, I would describe 'Rogue Nation' as an overall exceptional sound experience that never quite makes full use of Atmos' capabilities. As such, I've broken it down thusly:
English Dolby Atmos -- 4.0 Stars
English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD -- 5.0 Stars
French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and English Audio Description are also available soundtrack options. English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles are also offered.
While we do not have a DVD on hand to double check in person, press releases regarding this Blu-ray imply that all of the bonus materials are HD Exclusives, which are listed below.
'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' is another fun chapter in a franchise that shows no signs of slowing down. If you enjoyed any of the previous installments, particularly the last two, you'll likely find this one entertaining as well.
As a Blu-ray, 'Rogue Nation' offers up very strong video, aggressive Dolby Atmos audio (although it relies more on ear-level sound placement than height elements), and an average set of special features. There's even a Digital HD copy for streaming. Much like the previous franchise installment, this one comes Highly Recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.