Tom Cruises through another exciting and Impossible Mission on Blu-ray
By Jim Bray
You could think of the Mission: Impossible movies as candy floss for the brain, in that's it's sweet and fun but there isn't much to them.
That may not be fair, however, since Tom Cruise and his collaborators seem to go the extra mile to give theatre goers a nice romp each time out. Yet after having seen all of the series' films, I can't really remember much about them - though that may be a tribute to my memory as much as to the forgettableness of the Mission: Impossible movies' plots.
Still, I know I enjoyed them all, and this latest entry, "Rogue Nation", may be the biggest and best one yet. I'll probably forget what it's all about by the time I finish this review, but as with the other films I'll remember that I enjoyed watching it - a lot.
The Mission movies are kind of the other side of the James Bond coin, in that they're big action flicks with exotic locations and lots of other toys for the eyes. Funny how I can remember every Bond film except the highly forgettable A View to a Kill, though. Go figure.
This latest Mission made me a bit jealous of Tom Cruise. He got to hang off the side of a big military cargo plane in a scene you've probably seen if you've noticed any of the film's trailers or commercials. It looks like it would have been a real hoot. If only Cruise were old and fat and needed a suitable stunt double…
That scene is particularly iconic in this film - it's a big stunt and it's pulled off beautifully - but it's also kind of anti-climactic because it happens right at the beginning of the film. It's like when Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered and the reviewers showed clips from the opening South American tomb scene. Raiders kept upping the adventure ante throughout the film, however, and though Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation doesn't quite do that, it still does a nice job of keeping the action moving - and big.
Anyway, this time around, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) finds himself being treated as a rogue agent by the CIA, whose main poobah in the film (Alec Baldwin, who despite his repellent personality is a fine actor) sees the IMF as an atavism, a throwback to the cold war era that is now endangering U.S. national security. He has it shut down and its assets (including IMFers Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg) assimilated by the CIA.
But Hunt can't be found and he ignores the orders to come in from the cold. Instead, he thinks he's hot on the tail of The Syndicate, a shadowy SPECTRE-like organization that's kind of an anti-IMF, as if George Soros were manipulating the system to his own advantage or something. Oh, wait…
As you might suspect, IMF and anti-IMF coming together turns out to be a bit like matter and antimatter.
Hunt's only inkling of what he's after is a mysterious man (Sam Harris) and a mysterious woman (Rebecca Ferguson), the latter of whom saved his life but may have done it with nefarious intent. So, behind the scenes and under the table, he enlists the help of his IMF buddies to go after the mysterious evil Syndicate.
Along the way we have great locations around the world, high level intrigue, a battle in an opera house, some neat vehicles and chases - all the stuff we want in a James Bond-type movie like this. And Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation delivers on all counts. I enjoyed it so much that I went back a couple of nights later and watched it again. The last film I did that for was Guardians of the Galaxy.
Tom Cruise gets dumped on a lot, perhaps because of his Scientology ties, but I've always though him an excellent actor and as usual he's spot on here. And he suffers for his art: not only does he ride an airplane fuselage (eight times, the supplements tell us, since he did his own stunt), he's also dumped into a lot of water and has to hold his breath for what were undoubtedly multiple takes there as well. He, and his co-star Ferguson had to train for this scene, we learn from the supplementary "making of" stuff.
Cruise also surrounds himself with good talent. The rest of the cast is definitely up to their tasks and as the IMF team they truly look as if they feel comfortable together, like a nicely broken in pair of shoes, even if all Hell is breaking loose around them. Add in top notch production values and good direction by Christopher McQuarrie - who also wrote Cruise' excellent sci-fi time travel mind game Edge of Tomorrow and directed the underappreciated Jack Reacher - and you have the ingredients of a winner.
The action is great, though at times it seems as if it may be there as much because it was time for an action scene as it was story wise, but that's one of the reasons we watch these movies anyway, and the stunts here are as good or better as those anywhere else. Kudos for Cruise for putting himself on the line, too. While I'd gladly hang off the side of the plane like he did, or drive like he did, you wouldn't catch me doing that wet stuff.
Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation is a good Blu-ray as well, though I was disappointed that it didn't have that "pop off the screen" look that so many great BD's do. Don't get me wrong; the picture quality is sharp and bright and clean, with excellent black levels. But that "depth" isn't there as much as I like. Still, it's well worth taking a gander at and if I awarded a star rating it would get a good four out of five.
The audio is Dolby Atmos, but fortunately (since few people have that new system in their home theatres yet) it dumbs itself down to Dolby TrueHD 7.1. I listened to it in 5.1 and the soundtrack and soundstage are really up to snuff,. It's big and brash, but with wonderful fidelity and excellent use of all the channels.
MI: RN gets a decent set of supplements, too. I've mentioned a couple, which are part of a series of behind the scenes featurettes that, while less than 10 minutes in length, are long enough to be interesting without seeming too much like filler. As an ex-pilot with delusions of grandeur, I particularly enjoyed the part about "Cruising Altitude," but they're all interesting in their own right.
Featurettes include a look into the characters, the "Mission: Immersible" one about the torus interior, the chase between the BMW and the bike, and more. You also get a commentary track with star/producer Cruise and director McQuarrie.
I figured I'd enjoy Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and was not disappointed. It's a great entry into the franchise and, as with other franchises that have managed to remain interesting, I look forward to the next one.
If only I could remember what this one was about…
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.