Rogue Nation holds back, but it’s a technical beauty
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation breaks its trust with the audience when searching for thrills. After opening with a sensational airplane stunt, Rogue Nation turns to improbable car wrecks and impressive if false underwater cinematography. It cheats.
There are tropes too where villains often ease up on Ethan Hunt (Cruise) instead of pulling the trigger for an easy kill. No one in these circumstances would hold back. It’s old time movie cliche used to an extreme here. Rogue Nation’s conclusion depends on its raspy voiced lead terrorist (Sean Harris) lacking the sense to shoot immediately. These reams of false drama are tiring.
This series history is fun, often ridiculous, even over saturated. Rogue Nation is an oddity. Its tonal energy is borrowed from 1996’s Mission: Impossible, a reserved, arguably even mature action thriller. Rogue Nation is seemingly cowering under the tremendous predecessor, Ghost Protocol.
For a fifth entry, Rogue Nation stands as a thin if classy spy flick, weaving between CIA suits, British Intelligence, and underground organizations as Hunt deals with all manner of undercover agents. The central thread – IMF being disbanded at the Senate level – propels Hunt to lone wolf operator even if the agency’s closure barely limits his technological capability. Little changes. It’s awfully close to Ghost Protocol’s set-up, too.
Cruise is given a co-star in Rebecca Ferguson, a (maybe) double agent whose skills with jujitsu are matched only by her capacity to show skin to the camera. Her act adds physicality, jiving with Cruise’s higher intellectual approach to combat. She’s willing to use force. Cruise favors running then guns.
Senate hearings regarding IMF’s function exists a commentary on the film’s themselves…
Senate hearings regarding IMF’s function exists a commentary on the film’s themselves…
Rogue Nation at least has fun with itself, toying with Cruise’s reputation and slyly joking with itself about how absurd the series has become. Underneath the Senate hearings regarding IMF’s function exists a commentary on the film’s themselves – Alec Baldwin notes their successes appear like luck – acknowledging the ludicrous happenings and sustaining their existence.
The film offers a slew of preposterous options. Cruise hanging from the door of a plane as it takes off is only their start. A lively car chase ends in a sloppy end-over-end crash. The high-speed motorcycle chase that follows is grand. Each carries alluring complexity and the camera captures some dangerous angles. Rogue Nation, as with the rest of the series, has the editing talent to escalate its scenarios with only a drop of the memorable theme music.
Narrative arcs build on trust and manipulation. It’s still the staple of this film franchise. Swerves are expected; Rogue Nation makes them happen even if allegiances are unclear. Who knows who and who knows what are often glanced. Mission Impossible’s may require two viewings to fully put themselves together. Rogue Nation isn’t changing any formula. At least it’s a traveler, dashing off to Morocco and Paris for pleasing, rewatchable scenery between ever more elaborate stunts – even if they cheat.
Video (4K UHD)
From a 2K master, the UHD debut for this 2015 action flick features plenty of highlights. Dolby Vision mastering displays incredible brightness. Nighttime fly-bys of cities showcase tremendous highlights. Contrast is fierce.
Down on the ground, that same intensity continues. Dimension is high, even with a lack of true black. However, this is the first Mission: Impossible in 4K without black crush issues. That’s a trade off, and black levels still deliver results.
High detail sticks around underneath a wavering grain structure. Thickness varies greatly, and only a few instances limit fidelity. Paramount’s encode is a champion in the fight to maintain consistency. By doing so, close-ups resolve pinpoint texture and display the full clarity of the establishing exteriors. Shots of Morocco and others offer the full potential of this format, even with a 2K source.
The only whiff is color grading. That’s a consistent, nagging problem for the series on UHD. Watching the major Morocco chase, the screen fills with gaudy peachy tones, wiping out pure white and casting flesh tones with a clay-like look. Most of Rogue Nation pushes toward warmth, glazing the screen with orange. The few cooler scenes serve as a reprieve. All of this was true for the original Blu-ray too, but deep color worsens the issue rather than correct it.
Rogue Nation continues a shot-on-film tradition even as digital cameras take over. Paramount’s encode is a monster. Source grain is superb and resolved. Only in one sequence during the first act does the source material feel overwhelming. Even then, compression maintains clarity to keep the images finely rendered.
Post-production work does give the feature a mammoth sense of contrast, capturing highlights with extensive energy and weight. This somewhat reduces the disappointment of the black levels which keep reaching for true black and missing. Density is notable for being lackluster. While this only lightly impacts Rogue Nation as a whole, the effect remains bothersome considering how grandiose contrast appears.
Besides, preservation of shadow detail is a fine quality to have. Rebecca Ferguson begins her role clad in black, walking inside of a room with a single light source. She’s not lost in the darkness. Fidelity is striking all around, capturing facial definition with frequency and selling those location shots of Paris. The latter are dominating at night.
Of final note is color timing. Rogue Nation is saturated, working under a veil of orange or blue depending on the scenery; much of Morocco is orange. Flesh tones are vibrant – too orange, maybe – and primaries are allowed to show. The final scene at an outdoor restaurant turns completely orange and teal to a point where it becomes egregious. Cruise looks as if his face has been painted with orange chalk. It’s excessive, but at least this is a singular instance.
Even with the gunfire and roaring jet engines, orchestration may be Rogue Nation’s grandest quality. The score, credited to Joe Kraemer, beefs up the horn section within the pounding MI theme. Trumpets carry awesome force as they belt from the stereo channels and sweep around in Atmos.
Sound design comes to work during a car chase. Music is silenced and the natural audio work lends the needed realism to the sequence. Dirt pings off the vehicle’s underside. Camera views from inside the car drop into the low-end to accentuate the engines. Surrounds do well in capturing the vehicles as they pass. This continues into a motorcycle chase, now mixed with elements of the score.
Of further interest is an underwater scene, false visually due to the hefty CG effects, yet audibly strong. Water rushes into all channels. Muted sound effects capture churning motors as they pass. Even if they’re unseen, their presence is maintained by the mix. It’s a vivid, mechanical moment.
Rogue Nation opens with its advertised set piece, Cruise hanging on as a plane takes off. Engines are sorted in the rear channels and the rush of air passes around the soundfield. Subwoofer support aids in adding scale. While there is a definite lack of bombast compared to 2015’s monumental year for big budget audio, Rogue Nation still has an innovative and accurate presence.
Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie join for commentary work, a fun chat as the two have worked together on numerous occasions. They have a working relationship to pull from. Seven featurettes follow, likely part of a full documentary-style bonus but then separated. Each carries the same traits and flow. Lighting the Fuse is the opening chapter, detailing story and sequel processes. Cruise Control is all Tom, all the time. Heroes gives the rest of the cast mention.
Cruising Altitude delves into the measures taken to ensure safety during the plane stunt. It’s great. Mission Immersible continues looking at specific scenes, this time the water tank, with Sand Theft Auto following up with the car/motorcycle chase. The Mission Continues turns into the throw-away EPK discussing the series as a whole. Total each feature and they come out to 50 minutes.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.