4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
For the seventh time Tom Cruise stars as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, who tries to hang on with professional thief Grace (Hayley Atwell) after the Orient Express train was sabotaged.
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“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 2023; PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some profanity and suggestive material; Digital code via Apple TV (iTunes) (4K) & Vudu (4K)
Best extra: “Freefall” featurette
IN THE last few weeks, we learned the 8th installment of the 27-year-old ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise might be pushed back a year to 2025 before it hits theaters. The SAG-AFTRA strike, and the uncertainty of available IMAX screens have seemingly put Tom Cruise’s spy thriller in jeopardy for next summer.
When “Dead Reckoning Part One” launched, it only got two weeks of IMAX exclusivity before Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” arrived and locked down the supersize screens for most of the summer. Another shortcoming of the upcoming “Dead Reckoning Part Two,” the majority of the premium-priced IMAX screens are already scheduled for other films next summer.
Plus, to top it off, Paramount Studios and Skydance Production were so shocked by the underperformance of “Part One,” which only grossed $567 million, the previous “M:I – Fallout” (2018) topping nearly $800 million – the powers that be are considering a new title for “Dead Reckoning Part Two.” The problem stems from the extraordinary success of Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” which finished at nearly $1.5 billion box office. Everyone assumed “Dead Reckoning” would easily hit $1 billion or more, especially since critics worldwide gave it rave reviews hitting a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with only a slightly lower 92 percent with audiences. Surprisingly, moviegoers flocked to the pink world of “Barbie” and the historical “Oppenheimer,” with both breaking the $1 billion mark.
The Entity & the Keys
Ethan Hunt and his IMF team (Luther Stickell – Ving Rhames, Benji Dunn – Simon Pegg) accept their latest dangerous mission to track down two keys that could unlock a conscious artificial intelligence. “The Entity” has infiltrated every nation’s computer system, with “the power to bring the world to its knees.” Obviously, Hunt isn’t the only one after the keys; there’s former MI-6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), professional thief Grace (Hayley Atwell), the messenger of the Entity, Gabriel (Esai Morales), arms dealer the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), hired assassin Paris (Pom Klementieff) and every other global superpower.
Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny), former deputy director of IMF during “Mission: Impossible” (1996), is now the Director of the CIA, succeeding Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett). The U.S. Intelligence Community has orders to bring Hunt in dead or alive with agents Jasper Briggs (Sha Whigham) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis).
The 4K disc and the Blu-ray disc were both encoded from the TRUE 4K master, sourced from the 4K, 4.5K, and 6K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio). On-screen resolution is spectacular, from close-ups to the striking aerial imagery and the freefall sequence seemingly captured in 6K, from cinematographer Fraser Taggart. Postproduction digital film grain was added, to provide a more organic film-like look, although the digital grain is less defined than REAL grain from the photochemical 35mm film process.
The 4K disc was encoded onto a 100 GB disc, but for some reason, the bit rate is only in the mid-50 Megabits per second range. Those numbers should’ve been running at least at 75 Mbps and higher, especially since the only extra on the disc, a commentary track, doesn’t eat up much space. The film has a running time of two hours and 43 minutes, but it’s been reported the encoding used a little less than 70 GB of space. The additional 30 GB of space would’ve given the visuals more breathing room.
The search for Hunt & the Keys
HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading provide expanded contrast levels from deep dark shadows to controlled highlights as the HDR10 peak brightness hits 997 nits and averages 382 nits. In most scenes, the earthy color palette is slightly desaturated, while the nighttime scene at Venice’s Doge’s Palace shows colors fully saturated.
Overall, the Blu-ray is a nice watch for folks with a 1080p setup, but the disc has a slight reduction in overall clarity and a red tint push on facial toning – a product of fewer colors available compared to HDR.
The eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the 4K and Blu-ray fills the theater room from front to back and side to side with enveloping effects from gun battles, intense winds from a desert sandstorm, and squealing tires during the intense chase scenes. There’s a deep bass response from composer Lorne Balfe’s (“The Lego Batman Movie”) thunderous percussion and brass-heavy score. Lalo Schifrin’s iconic original theme, which runs during the traditional title sequence, pops up throughout. No worries, dialogue is front and center and never gets lost.
The subwoofer gets a great workout!
The enclosed bonus Blu-ray includes six featurettes that break down the production filmed in three exotic locations and Cruise’s elaborate stunt work.
“Abu Dhabi” featurette director Christopher McQuarrie says he and Cruise wanted to make a more global film – more James Bond-like – so the first international location was at the slick and modern Abu Dhabi Airport. The production had complete access from the roof, to behind the security doors showing miles of baggage tracks. The biggest challenge was filling the airport with passengers since the production was filmed in the middle of COVID-19. “It was the biggest set we’ve ever worked on,” McQuarrie says. And yes, Cruise gets to show off his running skills again, through the airport and on the roof, which looks like a “giant steel sand dune, and what better environment for Tom to be running across?” McQuarrie says. They also used the U.S. Marines V-22 Ospreys to transport the U.S. agents ordered to eliminate Hunt.
Since they were already in the United Arab Emirates, why not shoot a desert sequence with horses, wide expansive sand dunes, and an abandoned town, which was built in five weeks.
“Rome” featurette details the elaborate chase sequence including IMF’s souped-up tiny Fiat 500, dozens of motorcycles, and Rome’s cobblestone streets, an unpredictable ride for Cruise and the stunt drivers. All the effects were practical with dozens of crashed cars and motorcycles. To ensure his safety, Cruise walked the complete chase course from streets to alleyways, to ensure he knew every bump and curve. For years he’s done all his own stunts, including wearing handcuffs while driving with co-star Hayley Atwell.
“Venice” featurette reveals the city had been a desired location for nearly 15 years, even with the difficulties of filming in a city where vehicles are outlawed. One key scene was shot at night at the Doge’s Palace. Huge digital projectors lit up the exterior with an array of moving visuals, while the gondolas were lit with lanterns. Over 4,000 candles lined the corridors for another on-foot chase from Hunt. Two fights happen simultaneously in the narrow labyrinth walkways, which meant months of training to get the actor’s mission ready.
“Freefall” featurette highlights Cruise’s most dangerous stunt ever, filmed on Helsetkopen mountain in Norway, subbing the towering Alps along the Orient Express railway between Vienna and Paris. The challenge for Hunt is to jump onto the train from a motorcycle, a feat that has been sabotaged before he arrives. The last resort is to climb up the backside of the mountain and freefall several thousand feet off the rocky cliff, using a parachute to guide him toward the train in the valley below. Cruise trained for over a year with 13,000 motocross jumps, 500 skydives, and simulated jumps in England, while McQuarrie spent months preparing for the right cameras, lenses, and drones.
“Speed Flying” featurette covers Cruise’s ability to use the lightweight canopy considered “one of the most dangerous sports in the world and incredibly unpredictable,” McQuarrie says. It becomes one of Hunt’s escape tools during the train sequence.
“Train” featurette focuses on the construction of the locomotive and train cars needed for the practical filmmaking of the sequence as the train will need to travel 60 miles per hour through the Norwegian valley. McQuarrie directed the action from inside one of the cars, while Cruise and other key actors jumped from train car to car, performing their choreographed fight sequence.
Side note: There’s a train fight sequence during “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” which was mostly computer-generated. Reply in comments on which sequence looks the most realistic.
An additional bonus for the 4K disc and Blu-ray is the informative commentary with McQuarrie and film editor Eddie Hamilton.
I saw “Dead Reckoning Part One” on opening weekend back in July. It was one whale of a thrill ride then, and this 4K presentation is just as compelling. There’s no question – it’s well worth your time and money.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer