“Mission: Impossible III” and “Rogue Nation” deliver the 4K thrills
Updated: Jul 2, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2006; PG-13 for intense sequences of frenetic violence and menace, disturbing images and some sensuality; streaming via Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Making of the Mission,” one of six featurettes on second Blu-ray
"MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION"
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2015; PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity; streaming via Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Seven short making-of features
IT’S HARD to imagine why directors J.J. Abrams (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Christopher McQuarrie (“Jack Reacher”) would undercut the resolution on their “Mission: Impossible” films “M:I-3” and “Rogue Nation” with 2K mastering – especially since both were sourced from the original 35mm camera negatives.
The results are obvious as the sharpness falls short of the clarity found on “M:I,” M:I-2,” and “M:I-4 Ghost Protocol,” all three mastered in 4K.
EXTRAS – “M:I-3”
The backstory and behind-the-scenes footage highlights J.J. Abrams’ jump to motion pictures in the "Making of" documentary. The TV whiz kid had created two of ABC’s biggest network series in the late 1990s and early 2000s, spy thriller “Alias” and the mind-bending “Lost.”
Abrams’ launch onto the big screen began with a sleepless night for co-producer/megastar Tom Cruise, who plays I.M.F. agent Ethan Hunt. He began watching episodes of “Alias” at 2 a.m. “I was blown away by his [Abrams] sense of timing and suspense,” Cruise says during the featurette. A few nights later, the TV creator/director/writer found himself at the home of co-producer Paula Wagner.
“I walk in and there’s Tom with that big smile saying, ‘Do you want to do Mission Impossible?’” Abrams recalls. His response was immediate: “Are you kidding me? It’s the greatest [job] in the world.”
Next, Abrams found himself standing along the Tiber River directing his cast and more than a hundred crewmembers, with a handful of cameras at the ready. “He deserves it more than anybody,” Cruise said.
“Day one was incredibly surreal, shooting in Rome with Tom Cruise on this boat. The crew was so huge they made me feel safe.” – Director J.J. Abrams
Abrams and Cruise used a castle in Caserta, Italy, about an hour south of Rome, doubling for the Vatican. They ended up building a replica of the 40-foot tall wall surrounding Vatican City. Cruise used a zip line to land spread-eagled inside, just like his stunt in the first "Mission: Impossible," when he broke into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
“M:I-3” is jam-packed with Abrams’ trademarks: fast-paced editing, shaky close-ups, and eye-popping stunts and special effects. The missile attack on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is extraordinary. The sequence is mostly CGI, filmed on a makeshift bridge north of Los Angeles. Short bursts of aerial photography highlight the Chesapeake Bay as Cruise and the IMF agents escort his toughest villain, Owen Davian, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, back to headquarters. Davian escapes, kidnapping Hunt's beautiful bride, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), creating more mayhem.
The Blu-ray also includes a commentary with Abrams and Cruise.
The differences between the 4K Ultra HD and the Blu-ray are very subtle (2.39:1 aspect ratio). Originally toned with high contrast and saturated colors the Blu-ray always looked first-rate.
Comparable frame shots between the 4K and Blu-ray were examined at 200 percent, revealing an increase in finer details from the 4K, such as Cruise’s skin pores, eyelashes and natural film grain. The warm, yellowish tint that plagued the Blu-ray has been corrected to a natural color balance from start to finish with a marginal uptick in reds, blues, and greens. The HDR/Dolby Vision black levels are deeper in the shadows giving the overall image more pop on the screen, while the highlights are brighter and more controlled.
Here’s where the 4K excels, encoded with an eight-channel Dolby TrueHD uncompressed soundtrack bouncing around the room with helicopters, missiles, gun blasts sound effects, while the dialogue is front and center. The Blu-ray featured the compressed, lower-grade Dolby Digital soundtrack, lacking the bass response, dialogue clarity and super highs.
CRUISE clearly had a death wish.
At age 53, he's still extremely athletic during the filming of "Rogue Nation” while clinging to the side of an Airbus A400 cargo plane as it takes off – without using CGI – just his hands and a safety cable. He repeated the stunt eight times in the dead of winter for the terrific opening sequence. "Rogue Nation" is undoubtedly the finest spy thriller since Daniel Craig gave Bond a shot in the arm in “Casino Royale” (2006).
"We're humming down the runaway," Cruise recalls during the short feature "Cruising Altitude."
That amazing stunt is one of many he undertakes in the fifth installment of the big-screen franchise he created 22 years ago. In this story, longtime friend and Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie ("Usual Suspects") directs. He was Cruise's only choice. The two produced “Jack Reacher” (2012); McQuarrie wrote the 2014 sci-fi adventure “Edge of Tomorrow” starring Cruise and Emily Blunt.
The supporting cast includes newcomer Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, seemingly a British double-agent. She's Hunt's match as he single-handedly tries to bring down The Syndicate, a mysterious terrorist operation. British actor Sean Harris plays villain Solomon Lane. The cast also features Alec Baldwin as the CIA director who decommissions the I.M.F.; Simon Pegg, who provides comic relief as Hunt's sidekick Benji; and regulars Ving Rhames (Luther) and Jeremy Renner (Brandt).
In a commentary with Cruise, McQuarrie pinpoints homages to earlier spy thrillers "The Parallax View" and "3 Days of the Condor," as well as the climactic scene at the Vienna State Opera House from Hitchcock's “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”
The 4K and Blu-ray are comparable in sharpness, with only a slight edge to the 4K (2.39:1 aspect ratio). The biggest difference is from the HDR/Dolby Vision toning with a surge in color saturation from Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit ("There Will Be Blood") who gives "Rogue Nation" the right texture and color depth. Clouds are more pronounced over the airfield as Hunt jumps onto the cargo plane. You’ll even notice a very slight yellow glow in the London title slide over the nighttime aerial footage; on Blu-ray, its pure white. From Vienna to Casablanca, visuals are eye-catching with added contrast levels.
The 4K and Blu-ray are both enveloped with a Dolby Atmos eight-channel soundtrack, using height speakers for effects here and there. New audio highlights are delivered through scenes in the Vienna opera house where Puccini sings Nessun Dorma, and in the motorcycle chase into the mountains of Morocco.
McQuarrie and Cruise reunite for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout," hitting theaters in a few weeks, and it’s bound to be good – especially since it’s mastered in 4K this time.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer