Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Dolby Atmos Review

1/19/2016 11:02:00 AM
“Good morning, Mr. Hunt. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to listen to these best demo scenes in the new Mission Impossible movie. This message will self-destruct in five…four…”

Something about seeing J.J. Abrams Bad Robot logo come up on screen just swells me with confidence in a film. I just feel like I’m in J.J.’s confident hands and he’s going to make it A-OK. As a film, Rogue Nation is very entertaining with a story that moves the series forward with steady twists and turns, while keeping us acquainted with familiar characters and introducing us to some new ones.
 
 
 
Christopher McQuarrie from The Usual Suspects fame directs this fifth installment of the Impossible franchise, and he delivers a film filled with twists and turns, crosses and double-crosses, along with numerous big chase and elaborate break-in schemes the series is known for. This is not a non-stop Mad Max level of action, but rather the majority of the movie is dialog based. Even still, the side, rear, and ceiling speakers are used to nice effect throughout for conveying the musical score or providing subtle ambience. But rest assured, when the team does plan an impossible break-in, it raises the bar and delivers the classic over-the-top, big action pieces that made the series famous.

The Impossible Mission Force has been disbanded by the government and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on the run trying to identify and disrupt the mysterious terrorist consortium known as the Syndicate. I know Cruise can be polarizing in his fan base, but I found his performance here solid, and much like his last movie, Edge of Tomorrow, which I loved, Cruise’s on-screen persona seems to be more human and likable. Also, his willingness to perform his own stunts here made for some incredibly realistic action sequences.

Rogue Nation‘s Dolby Atmos soundtrack also provides some real demo-worthy moments, and here they are!

***Spoilers ahead…***

The film starts off with a big action sequence as the Impossible Mission Force team tries to keep a Russian cargo plane loaded with weapons from taking off. Of course, complications ensue and Hunt has to race up and infiltrate the plane while it is lumbering down the runway during takeoff. The scene really escalates at the 4-minute mark as the big plane rumbles down the runway, the propellers filling the room with a huge pulse and thrum of the blades. Hunt races to jump onto the plane, hanging on for dear life while Benjamin Dunn (Simon Pegg) attempts to remotely hack a door open. As the plane is taking off, the wind and engine noise fill and swirl throughout the room. If it looks real, it’s because it is: Cruise performed the stunt strapped to the side of an actual plane multiple times and the realism shows on screen. There are lots of plane engine sounds that whoosh by through the side channels and overheard as Ethan’s perspective changes. As Hunt finally boards the plane, the rush of wind and the plane’s alarm fills the room and you are thrust into the opening titles, which feature a dynamic series of cut scenes introducing all the actors.

While not a great audio demo, at 6:40 (chapter 1) Hunt goes through a bit of dialog code word authentication with a girl in a record store in London, where some back and forth about jazz music that will likely leave many audiophiles smiling at the inside knowledge and oh-so-clever use of a Technics turntable. Vinyl is back, baby! Also, listen for the subtle vinyl clicks and pops in the background while Hunt listens to his “should you choose to accept it…” message. Well played, audio mixer. Well played!

At 12 minutes in (chapter 2) Cruise is captured and about to be interrogated. The audio sets the scene of the confined space he’s in, with the sounds of doors opening echoing off the walls and hard concrete and brick surfaces. As the interrogation begins, Hunt takes multiple brutal punches to the stomach, the impacts and voices reverberating throughout the room. Cruise—or his stunt man—performs an amazing escape in the form of the most insane core exercise you’ve ever seen at 16:07 and a fight ensues. As Hunt is running down the hallway to freedom at 17:45, gunfire erupts, piercing holes just next to your head with ricochets and reports echoing around the room.

At 22:45 (chapter 3) you get a great scene of Dunn playing a video game in his office while listening to classic music through headphones. The audio is massive, filling the room from everywhere, and then when he removes the phones, the audio collapses. It is a quick scene but impressive for the suddenness of the fully immersive soundstage.

At 27:30 (chapter 4) Dunn arrives at an opera in Vienna and the clicks of paparazzi shooting tons of photos does a great job of putting you in the middle of the scene. The opera begins at 29:50 with a massive music score, the audio mix doing a really great job of placing you in the large space. The scene moves into chapter 5 with Cruise tracking a would-be assassin, the audio throughout is interspersed with scenes from the Puccini opera that bellow strong and loud through the room, really immersing you in the full operatic experience of the auditorium. The overhead speakers give the opera a huge soundscape and really fill the front wall with the music and vocals, making your room feel much larger than it is.
 
At 35:25 Cruise and the would-be assassin fight it out on galleys above the opera stage as the score swells bellow them, with applause breaking out and filling the room as a second sniper takes aim. The fight scene is mostly quiet and reserved to not detract from the opera happening below them. As the scene swells to the inevitable moment when they are going to fire just before the 39-minute mark, music crescendos in the room. The entire scene is a really nice demonstration of how Atmos can expand the effects and impact of a musical score in a movie, far different from the usual scenes of massive explosions or jets flying overhead and has enough action and tension to keep it interesting for any group you’ll demo to.

At 53:20 into chapter 7, you get a great scene of a helicopter flying in. It comes from high right in the room and flies into the center. It hovers around for a bit before flying away overhead. Helicopters, rain, and plane flyovers are where audio mixers really love the Atmos ceiling speakers, and here they do a nice job of expanding the audio up into the Z-axis. The scene is less than a minute in length, but in that time people will be convinced exactly what the overhead speakers add to home theater.

Chapter 8 opens at 1:01 with the impossible break-in into a computer lab in Morocco to steal the identities of the Syndicate agents. Parachutists whisk past your head on both sides and darts shoot in from the ceiling down to the left side of the room. Ethan uses a device to send high frequency signals to break glass that provides a not-so-nice room filling, ear-piercing sound. In one of the film’s marquee scenes, Ethan dives into a hydro-cooled computer data vault center. Before he jumps, the room is filled with atmospheric sounds of water rushing and the steady rumble of machines and pumps running. The entire scene is based on timing and breath holding and getting the codes uploaded before Dunn hits the end of this hallway. All of this adds up to a really tension-filled demo that will have people fully engaged.

One of the film’s best demos comes at 1:05 when Hunt jumps into the cooling system’s water flow with a splash that flows up into the ceiling channels. When the water flow is interrupted, it cuts off through each of the channels with a nice chunk-chunk-chunk that circles around the room. As Hunt is sucked into the water, it swirls and bubbles and flows all around the room, with his heartbeat a steady reminder of the timetable. The vault’s arm swings by, whisking past overhead and passing just to the side of you depending on the POV. The entire scene is filled with the tension of Hunt’s breath hold, the steady deep bass notes of machinery and Hunt’s heartbeat, and other sounds swirling around the room, and cutting back and forth to different acoustic environments. Stop the scene at 1:08 to keep your audience on the edge of their seats, or continue on till 1:10 to see how it ends with a ton of ambient voices echoing off the hard concrete walls of the underground space that really establishes the acoustic environment as they revive Hunt.

At 1:12 (chapter 9) a motorcycle chase ensues that will make you long for a DBox system. Bikes rev and race all around the room as Hunt and Dunn give chase in a BMW, the audio perfectly tracking their progress. The bikes and Hunt’s BMW whip along the sides of the room, race from front to back, drive through and across the room, all the while the scream of revving engines, tires squealing in protest, and metal crunching pretty much transforms your viewing room into a racing circuit. The scene ends at 1:17 with a great bit of humor after Hunt’s BMW wrecks through your room; overhead a perfect light tinkle of broken glass precedes the massive, end-over-end flipping crash. The whole scene makes another great demo: fast, action packed, exciting, and audience friendly.

Lest you think the motorcycle chase was over, Hunt climbs out of his car, jumps on a bike, and goes screaming down the Moroccan highway after Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). The bikes race perilously close to traffic from both directions, the camera work putting you right in the action and the audio letting you experience what it is like to whip inches past oncoming traffic at blistering speeds. It’s a really excitingly filmed scene that is fast and intense. It ends at 1:20 with another Hunt wreck, meaning that within a span of 10 minutes Hunt has drowned, been defibrillated back to life, and been involved in two horrific car wrecks. So, you know, a pretty typical IMF day.

The film’s big conclusion is set up in chapter 13. It’s a dialog-driven scene, but if you start at 1:52 and count the beeps of the countdown timer—along with how much time they say remains—you’ll hear that the audio gives away the fact that Ethan didn’t make it. A long moment of pregnant onscreen silence and a nod between Hunt and Ilsa kicks off the climatic gun battle at 1:55 as Hunt shoots his way out of trouble. The pair is chased down British alleys with a big musical score as gunmen fire on them, with big reports of the pistol shots and shattering glass as they lead their quarry to the trap. The film’s fitting conclusion comes at 2:00 and echoes a scene with Cruise earlier in the film, while also setting the series up for another adventure. Should you choose to accept it.

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