May 8, 2006

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible III

This will be a good test of Tom Cruise's continuing star power. With all that has gone on with him in the past year, it will be interesting to see if or how popular opinion has shifted in regards to his ability to remain a box office draw. Preliminary numbers show that M:I:III came out on top of the box office charts, but failed to match the ticket volume of either of the first two films, or the money of the previous film. So, perhaps Cruise's antics have had an affect. But, when it comes right down to it, I try not to let the real world exploits of our stars affect my enjoyment of theior work. To that end, I think that Tom Cruise is a good actor, not great by any stretch, but he gets involved in the right projects with the right people for his strengths. He may even be underrated at times.

Mission: Impossible III was a project that I was unsure of at first. Would Tom Cruise against the media prove to be a distraction? Would they be able to get a worthy script/director/cast? Then word started to trickle out, which proved my fears baseless, and actually increased my eagerness to see the movie. It was announced that JJ Abrams, the mastermind behind television's Alias and Lost, was attached to direct. That was more than enough to get me interested in the project. I love both of the shows he's masterminded, and was interested in seeing how he would fare in a feature film.

So, opening night has come and gone, and I did, indeed go out to see the film. I am very pleased to report that this is one adrenalin fueled blast of action. I am not sure it is my favorite of the three films, but it very well could be. It will take a another viewing or two to see how it holds up.

Something that was clear throughout were the influences of the current state of television. There are bits of Alias and 24 that are detectable throughout. That is not a detriment to the film at all, it is a television specialist bringing his influences with him, successfully translating his experience with the hi-tech spy realm (from Alias) to the big screen.

The movie opens with such an intensity and ferocity that it really sets the stage for the rest of the film. It solidifies Philip Seymour Hoffman as an absolutely sadistic man, and introduces us to a much more focused Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt than was seen in the last film. This opening, and subsequent action helps to personalize it, to make it more than just a spy flick.

The third big screen outing finds Ethan Hunt retired from active duty, content to train new new agents, while preparing to settle down with his fiancee. His fiancee, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), is kept in the dark about his profession and his past, believing Ethan to be with the traffic commission. Things are going fine, there is an engagement party going on, but then a call comes in. A call that gets Ethan back in the field.

The story then weaves a web of double crosses and potential mass destruction, the fulcrum being something known as the "Rabbit's Foot." What that is, is never revealed. It serves a similar function to briefcases in Pulp Fiction and Ronin, what it is is unimportant, it's purpose is to move the action along, it is the MacGuffin.

M:I:III brings back the team aspect. The team is made of the returning Ving Rhames as Luther Strickell, Jonathan Rys Myers (Match Point) as Declan, and Maggie Q as Zhen. The three of them, plus Ethan, are involved in some great set pieces. The greatest segment, probably being the elaborate kidnapping in the Vatican. This is still, clearly, the Cruise show, but it is nice seeing the interplay of the actors.

There is wall to wall action in the film, and it all looks great. The shootouts, the gadgets, the car chases, the whodunit aspect, it all works just so well. There are even some good turns from the supporting cast. Laurence Fishburne brings the right amount of power to his role as the head of IMF and Billy Crudup plkays the role of Hunt's handler well. Michelle Monaghan turned out to be better than I had expected, and more involved in the story than expected, she brings a frightened strength to to the character, she isn't the usual damsel in distress, she is capable of handling herself under pressure. Then there are a couple of smaller roles that were great, one of those is a brief walk on by Alias veteran Greg Grunberg, who appears at the engagement party early on. The other is Simon Pegg as Benji, the nervous tech guy who givesd Ethan support.

One last acting note is with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian. He has precious little screentime, but what he has is remarkably effective. The minimalist approach goes a long way to increase the power of the role. You wonder when he will show up, what he will say, who he will kill. The man is truly evil. Just watch him, every scene he is in, Own shows his perceived superiority to Ethan, how he is always a few steps ahead. Great work, and the opposite of his role in Capote.

The movie is not perfect. There are no obvious flaws, but the movie is not all that revolutionary, there is nothing particularly great about it. Sometimes the dialog sounds a little hokey, sometimes the staging seems like a televised drama, but it does the job. The one thing that really bugged me was the sequence where Ethan obtains the Rabbit's Foot. We do not see it, it is as if they were running out of money, or time, but for whatever reason, we never see what happens inside the building. I would have liked to have seen that.

Bottomline. As an action/thriller this movie completely delivers. The action is high and filled with energy and the story holds together. We get to see Maggie Q in an incredible red dress, hopefully she will get more Hollywood work. JJ Abrams proved he is capable of controlling a big screen movie. Overall, the movie was just an absolute blast. Go see it.

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Gallivanter said...

It's easily the best Mission Impossible movie of 'em all. JJ Abrams did a commendable job!

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