October 30, 2006

DVD Review: Mission Impossible III

Mission: Impossible III was a disappointment at the box office, failing to reach the level of either of the two prior entries. The DVD release looks to rectify the monetary situation. I wish that the movie had done better, it is actually quite good.

The movie opens with such an intensity and ferocity that was rather unexpected, even on the small screen it is highly effective in setting the stage for the rest of the movie. It gives us a quick introduction to both sides of our story and hints at what is to come. It solidifies Philip Seymour Hoffman as an absolutely sadistic bad guy, and re 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.

That personal touch is in no doubt the responsibility of director, and co-writer, JJ Abrams. Before making his big screen directorial debut here, he had been making quite the name for himself as the mastermind behind Felicity, Alias, and the current ratings juggernaut Lost. He brings aspects of all that experience to this movie. M:I:III has been criticized for feeling like a television episode, but I think it is more the opposite. Abrams may have never directed for the big screen, but he brought a big screen look and feel to the small screen, so it stands to reason that his cinematic small screen approach would follow him to the big screen. It is more of a case of the big screen inspired by the small screen which was inspired by the big screen. Circular logic to be sure, but that is how I look at it.

The third big screen outing finds Ethan Hunt retired from active duty, content to train new agents, while preparing to settle down with his fiancée. His fiancée, 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, its purpose is to move the action along, it is the MacGuffin.

M:I:III brings back the team aspect, which has been largely absent from the first two films. 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.

The movie makes the translation to the small screen in fine fashion. If anything I may have noticed more of the little things. There are some shots and reactions that work very well. It is not perfect, by any stretch. It suffers from some hokey dialogue, and just a little bit from the non-entity that the "rabbit's foot" ends up being. Still, it is a movie that is full of action, and is a lot of fun from start to finish.

Audio/Video. The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. It looks very good, just what you would expect from a big blockbuster type of movie. The colors are sharp, blacks are deep, and I did not notice any artifacting. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it sounds good, nice dialog and effect separation. Again, nothing to complain about.

Extras. There are two versions available, a single disk and a two disk collector's edition.

  • Disk 1: This disk is the same as the single disk release.
  • Commentary. The track features JJ Abrams and Tom Cruise and is a pretty interesting listen. Cruise is the dominant personality here, and to listen to him, you would think this was his movie. I do like listening to Abrams though.
  • The Making of the Mission. This runs nearly half an hour and touches on all aspects of the film, from the writing, to being on the set, to the post production.
  • Deleted Scenes. A mere 5 minutes of deleted scenes. I know there are more, as some are mentioned in the commentary track, where are they?
  • Excellence in Film. This is a montage of scenes from Cruise's career for an awards show where he got a career award. It runs about 9 minutes.
  • Disk 2
  • Inside the IMF. This takes a look inside how they wanted to bring the focus of the team aspect back to the series. It goes into the casting and what Abrams was seeking to do. In my opinion, this was one of the good things about the movie, it was cast well, and the team is a good part of the film. This runs just over 21 minutes.
  • Mission Action: Inside the Action Unit. You want action? You got action. This featurette goes inside all of the stunts, and just how good Cruise is at doing them, and the fear of him wanting to do everything. The film does have very good stunts. This goes over the 25 minute mark.
  • Visualizing the Mission. This is pretty cool, it takes a look at the animatics that were developed during the pre-production. It also shows how they used them as a base but would still improvise. This runs about 11 minutes.
  • Mission Metamorphosis. Take a look at how they solved the mask issue. It goes inside the concept and development of the movie mechanism that makes the IMF masks. This kind of a neat look inside the effect. It runs for about 8 minutes.
  • Scoring the Mission. This gives a brief look into the scoring of the film with Michael Giacchino. The score is very good, I have picked it up on CD and would recommend it. This runs about 5 minutes.
  • Moviefone: Unscripted with JJ Abrams and Tom Cruise. This was a bit of a backslapping session. I did like how Abrams spoke of how the original Mission Impossible series inspired Alias, and it was Alias that got him the job directing this. This runs approximately 8 minutes.
  • Launching the Mission. This strikes me as primarily a Tom Cruise fluff piece, following him to the premieres around the world. Not much substance, but here it is. It runs for 14 minutes.
  • Trailers. You get the teaser, Japanese, and two US trailers. I found it interesting that all of the US trailers play up Phillip Seymour Hoffman, due to his Oscar win last year, while the Japanese trailer doesn't feature him at all. These total just over 5 minutes.
  • TV Spots. Six 30 second spots focusing on a few different aspects. I think I like the Conspiracy spot the best.
  • Photo Gallery. 100 stills from the film and from the set.
  • Generation: Cruise. This was a tribute for Cruise on MTV when he received the first MTV Generation film award. This runs about 3:30.

Bottomline. I like this movie, plain and simple. It is a fun action-filled adventure that satisfies what I look for in a M:I movie. Abrams has done a fine job at making his big screen debut. The DVD set does the film justice. Sure, there are a few Cruise oriented fluffers, but I can look past them. There is some nice content on this two disk set.


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