Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mission Impossible 3

Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q

Running Time: 126 min.

Rating: PG-13

*** (out of ****)

Before seeing Mission Impossible 3 I remarked to someone that I didn't think I've ever seen a bad Tom Cruise movie. That streak continues. M:I:3 is less complicated than the other films in the series, is much more focused and adds a human element to the story that the other two lacked. Plus, it has a great villain, which always helps. It's probably the best in the series. That's not to say I necessarily want to see another one and it's unlikely we will since Cruise was fired from Paramount after this was released, (more due to his offscreen antics than the earnings of this film). Still, it would be a shame if people avoided this for that reason because accomplishes everything it sets out to do quite well.

I.M.F. agent Ethan Hunt is now retired from the field and spends his days training up and coming agents like Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell). When Lindsey is kidnapped by dangerous arms dealer Davian (Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman) Hunt is drafted back into action and ends up getting more than he bargained for when the life of his new financee (Michelle Monaghan) is also put at risk. To save her he has to retrieve the mysterious "rabbit's foot." To the script's credit, we never find out what the "rabbit's foot" is . All we know is that it's incredibly important. I really wish more films would do this. It's so much more effective when the filmmakers don't reveal that information because whatever it is will just pale in comparison to what the viewers imagine it will be.

At the center of the story is the question of whether someone is Hunt's line of work can even have a normal relationship with somebody and there are some good scenes with Cruise and Monaghan that support it. This is an improvement over the other Mission Impossible films in that it dares to raise questions about anything. Of course, the story is beside the point. It's just an excuse to have some terrific action scenes and chase sequences and I assure you there's definitely no shortage of them. There's a great sequence at The Vatican where Hunt and his team have so many costume changes I almost lost count and a chase scene/shoot out on a bridge that will blow your mind. There's the memorable introduction of a bomb that detonates inside your head as well as the return of one of my favorite elements of the MI series: the use of masks. It's a special treat here as we get to see Seymour Hoffman do a dead-on Cruise impersonation. This guy didn't win an Oscar for nothing and it's a thrill to see him ham it up in a villainous role like this, a nice change from the usual character driven roles we see him in all the time. It makes a big difference when an actor of his caliber is cast and it's great seeing him having such a good time with it. I also liked the interplay with Hunt and his I.M.F. Team and if you don't know who Maggie Q is, you definitely will after this movie. She makes an entrance at a party you won't soon forget.

M:I:3 has some twist and turns and the movie effectively starts it's first scene at the end and then works backwards showing us how we got there, adding a heightened sense of importance to the proceedings. This is the feature directorial debut of Alias and Lost creator J.J. Abrams and he proves him himself more than capable of making the leap to big budget action without missing a beat. Tom Cruise is often taken for granted as an actor and this special edition DVD features a montage of all his films and it's really amazing when you look back at his output. We also find out on a "making of" feature on the disc that much to the director (and probably his agent's) horror he does actually perform much if not all of his own stunts. You could argue he should be contractually obligated to given the insane salary he commands per picture, but the fact remains few actors do all their own stunts. There's also a commentary track on the disc with Cruise and Abrams that's entertaining enough, as it's defintely fun to hear how they did some of the more spectacular action sequences. While my expectations couldn't have been lower heading into M:I:3, I found it was a fun, exciting way to spend two hours.

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