Third mission's the charm
Mission: Impossible III is directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams and stars Tom Cruise, who also served as producer. The movie also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, Laurence Fishburne, Simon Pegg, Billy Crudup, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, and Maggie Q.
The third Mission: Impossible film marks the franchise's official planting of the flag in the action genre, something we could not conclude after the first two films. The first Mission: Impossible tried its hand almost squarely within the spy genre, whereas the second Mission: Impossible switched gears and went full speed ahead with a much more action-heavy flick. And while M:I III contains a lot of spy elements that weren't discernible in M:I II, it also brings an abundance of frenetic, popcorn entertainment action serving as confirmation that there will be tons of action in all future Mission: Impossible installments.
It's not hard to see that M:I III is the best of the first three Mission: Impossible films, with a straightforward story and much more down to earth action. The movie also introduced to the world the directing talents of J.J Abrams, who did not disappoint with a $150 million budget that was the most expensive ever for a first time director. Would you believe it that David Fincher was originally slated to direct? I love David Fincher as much as the next person, but holy moly, I am not sure how I'd feel about him getting his hands dirty with action, something Fincher has not exactly made a career out of.
So anyway, the plot of M: I III is one that involves the main hero being forced back into action after retiring from field work: Ethan Hunt has settled down with his fiancee, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a nurse who has no idea of Ethan's real occupation. Instead of partaking in heated and perilous field work, Ethan now trains new IMF recruits. At a party, Ethan is contacted by IMF agent John Musgrave (Billy Crudup) about a mission to rescue one of Ethan's recruits, Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), who was captured while investigating an arms dealer known as Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Ethan and his assigned team are able to successfully rescue Lindsey, but they discover that some kind of explosive device has been implanted in her head, eventually going off and killing her. Two laptops are recovered during the rescue operation, and data pulled from the laptops determine that Owen Davian will be in Vatican City to obtain an object known as the Rabbit's Foot. Determined to avenge Lindsey's death, Ethan and his team set out to stop Davian.
In a way, M:I III is disclaiming almost anything that happened with M:I II, specifically whatever happened between Ethan and Nyah. It's as if J.J Abrams saw M:I II, didn't like it very much at all, and went about writing the script thinking to himself, "okay, let's have Ethan together with another woman right at the start and just pretend his relationship with Nyah never happened." No character in the film, not even Luther, brings up Ethan's past love life, and since the movie talks nothing of the first two films, we can say that Abrams has gotten the Mission: Impossible films out of the experimental stage, knowing what would work best for all future installments and intending to give the series its sure footing.
- The action is once again eye-popping grandeur, but now without the obstructions that commonly come with John Woo's trademarks, as well as the obstructions of shaky editing. Tom Cruise once again shows off his ability to perform most of his own stunts, particularly one when an explosion sends him flying into the side of a car (a story I've heard is that Cruise got hurt pretty bad when doing the stunt) during the bridge attack scene. Other than that, there's not much else to say about the action for the sake of giving the goods away.
- What M: I III has over the other Mission: Impossible films have is the best Mission: Impossible villain performance. Philip Seymour Hoffman is fantastic as Owen Davian, a merciless, no-nonsense guy that gives us a clear impression of how he is in a scene in which he threatens Ethan, telling him he's going to find his wife/girlfriend and hurt her and Ethan isn't going to be able to do a thing about it. Hoffman's performance has the type of dryness that makes Davian totally believable, and it's easily the best performance in the entire film.
- Everything goes along smoothly in M:I III until it reaches about the three quarters mark, which is when the plot becomes a tangled mess. There's a minor twist that happens at that mark, but it only serves to muddle the plot and distort our understanding of the events that we saw beforehand. It's the same sort of issue that I had with the first film: no matter how many times I re-watched the film and no matter how many times that I read the plot summary, the parts in the final quarter of the film that didn't make sense to me before still don't make much sense. I can only see it as the screenplay not doing an adequate enough job of telling you exactly what's going on, and thereby diminishing the payoff of the finale.
What it would take for M:I III to be the best of the first three Mission: Impossible films is to achieve a nice balance of worthwhile spy storytelling and adrenaline-fueled action, and that is exactly what the film is able to do, for the first 75 percent of it anyway. Though the plot gets a little messy near the end, the film as a whole is still a fun outing that includes a terrific villain performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman. While not the best Mission: Impossible film to date, it's the first one that helped the franchise find its true identity.
Recommend? Yes, and you don't have to see the first two Mission: Impossible films to enjoy it.
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