Mission Impossible 3

A Film Review By The Mike

Starring: Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Rated: PG-13 for Violence, Brief Language, and Enough Explosions to Scare Japan
Review Posted: May 5 2006

Final Grade:

Mission: Impossible III is a grand-scale potboiler, deftly put together by TV veteran J.J. Abrams of Lost and Alias fame. While I was initially put off by the idea of a TV mind taking over a franchise full of this much grandeur, I think it might be the talents of Abrams (and two ‘Alias’ co-authors on the script) on the small screen that made this film work so seamlessly.

Television provides a writer (or usually a team of writers) with a chance to put together a kind-of “connect-the-dots” story. Each episode has to have its own plot and build up to its own slam-dunk finale to keep the viewer interested in coming back next week. But it also needs to add up in the long run, even if the story only started as a series of big scenes. There has to be progression in the story, and there has to be a reason to keep coming back.

This kind of strategy fits perfectly with this film series, where action scenes come first and plot development comes second. Unlike the lackluster MI:2, Abrams doesn’t slow down when he’s not showing the action, and he doesn’t speed up too fast when he gets to it. There’s always a connection between the set piece and the plot, and it’s usually a valid one. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say they came up with a story for the film before they came up with ideas for where to have Tom Cruise hang by his fingernails, or for what they could blow up.

The film is also helped along by an inspired cast. Cruise and Ving Rhames reprise their roles from the first two films, and there seems to be a new life breathed into their characters. The IMF team also includes a slew of character actors including Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Simon Pegg, Jonathan Rhys Myers, and Keri Russell; each of whom are well-placed in small, yet crucial, roles. Up-and-coming actress Michelle Monaghan portrays Cruise’s love interest who’s crucial to the plot’s twists, and holds her own with the more established actors.

The head-turning performance of the film comes from Phillip Seymour Hoffman who gets the villain role and the opportunity to stand tall against Cruise in a few great face-offs. There’s a really neat scene near the middle of the film (about the point there would be a change of episode on TV) just as it seems things have turned decidedly in the hero’s favor, where Hoffman takes the film to a new height of tension with his quiet, assured delivery of an ultimatum that lets the viewer know things aren’t going to be as easy as they seem. Fresh off an Oscar win, Hoffman’s star should continue to grow here: he’s the most convincing villain I’ve seen in an action film in some time.

It seemed impossible to me a year ago, but this franchise is right back on track. Mission:Impossible III is a thrill ride that never lets up, yet keeps afloat in plot and doesn’t come off as hard-to-follow or inconceivable. It may not be as good a film as Brian DePalma’s first Mission, but it’s a vast improvement on the over-indulgent sequel. More importantly, Tom Cruise (despite his tabloid quirks) continues to hold his place as Hollywood’s safest star, and Abrams makes his mark as a director to watch out for in the big-budget scene. The end result is, at this point, the must-see blockbuster of the year.

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