MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III
Till Death Us Do Part: Taking It to the Limit,
and Over the Edge -- a full throttle "Mission"
Popcornreel.com Film Review:
"Mission: Impossible III"
By Omar P.L. Moore/May 2, 2006
(Left photo) -- Running man: Tom Cruise as
IMF agent Ethan Hunt, in "M:i:III". Photo: Alex Bailey/Paramount Pictures.
(Center photo) -- Catch me if you can: Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman as
Owen Davian, in "M:i:III". Photo: Stephen Vaughan/Paramount Pictures.
(Right photo) -- Dress rehearsal: Keri Russell as IMF agent Lindsey Farris, in "M:i:III".
Photo: Paramount Pictures.
"I've just put an explosive charge in your head", says the villain Owen Davian
to the hero Ethan Hunt, who at that very moment is in dire peril. And from
this tense, pulse-pounding opening scene forward the audience has been charged
up by the fast, furious, thunderous pace of this gripping action film, whose
only escape from tension thankfully comes in the form of comedy, much of it
supplied in priceless lines uttered by Ving Rhames, who just about steals this
movie with his comic timing.
J.J. Abrams, who directed "Mission: Impossible III", or "M:i:III", as it is
commonly known, enthuses this third film with a dynamic energy that makes the
first two films sleepy by comparison. In "M:i:III", something is always at
stake, and in a good action film that singular fact is essential. The
plot, which boils down to rich business man Davian ("Capote" Oscar winner Philip
Seymour Hoffman -- who does great work here with little flash or fanfare, in his
first action film) selling weapons to no-good unnamed people in areas of the
world that sound like those in the news headlines da jour. Quite simply, a
compelling reason for Hunt (Tom Cruise) to come out of his retirement from the
IMF (Impossible Mission Force) is to rescue IMF Agent Lindsey Farris (Keri
Russell), one of the agents that Hunt mentored, from a kidnapping at Davian's
In this sequel however, plot does not matter. The ties that bind two
people are far more important. Trust, which Hunt frequently betrays when
having to lie to Julia, his fiancee (Michelle Monaghan). Ethan cannot be
forthcoming about his real job, and Luther (Rhames) reminds him that in
relationships "dishonesty poisons everything". Speaking of which, there's
plenty of dishonesty to go around in "M:i:III", and some of the IMF's rank and
file aren't immune from it. The head of IMF is now John Brassel, who is
given an equivocal edge by Laurence Fishburne, whose lines also supplies the
audience its fair share of laughs and chuckles. One of Brassel's top
investigators is Musgrave (Billy Crudup) who helps Hunt along in times of
desperate need -- which seems to be often.
It is sometimes difficult to watch "M:i:III"
and not think about Katie Holmes and Mr. Cruise when watching the megastar and
co-star Michelle Monaghan together on screen -- it may even be too good to be
true to some that this film was released now, with all the news one can handle
vis-a-vis the media dubbing the couple "TomKat". Still, Mr. Abrams and the
entire cast succeeds, and there are some characters that we actually care about,
a caring rarely shown or felt in an action film.
Joining Hunt's team in the search for
Agent Farris and the quest to stop Davian (who seems as wanted as Osama Bin
Laden is) from spreading weaponry sales to the far corners of the globe, are
Zhen (Maggie Q) and Declan ("Match Point"'s Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Both
have relatively small roles, but their presence is a continuation of the
practice of an international cast. Ms. Q was raised in Hong Kong, though
born in Hawaii, and Mr. Meyers is from Ireland.
Mr. Abrams utilizes some of the action style and
suspense present in the television series "Alias" (which he created) for "M:i:III",
and you can see that he is rather comfortable in the movie director's chair.
He co-wrote the script (with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci). Mr. Abrams'
ability to defuse tension by releasing it with a laugh line is priceless.
Conversely, hand-held close-ups of faces, especially those of Mr. Cruise as he
registers intense, determined looks are compelling, drawing us in and sometimes
giving the illusion of a "visual claustrophobia" being imposed on the film's
Family is a significant theme in
this film, whether it's Ethan Hunt's family at IMF (he says of Lindsey Farris,
"she's like my kid sister"), or the family he and fiancee Julia are likely to
start. Additionally, it's worth noting that in a humorous moment Sister
Sledge's "We Are Family" song, blaring on the film's soundtrack (which contains
Lalo Schifrin's legendary film music, plus Kanye West's own song "Mission:
Impossible" in the closing credits), exemplifies the theme.
"M:i:III" is, even more than the
previous two films, the perfect tailor-made action vehicle for Tom Cruise.
A real-life action-adventurer who does his own aerial acrobatics in the personal
airplanes he owns, Mr. Cruise's hard-driving, all-out daredevil,
adventure-seeking thrill-riding action man spirit and adrenaline enthuses this
film, and we instantly believe in him. Mr. Cruise's acting skills make his
Ethan Hunt character a three-dimensional figure. When he emotes, conveying
shock, horror, happiness, tears and despair, it's all real. Simply put,
it's action plus acting. In another action star's hands the temptation may
have been to just show up on the set. One thing is that Mr. Cruise, who
produced this film with producing partner Paula Wagner gives everything his all
-- and then some.
During the early stages of Mr. Abrams' film, some signature moments exist from
at least two other Tom Cruise movies. Start with the party scene with a
"Vanilla Sky"-like arrangement of pacing, and an ever-smiling Mr. Cruise.
A few moments later he is back, framed in the window of a door shaking up a
drink, in a flashback to the film "Cocktail". The gimmicks that are a
staple of the "Mission" trilogy are still present here but are used sparingly
and wisely. Laurence Fishburne, who as Chief Brassel is the staunch
defender of integrity of the IMF, has some memorable lines, including when he
says something to the effect of, "I will bleed on the stripes of the flag to
keep them red."
The film was shot in several locations, including Rome, Mexico City, and
Shanghai. Dan Mindel's cinematography makes the most of the visual
splendor, especially in Rome.
[One tip: see this film in an auditorium of a theater that has the volume turned
up loud and a projector that is large screen-widescreen. The action fan in
you will appreciate it.]
Turning to the stunts, of which
Mr. Cruise performed the vast majority: they are hair-raising,
credibility-challenging, and high-risk-of-death-defying. As you watch this
action spectacle, you can only wonder which stunts Mr. Cruise didn't do.
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Related: Tom Cruise's "Impossible" Journey