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

 ©Paramount Pictures 'Mission: Impossible III' Stills ©Paramount Pictures 'Mission: Impossible III' Stills

(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 hands.

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 audience.

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