Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible III

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

The Mission: Impossible franchise has been a bit of a mixed-bag. Brian De Palma’s opener managed a bit of tense spying but managed to lose itself in an over-convoluted plot and a train tunnel that somehow had a helicopter in it. Then there was John Woo’s follow-up that seemed more concerned with slow-mo shots of Cruise’s flowing locks and doves flapping through shootouts than it was with any sort of story. Now, for the third instalment, the Cruister recruited television golden-boy JJ Abrams in the hopes of delivering the definitive MI motion picture.

Having retired from field work, top agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) now trains future spies and lives a quiet life with fiancée Julia (Michelle Monaghan) under the pretence that he works in transport. However, when one of his students goes missing, Hunt is drawn out of retirement and finds himself caught up with lethal arms-dealer Owen Davian (Dustin Hoffman)…

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In his directorial debut, Abrams combines kinetic action sequences with internal logic-fuelled storytelling to give us an impossible mission head, shoulders and a rabbit's foot above the previous two instalments. Also, by infusing some heart into the series for the first time we see Ethan Hunt as a person and not just a train-hopping, cliff-jumping Superman in a vest, who likes to smile a lot and blow up large fishtanks.

However, that’s not to say that Abrams doesn’t dial the excitement factor up to 11 when necessary. Though occasionally straddling credibility, the action scenes vary from feet-tingling skyscraper base-jumps to Vatican-raiding team efforts and always seem to involve some tasty little differences (magnetic throwing bombs, anyone?).

Proving he’s still more than capable of the physical stuff (did you ever doubt him?) Cruise adds that extra cool factor by doing many of his own stunts (reportedly separating six ribs during the filming of the bridge scene) as he hangs out of speeding cars and bounds over Shanghai rooftops like a smartly-dressed Duracell bunny on steroids. Though subtle nods to Top Gun, both previous Mission: Impossible flicks and Minority Report could be thought of as his ‘goodbye’ to action movies, the diminutive couch-hopper still looks more comfortable with the running than the domestic bliss side of his character. Notice how Ethan seems to be on first-name terms with every member of hospital staff? Seriously, watch for it.

Sharing the screen, Lawrence Fishburne has presence as the sleep-loving IMF director, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is effective as the team’s flippant pretty boy and Billy Crudup adds another string to his bow as Hunt’s helpful agent pal. Monaghan is sweet despite being underwritten, Ving Rhames lends the project its only non-Tom cast continuity and Simon Pegg lends an unexpected-yet-successful air of comic relief. Stealing the show though is Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose unnerving bad-guy Davian is miles above the exposition-spouting scenery-chewers we’re usually stuck with.

As for fans of JJ, they’ll be in geek heaven. Opening with a pulse-pounding, tension-soaked scene (chronologically near the end of the movie) in order to get our attention, MI-3 is peppered with his trademarks. The electronic implants and chest-thumping resuscitation will strike familiarity with viewers of Lost, the domestic façade hiding spy-dom and convenience store meeting with facing-away handler reeks of Alias and we have Michael Giacchino (who did both shows) providiing the score. Hell, we even get a cameo from JJ veteran Greg Grunberg.

Overall, it seems that years developing television hit Alias has been the perfect training ground for Abrams to craft a very entertaining piece of spy-fi. Despite not quite hitting the heights we had hoped for, M:I3 – should you choose to accept it – is intelligent popcorn at its best.

Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2009
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Mission: Impossible III packshot
The Ethan Hunt franchise gets personal, while chasing a psychopathic arms dealer half way round the globe.
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Read more Mission: Impossible III reviews:

Anton Bitel ***
John Gallagher ***
Scott Macdonald **

Director: J J Abrams

Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, J J Abrams, based on the TV series created by Bruce Geller

Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Bahar Soomekh, Eddie Marsan

Year: 2006

Runtime: 126 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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