Mission: Impossible III


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Mission Impossible III
"In MiIII, the plot is just a waiting game of follow-the-breadcrumbs." | Photo: © 2006 Paramount Pictures

Everything about the selling of MiIII screams, "This time, it's personal," even from the engaging pre-credits sequence, where a helpless and handcuffed Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is made to blankly squirm as his fiance has her frontal brain threatened by Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a big gun. Is this a lit fuse? Ha! Only in a Michael Bay movie has so much gasoline been so badly wasted.

As an example of the genre, Mission Impossible III works reasonably well, taking light visual and plot puns from Goldfinger, True Lies and it's own prequels. But, for a story supposedly so personal, J J Abrams directs with empty abandon, making a movie so ludicrously impersonal that all hope is lost halfway through. Like Bay, he knows how to frame and direct action, but great action movies require a personal connection, something that a cipher like Hunt is often incapable of.

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The highlight is a delightfully lively sequence of the IMF team breaking into Vatican City. Witness the utility belt photo-printer used to fool security, the 3D rubber lathe for pitch-perfect masks - the "look ma, no cuts" invisible digital melding of face and latex - and a rather cool extension of Face/Off, where a voice chip is programmed under duress. The real skill of this 10-minute scene, however, is the ability to combine movement and timing in a way that carefully and rather judiciously delights.

Overall, MiIII is like watching a ludicrously budgeted version of 24, or Abram's own Alias, while removing as many non-Ethan plot wrinkles as possible. Every single location appears to have been chosen by committee to see how clever everyone is in staging action, and to showcase Cruise in full-on superman mode, chugging along shanty-town rooftops, a vertiginous Shanghai skyscraper swing and slide and a titanic-sized wind-farm for a helicopter chase, who's outcome is as obvious as the visual pun.

Also mishandled is the impossibly sexy Michelle Monaghan - oh, I may never get over that nether-region-straining Santa Claus outfit in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang - as Hunt's love interest. Her scenes are perfunctory and thickly laden with as much cheese as can be mustered. I defy any viewer not to gag as the IMF crew remix the final moments of Lethal Weapon 4 before the fade to black.

Moving on to Hoffman, a disgracefully underwritten villain, and definitely the most memorable performance in the movie. His screen time almost parries that of Judi Dench in Shakespeare In Love, but he holds his head high and delivers a memorable, if minimal, performance, without a hint of Alan Rickman's patented sneer. His scenes give the movie its only real elements of suspense amongst the deafening pyrotechnics. All the plot requires we know is that the dastardly Davian is willing to sell weaponisable technology to people with deep pockets, no questions asked. Everything else is pure Hoffman.

In modern action, led by the really rather brilliant Bourne series, we are lured into improbable and impenetrable clockwork storylines by the promise of something special. In MiIII, the plot is just a waiting game of follow-the-breadcrumbs, as we dash from set piece to set piece, while yawning at the machinations of the screenplay.

Ethan Hunt's third outing is a mass-produced product without genuine wit, or anything noteworthy, other than technical skill and stunt work.

Reviewed on: 08 May 2006
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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:

Stephen Carty ***1/2
Anton Bitel ***
John Gallagher ***

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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