what you will about Tom Cruise (he's kind of nutty
around couches, he is way too into Scientology,
etc) but there is no denying that the guy makes a
damn good action hero. Even when he was playing a
supposed Everyman in "War
of the Worlds", he could still dodge
alien rays and battle giant mechanical death
machines with ease. And no franchise puts Cruise's
physicality to better use than the "Mission:
Impossible" films, which, much like the
original TV show and the failed '80s revamp, have
always (for the most part) relied more on guile,
cool, and insane stunts than straight action.
Tom Cruise returns as IMF
(Impossible Missions Force) agent Ethan Hunt, who
since we last saw him blowing up half of
real good, has now left the field and is engaged
to marry the lovely Julia (Michelle Monaghan).
Things are going swimmingly for our hero, until
his former boss Musgrave (Billy Crudup) comes to
him with news that Lindsey Parris (Keri Russell),
the IMF agent Ethan had personally trained and
vouched for, has gone missing and is believed
captured by notorious criminal broker Owen Davian
(Philip Seymour Hoffman). Musgrave is sending out
a search and rescue team, but wonders if Ethan
might not like to lead them.
As it turns out, Yes, he
would. After making an excuse to attend a traffic
convention in Houston (Julia believes Ethan works
for the Department of Transportation, and indeed
the IMF's main building seems to be hidden
underneath the Virginia DOT office), Ethan rejoins
with his former team for the job. But as these
things oftentimes turns out, the mission is not as
straightforward as Ethan is led to believe,
something Lindsey attempts to reveal to Ethan
before she is, alas, killed during the rescue.
(Don't worry, this takes place in the first 20
minutes, so I don't consider it much of a spoiler.
Russell does return a few more times in
flashbacks.) A conspiracy, it would appear, is
afoot, and someone at IMF is involved big time.
Part three in the franchise
was co-written and directed by J.J. Abrams, the
man behind some of TV's biggest hits (the ABC
juggernaut "Lost", the Keri Russell
series "Felicity", and the show that
gave us Jennifer Garner, "Alias").
Considering his vast TV work, it's no surprise
that Abrams is an adept hand at the spy action,
and he steps into the director's chair with ease.
John Woo may have introduced all-out action to the
series with part 2, but Abrams has returned it to
the glory days of spies, elaborate capers, and
yes, impossible missions. Mind you, not that
Abrams skimps on the action, as the film has a
number of highlight worthy gunplay, including an
extended ambush on a bridge ala "True
Clocking in at over two
hours, "Mission: Impossible 3" does an
excellent job of establishing Ethan's home life
with Julia, and why he intends to keep it in one
piece come hell or high water when Julia is
threatened by the loathsome and quite murderous
Davian. But while a lot of the attention is
focused on Ethan, Abrams and co-writers Alex
Kurtzman and Roberto Orci neglects everyone else.
In particular, the close-knight IMF team that
assists Ethan in his many dangerous missions. At
one point the entire team convenes in
for a dangerous mission that may or may not be
sanctioned by the IMF brass. It would have been
nice to know why these people are so willing to
risk it all to help Ethan.
The only other returning
actor besides Cruise is Ving Rhames, who has been
in all three "
: Impossible" films. Joining Rhames and
Cruise are Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("Bend
It Like Beckham") and
star Maggie Q. ("Naked
Weapon"), but since the script barely
scrapes the surface level of their characters,
there's little for me to write about them.
(Although we did learn that Q.'s Zhen Lei once had
a dog that ran away. Um.) In a throwaway role,
Laurence Fishburne is wasted as the unlikeable IMF
boss, and Billy Crudup is, alas, only too obvious.
Standouts in the cast include Simon Pegg ("Shaun
of the Dead") as a hilarious and
sparingly used comic relief.
Although very good in many
: Impossible 3" is weak in other areas. The
plot is really not up to the task of shouldering a
major motion picture, offering up one of those
generic, been-done-to-death conspiracy plot twists
that would be better wasted on an action-adventure
TV show like "24" or, perhaps, Abrams'
own "Alias". The film actually spends
more time concerning itself with the missions
Ethan and crew undertakes rather than try to make
any real substance out of its plot, which seems to
be the correct choice considering the staleness of
said plot. Still, one can't help but be a little
disappointed by how unimpressive the storyline is,
in particular all the red herring and IMF traitor
angles. Shouldn't a man who spent a good part of
his career coming up with spy stories be able to
do better than this?
Then again, maybe I'm
focusing on the wrong parts of "
: Impossible 3". When it works, and it works
often, the film is exciting and thrilling stuff,
constantly leaving the audience breathless as it
seamlessly hops from action set piece to action
set piece. From the
caper to the bridge incident to a literal leap of
, the action in "
: Impossible 3" easily makes you stop
thinking and just strap in for the action. While I
still favor Brian DePalma's original, chiefly in
that it was such a cinematically brilliant and
different animal, J.J. Abrams' take is not
altogether bed. At least I would rate it as a
slight notch above John Woo's shoot'em up in part