Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: A Tad Bit Too Much Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible III"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 96 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of frenetic violence and menace, disturbing images, and brief sensuality
WRITERS: Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams (based upon the television series created by Bruce Geller)
PRODUCERS: Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner
EDITORS: Mary Jo Markey A.C.E. and Maryann Brandon A.C.E.


Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Simon Pegg, and Laurence Fishburne

Super spy/secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from active duty with the Impossible Mission Force and now trains new IMF agents. When one of them, Ethan’s star pupil Lindsey Ferris (Keri Russell), turns up missing, Ethan rejoins his crack IMF team: his old friend and super computer expert, Luther Strickell (Ving Rhames); transportation expert, Declan (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers); and background operative, Zhen (Maggie Q) to rescue her. However, Hunt and his team run into their toughest opponent yet, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience. Ethan later finds himself in the clutches of Davian’s employ when he kidnaps Julia (Michelle Monaghan), the love of Ethan’s life. Ethan must retrieve something called “the rabbit’s foot” for Davian if he is to save Julia from the ruthless villain.

The long-awaited Mission: Impossible III has the action movie chops to match the hype that lead up to its release. It’s full of high-octane action sequences that are more thrilling than they are over the top. MI3 is like the first film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – an espionage thriller with intense thrills – more than it is like the second film, Mission: Impossible II, which was part secret agent adventure and part Hong Kong shoot ‘em up highball. In terms of action thrills, MI3 stands up with such classic 1990’s action flicks as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the Die Hard sequels, the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies, The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. Those movies were pure action pictures with heart stopping chases, riveting thrill rides, and die-hard heroes.

Mission: Impossible III is virtually a non-stop thrill ride, and much of the credit has to go to the imaginations of co-writer/director J.J. Abrams (co-creator of the TV series “Lost”) and the screenwriting team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci for coming up with the thrills. Kurtzman and Orci have collaborated with Abrams on his hit TV series, “Alias,” and MI3 resembles Alias’ smart thrills. Abrams, directing his first feature film, doesn’t stumble in his transition from the small screen to the big screen. MI3 is definitely a movie monster, the kind of wide-open adventure film that needs to be seen in theatres.

The flaw that does keep Mission: Impossible III from being a truly great film is that the movie focuses too much on Tom Cruise. Sure, he’s the star, but what is the point of having an actor with the chops of Philip Seymour Hoffman if all he’s going to do in the film is make threats, scowl, and generally look like a meanie. The press materials for MI3 say that Hoffman’s Owen Davian is supposed to be some remorseless bad ass, but we hardly get to see Hoffman really chew up the screen as a villain. Anyone who saw him in Capote, and wondered what he would be like if he played a major screen bad guy will leave MI3 wondering what could have been.

Even Ving Rhames’ Luther Strickell is just window dressing. The character got off to a great start in the first film, and although Rhames part is bigger here than it was in the second film, his potential hasn’t been scratched. The women especially are wasted. Michelle Monaghan and Maggie Q seem so underutilized, but so is everyone else. Only Laurence Fishburne in a small part gets to tear up some screen.

No, it’s all Cruise, just about all the time, and he’s pretty good. Mission: Impossible is his signature action franchise, and he can mine it for a long time. However, the films would be so much richer if Impossible Mission Force was really a team and not just Cruise and some other guys – pawns to be moved about in positions that simply maximize Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in his role of the secret agent as super hero. Still, Mission: Impossible III is more than worth the price of admission for those who remember when action movies were gritty, edge-of-your-seat thrill rides and not just a series of over the top stunts generated in a computer.

7 of 10

Monday, May 8, 2006


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