Mission: Impossible III

Director: J.J. Abrahms
Starring: Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan, Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Simon Pegg and Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Released: 2006

What do we do when we fall? Well, we stand back up again of course! A very apt metaphor for the Mission: Impossible trilogy as it currently stands. It stood proudly with the original, fell awkwardly with the sequel, and then, thankfully, stood itself back up again. Though, admittedly, it fell down three flights of really hard stairs with Mission: Impossible 2, so its understandable that the third film in the franchise is going to be a bit more bruised and battered than the original.

The Plot:
Our dear old friend Ethan Hunt (Cruise), has finally settled down. He’s living the quiet life with his now fiancé (Monaghan), and he no longer operates on the field with the IMF. He now trains the special field agents, and it is only when one of his prized pupils is kidnapped that he is forced back into duty. Her kidnapper, the ruthless Owen Davian (Hoffman), is an arms dealer in search of something called The Rabbits Foot, and is a dangerous threat to Hunt in particular.

At first glance, it might seem that this film is making the same mistakes as its predecessor. It gives the impression of being quite straightforward and essentially another mindless blockbuster. However, M:I III is actually a great improvement in that it rectifies nearly all of the major mistakes of the second film. You may still feel a slight twinge of disgust due to the smarmy nature of Hunt, but you’ll be happy to know he suffers considerably in this film.

Hunt is no longer a ‘I’m-better-than-you-cuz-look-how-good-I-look’ twat. He seems to have deflated quite a bit after his stint in Australia (M:I 2), and seems to genuinely want to settle down. Instead of opening the film with a montage of ‘look-how-cool-I-am’ stunts, we are instead treated to a flash-forward in which Hunt is being brutally interrogated by the villain of this film, Owen Davian. This simple act sets the film up very nicely, adding a distinct air of malice to Hoffman’s character. He doesn’t appear on-screen again until the films’ second act. However, by this stage, he is already a malignant presence, surpassing even the villain from the first film in terms of sheer ruthlessness.

Due to the fact that we are aware of what lies in store for Hunt certainly makes him seem more vulnerable and semi-relateable. Amazingly, there is actually a degree of heart and intelligence here. The plot isn’t nearly as convoluted as the original, but it has enough twists to keep the audience guessing and nicely surprised. Some you’ll see coming, sure, but they are less obvious than in the second film, and you’ll feel smarter for figuring them out.

(*Spoiler: It’s all Hurley’s dream while he’s stuck on the island*)

The characters are no longer archetypes either. Cruise gets a chance to flex some emotional muscle once again, and Hoffman is spectacular for the most part. Despite the fact that he is the least formidable of Hunts opponents, physically, he just sends out waves of venom via his mannerisms. The calm and calculating nature in which he explains to Hunt how he is going to kill his wife is distinctly unsettling. He seems to falter slightly in the final act, but this is less due to his acting ability, and more to do with the corner the story writes him into.

However, all of this seems to take its toll on the action of the film. There are some good sequences, admittedly, but they lack the adrenaline pumping intensity of the original. An infiltration into the Vatican stands out as one of the films high points, but this is due to its fun and wacky nature more than anything else….kind of unusual for the Vatican really. The big scene, the one in which Hunt infiltrates a towering high-security building to retrieve the Rabbits Foot, is, for some bizarre reason, shot off-screen. The audience is basically treated to a before and after shot of the operation, totally excluding the main action sequence. Despite the entire affair being easily watchable, few, if any, of the action sequences will remain fixed in your memory after the credits have rolled.

On top of this, while the film has a fantastic final act, it trips badly at the finish line. It finds itself wandering aimlessly into very conventional territory, wrapping itself up far too neatly to be in any way satisfying. If you were to catch only the final five minutes of this film, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a romantic comedy.

Overall:
What seems to be happening here is the producers are offering an apology for M:I 2. It is no longer a mindless affair with terrible run of the mill characters. It is genuinely engaging when it comes to the drama, but the action appears to suffer somewhat due to the focus on plot. This will probably be deemed acceptable by most however, because it sheds the ridiculous nature of the previous film. While not memorable, it is at least shot in a more believable fashion, while retaining the fun nature the films are known for. Not a perfect recovery, but undoubtedly an improvement.

Rating: 6/10

“Who are you? What’s you’re name? Do you have a wife? A girlfriend? Because if you do, I’m gonna find her. I’m gonna hurt her. I’m gonna make her bleed, and cry, and call out your name. And then I’m gonna find you,and kill you right in front of her.” – Owen Davian

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • To promote the film, Paramount thought it would be a good idea to rig 4,500 randomly selected Los Angeles Times vending boxes with digital audio players which would play the theme song when the door was opened. …these were widely mistaken for bombs…. Police bomb squads detonated a number of the vending boxes and even temporarily shut down a veterans’ hospital in response to the apparent “threat”. Nice move eh?
  • After the success of Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg was asked if he was going to pursue a career in Hollywood, to which he laughed and replied “It’s not as if I’m going to be in Mission: Impossible III”.
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