MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III
**** (out of 5)
May 5, 2006
Tom Cruise as ETHAN HUNT
Ving Rhames as LUTHER STICKELL
Keri Russell as LINDSEY
Philip Seymour Hoffman as OWEN DAVIAN
Laurence Fishburne as BRASSEL
Billy Crudup as JOHN MUSGRAVE
Michelle Monaghan as JULIA
Maggie Q as ZHEN
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’ve never been a huge fan of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. The first one was overdone in only the way that Brian DePalma could have done it. The second, with the reigns passed along to John Woo, was a fun enough action film, but still replete with fancy director’s tricks. (Enough with the pigeons!)
I still enjoyed the movies, but I just didn’t love them. I always felt that, in a way, the “Mission: Impossible” movies were just teetering over the brink of sucking. So I wasn’t holding out much hope for this third installment.
The only thing keeping my hopes up was the new director – TV golden boy J.J. Abrams. I’ve been a fan of “Alias” and “Lost” for some time. And even though I hated “Felicity” with the very core of my soul, I understood and appreciated what Abrams was doing with it.
But back to “Alias.” Abrams actually managed to make his own version of the original “Mission: Impossible.” Instead of Phelps and the gang, it was Sydney Bristow, her father and the rest of the CIA. “Alias” captured the essence of “Mission: Impossible” more than the pretty-boy spy films from Tom Cruise – a team of experts working together to overcome impossible odds.
“Mission: Impossible III” opens up in classic “Alias” style with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) tied to a chair and at the whim of psychotic arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). It’s a shocking opening, and very intense. Ultimately though, it’s short, and after we roll the credits, we flash back several days to the engagement party of Hunt and his girlfriend Julia (Michelle Monaghan).
Hunt has retired from the field and is now teaching new IMF recruits. However, he’s called back in to rescue one of his recruits, played by Kari Russell in a very non-Felicity performance. This mission leads to a chain-reaction of other missions that result in Hunt and his new team going after Davian, who is trying to acquire an unknown but surely deadly biological weapon known as “the rabbit’s foot.”
So much about this installment of the film series resonates with “Alias.” In fact, were it not for Cruise and a cast of different characters, you’d think you were in an episode of the TV series. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, considering how well done that series is. In a way, it gives us a taste of what a big-budget “Alias” movie might be like – or at least what additional seasons would have been like if Jennifer Garner hadn’t gone and gotten pregnant.
The cast is pretty good, including a nice performance by Laurence Fishburne as IMF head Brassel. Unfortunately, Fishburne isn’t given as much screen time as he could have had in this movie, leaving much of the boss duties to a relatively uninspiring Billy Crudup.
The rest of the IMF crew is well constructed. Ving Rhames returns, along with newcomers Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q (who is actually more fetching than lead female Michelle Monaghan). Philip Seymour Hoffman does a decent job as the bad guy but tends to overdo the cheesy James Bond villain type. It’s not uncommon for an actor to do a highly popular movie after taking home Oscar gold, but I get the feeling that Hoffman is very fortunate that the advance trailers for “M:I:3” didn’t start running until after the Academy Awards.
This may be Tom Cruise’s movie, but the real star is J.J. Abrams from start to finish. To be honest, our favorite nutcase Scientologist neither harmed nor helped the movie along.