Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Mission: Impossible III" (2006)

Starring Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Written by JJ Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Directed by JJ Abrams
Rated PG-13 — Violence, language
Running Time: 125 Minutes

Recently-engaged super spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is called in for an important IMF mission: a protege of his, Lindsay Farris (Keri Russell), has gone missing on a mission to investigate an arms dealer named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Hunt and his team — Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen Lei (Maggie Q) — head to Germany to free Farris, but Farris is killed by a bomb implanted in her skull when they reach her.

Ethan learns that Davian is attempting to acquire something called the Rabbit's Foot. IMF tech guru Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) can't figure out what the Rabbit's Foot is, only that if people that bad are willing to pay that much for it, it can't be anything good. With lives and possibly the world hanging in the balance, the only people standing between Davian and the Rabbit's foot is Ethan Hunt and his IMF team.
Six years after John Woo's disappointing entry, Tom Cruise returned to "Mission: Impossible," this time with TV director JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot production company at the helm.

And that's how you get a franchise back on its feet. With the writing trio of Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci, M:I3 can feel a bit like a big-budget "Alias" episode starring Tom Cruise. In fact, it often feels that way. That doesn't dilute its entertainment value, in my mind, since (for a while) "Alias" was a superbly entertaining show.

This time around, Ethan Hunt and his team are up against a terrorist broker and arms dealer, and there's a lot of talk about moles and speculation on what the Rabbit's Foot is or might be or where it is. That we never find out what it actually is can feel a little disappointing, as though the film is acknowledging that it's just a MacGuffin — so much a MacGuffin that it doesn't even matter what it is.

But the film moves with such a zippy pace that you can almost forget that everyone is scrambling for something the movie itself doesn't even care about. For some, this may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. For me, it's just a hitch in an otherwise entertaining entry in a growing franchise. I think if Cruise and co. had stopped here, I'd be satisfied with "Mission: Impossible" as a solidly entertaining trilogy with a disappointing middle. Instead, we got two more wildly fun flicks that really pushed this series to the top of my franchise heap.

Probably one of the best things this movie has going for it is its cast. For this entry, Cruise is surrounded by more than capable performers like Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg and a fantastic villainous performance from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. In fact, Hoffman basically steals every scene he's in. His Davian completely confident, and totally unfazed at all by any of Hunt's antics or attempts to keep him from the Rabbit's foot.

JJ Abrams made this as his first feature film, moving on from directing hit TV shows like "Alias" and "Lost." It's a slick feature, and definitely has a lot of the hallmarks of Abrams' Michael-Bay-With-Class visual style. You'll notice plenty of lens flares and bold primary colors that he would employ more heavily in later features like "Super 8" and "Star Trek."

In my mind, the standout action sequence in the film is an assault to rescue Davian by his underlings on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that features flipping cars, a shootout, and drone strikes. It's a showstopper sequence in a movie that's got several impressive displays of action.

Righting the course for this franchise and setting the pace and tone for the following two films, "Mission: Impossible III" is a huge step in the right direction after the disappointing second film. It also launched the movie careers of Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci, who would collaborate again on "Star Trek" and its sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness," and Orci and Kurtzman would launch Michael Bay's massive "Transformers" franchise.