REVIEW: Mission: Impossible III [2006]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 126 minutes | Release Date: May 5th, 2006 (USA)
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director(s): J.J. Abrams
Writer(s): Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & J.J. Abrams /
Bruce Geller (television series “Mission: Impossible”)

“There is a point where bold becomes stupid.”

Ving Rhames’s character Luthor speaks the above words and couldn’t be more right. Just by looking at the evolution of the Mission: Impossible series, one can see a bold example of cerebral storytelling shot by virtuoso Brian De Palma and a cold, mechanical showing of a really stupid haircut filmed by John Woo—who still hasn’t matched the brilliance of his final Hong Kong piece Hard Boiled stateside. Mission: Impossible III definitely could have fallen in either camp and my thoughts leaned towards stupid, however, thanks in no small part to J.J. Abrams, we are given an enjoyable piece of popcorn action infused with just the right amount of heart instead.

Unlike the first incarnation having multiple characters backseat-bound to the intricate story and the second being a vanity project with everything on the periphery of Tom Cruise as an expendable device, this installment looks into what makes the characters who they are while also allowing us to have an emotional tie to them. But it’s still treated with that high-powered eye-candy. There’s a definite comparison to Abrams’ TV show “Lost” as the story is shot with a few flashbacks to help provide the audience exposition. We aren’t treated like babies and fed with an update on where the characters have been at the beginning. We’re conversely thrown right into the struggle before being jarred into the past to see how we arrived at that point. Abrams seems a master at character development in as few words as possible. He needs only one sentence to explain the past life of Michelle Monaghan’s Jules at an early engagement party scene. We don’t even need to be told what she does for a living because Ethan will visit her at the hospital. Is she a doctor or nurse? It doesn’t matter, she helps people and that itself adds to her character.

Superb acting is shown along with the elaborate, non-stop action. Besides Cruise doing everything asked of him, everyone is given a secondary role to run with. No one seems on the fringe, though, and all are integral to the plot. Monaghan does a good job of being the love interest who is not frail and defenseless—shown by the basejumping she was doing when she met Hunt. This fearlessness helps the audience accept what her character is asked to do towards the end and builds upon her resume after a nice turn in last year’s grossly overlooked Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q, and Rhames play the action heroes to perfection, exuding kid-like glee upon accomplishing each impossible task; Billy Crudup delivers a nicely understated performance as Ethan’s contact at the agency; and Laurence Fishburne infuses some welcome straight-faced sarcasm. Not surprisingly, Philip Seymour Hoffman is also fantastic as the villain, adding credibility to a film that needed it after the debacle that was MI:II. The best part, however, is the scene-stealing Simon Pegg who’s so funny that he reminded me of how much I love Shaun of the Dead and am anticipating the forthcoming Hot Fuzz.

Overall Mission: Impossible III delivers on the action as promised, but also shows heart. Everything is done for love and that really does help us follow the journey and feel for these people as they try to juggle saving the world along with saving their home.

[1] A scene from Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible III, starring Tom Cruise and Michelle Monaghan

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