Reviewer: Russell Puntenney
The Perfect Action Movie All Cheers and No Tears
The third installment in the "Mission Impossible" series is a refreshing take on the all too familiar action movie: it never takes itself too seriously and focuses the majority of its attention precisely where it belongs, on the thrills.
What little story is developed in M:I:3 only adds to the excitement, and director J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) seems to accept the plot for what it really is: filler to transition from one special effects bombardment to another, like the smoky trail between bullet and gun. It’s remarkable how well Abrams sustains the viewer’s attention for a full two hours in this film without ever letting the chaotic antics of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) settle down for longer than five minutes.
Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, the resourceful hero of both previous M:I movies, who has since retired from active duty and now leads a double life training special agent recruits and fooling his naive new fiancé into believing he is instead some sort of traffic analyst. All we know about Hunt’s fictitious career is a single confusing line about the "ripple effects" of slamming on your brakes, but it’s pretty obvious he is the most important traffic analyst to ever study slow moving vehicles, because every day there seems to be some emergency business trip or spontaneous out-of-town speech he just has to drop everything to arrive for.
These are, of course, just horrible excuses to cover up his covert operations, but the issue of whether or not Hunt’s fiancé, named Julia and played by Michelle Monaghan, would actually believe them is easily dismissed since there is never any real chemistry developed between the two anyway.
Once informed a former trainee of his has gone missing, Hunt immediately returns to duty, and I was very impressed with how quickly Abrams set up the premise for the film. Even the opening credits are finished literally in a matter of seconds.
Reigning Best Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the villain, a conscienceless arms dealer named Owen Davian who eventually kidnaps Julia and is constantly battling for control of some extremely dangerous object known only as "the rabbit’s foot." All we know about the rabbit’s foot is that it’s very important, as Hunt expresses in what he realizes may be his last words to his superior, played by Billy Crudup, late in the film: "If you don’t hear back from me soon, I want you to send an army after that thing."
Cruise and Hoffman are engrossing to watch, Crudup’s character is sufficient for his role, and solid performances are given by nearly every actor in the film, especially Lawrence Fishburne, Ving Rhames, and Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead. Fishburne plays the head of the IMF, Rhames a vital member of Hunt’s team, and Pegg a computer whiz that winds up being very helpful.
Hunt’s pursuits are both towards Davian and the rabbit’s foot, the acquisition of which will free his precious Julia, and the trail of each conveniently finds him blowing up whatever can be blown up in exotic locations around the world, including Vatican City, Shanghai, and Berlin. Causing the explosions and other visually stunning scenes along the way is a healthy and appropriate supply of spy gadgets, the majority of which are just as impossible as the missions Hunt so often chooses to accept. The most outlandish of these is a portable mask making device which allows Hunt to instantly transform into his nemesis Davian with only a few digital photographs of the villain, and the most deadly is an "electrical charge" device which Davian casually implants through the nose of his victims and all but guarantees their death when it detonates after an excruciating, five minute headache.
No respectable spy would be content without the proper vehicular assault, either, and Hunt’s team counters the bullet proof helicopters of their enemies nicely. They do, of course, have a helicopter of their own, but also thwart Davian’s plans with a self-destructing, floor-optional Lamborghini and a speedboat that allows them crucial access to the Vatican’s sewer system. Hunt also makes good use of a Batman-like grappling hook that helps him climb walls and swing between skyscrapers, while still finding time to parachute back to earth once he gets there.
Ultimately, this first of a great many summer blockbusters is all the more impressive considering it is the first film made by Abrams, who has until now only directed television. It’s safe to say this movie is, therefore, truly a mission accomplished.