Saturday, 17 March 2007

Mission: Impossible III movie review ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Mission: Impossible III logo

★★★★★ ★★☆☆☆
Twenty years after break-out blockbuster "Top Gun" Tom Cruise remains top of the pile of Hollywood A-listers and this good summer action movie demonstrates why. It's disappointing to see the rogue agent thing again for the third time in three films, none of the action scenes hit the same heights as the previous two movies but J.J. Abrams successfully brings one of cinema's very-bestest-ever bad guys to the screen with the help of a revelatory Philip Seymour Hoffman, delivers quality team-based action and gives his star something interesting to do in-between the running bits.
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◦ Tom Cruise: Ethan Hunt
◦ Philip Seymour Hoffman: Owen Davian
◦ Ving Rhames: Luther
◦ Billy Crudup: Musgrave
◦ Michelle Monaghan: Julia
◦ Jonathan Rhys Myers: Declan
◦ Keri Russell: Lindsey Farris
◦ Maggie Q: Zhen
◦ Laurence Fishburne: Theodore Brassel
• Writer (original Television Series): Bruce Geller
• Writer: Alex Kurtzman
• Writer: Roberto Orci
• Writer: J.J. Abrams
• Producer: Tom Cruise
• Producer: Paula Wagner
• Director: J.J. Abrams

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"Paramount Pictures Presents" Owen Davian counting to ten before shooting Ethan Hunt's wife in the head while the desperate, disbelieving IMF agent looks on. "9!" Hunt realises Davian is going to shoot her. Hunt knows he is helpless. Hunt knows there will be no rescue, that there is nothing he can say. "10!" The gun fires. The match strikes. Schifrin's theme kicks in. It is a perfect opening. The audience stops holding their breath. The movie is never as good again. It's also probably the best single scene / opening in the 2006 blockbuster season.

It is a credit to Tom Cruise as producer / star that he has made good on his intentions for this series, that is, to bring in a new director to make a new movie in their own style each time. When J.J. Abrams was finally brought in to direct this third in the blockbuster series, he was allowed to retool the enterprise to his own tastes and the final movie feels just like his famed television productions "Lost" and, particularly, "Alias". This is both good and bad. More good, though.

Abrams brings in Hunt's home life, camaraderie, a Greg Grunberg cameo, and plenty of terrific throwaway ideas. He also manages to successfully suspend disbelief at the world of Mission: Impossible (something John Woo notably failed to do with his endless face masks that change your entire body weight and shape) and makes the gadgets and technology fun, not stupid.

He also delivers one of the most attention-grabbing pre-credits sequences in history (detailed above) which is done without special effects, explosions, or even music (if memory serves). He just takes two great actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt) and puts them head-to-head in a situation our hero IMF agent Ethan Hunt cannot understand or win. The tension Abrams generates in this sequence is sensational and both his stars provide the goods drama-wise.

Paramount Pictures dropped Cruise at the end of the summer season despite him delivering this as the latest in a line of highly profitable movies that will continue to make money for many years to come. They cited Cruise's personal behaviour especially in relation to his then girlfriend / now wife Katie Holmes.

+ Pre-credits sequence. Wow!
+ Philip Seymour Hoffman.
+ Keri Russell (yummy) who also gets the coolest action moment in the whole movie when she catches a gun and, with one super slo-mo, super-smooth, impossibly brilliant movement, catches the gun, turns and takes down bad guys. Yay!
+ Baddie death. A great baddie deserves a great death and Hoffman gets one. Simple but great and the perfect end to a great bad guy.

- Rogue-agent storyline. Again. For the third time in three films. Groan.
- Jackie Chan's staggering closing stunt from "Who Am I?" (the one where he literally runs down the sloping roof of a skyscraper) is revisited by Hollywood here but, if you've see Chan do the real thing, this verison underwhelmes. It has no build-up and not much believability. The first "Mission: Impossible" also borrowed from Chan ("Police Story III: Supercop") with the closing helicopter / train sequence but that managed to successfully throw money at the idea and came up with a great sequence.
- The action sequences are pretty forgettable.
- Doesn't really feel like a big-budget big-screen movie. I'd just been watching "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" prior to this and that feels like a big-screen production from frame one, reel one. This feels like a beautifully produced TV show and doesn't even feel like principal production travelled to Berlin, Vatican City or Shanghai.

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