Mission: Impossible III review by Mike Long

Over the past year, many people have jumped on-board the "I Hate Tom Cruise" bandwagon. But, no me. No sir. You see, I've been on it since 1984. I've never liked Tom Cruise and I never will. (I've never seen Top Gun and don't plan to.) However, I do occasionally see movies which Tom Cruise is in, and some of them have been watchable. There was a lot of hype surrounding Mission: Impossible III, most of it connected to Cruise's personal behavior, but the movie did get good reviews in some circles. So, against my better judgment, I decided to give Mission: Impossible III a try. (Apparently, the official name for this movie is M:I:III, but I refuse to call it that.)

Mission: Impossible III continues the saga of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), an agent with IMF (Impossible Missions Force). As the film opens, we learn that Hunt has taken a step back from active duty and is now focusing on training new agents. This is due in part to his romance and engagement to Julia (Michelle Monaghan). But, when Ethan learns that one of his former trainees, Lindsey (Keri Russell), has been kidnapped in Germany, he decides to get back into the action. Hunt is joined by former teammate Luther (Ving Rhames), as well as newcomers Zhen Lei (Maggie Q) and Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). The rescue mission reveals that a powerful man named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) was involved in the kidnapping and that he's involved in stealing and selling very dangerous weapons. Hunt decides that the team's best bet is to pursue Davian. Infuriated by this tactic, Davian swears that he will find someone that Hunt loves and make them suffer. From there, Ethan Hunt realizes that his job has just become very personal and that he must protect Julia, who doesn't know that he's a spy.

As much as I dislike Tom Cruise as an actor, I must admit that he seems to be a pretty savvy businessman. Despite the questionable nature of the movies in which he appears, Cruise has been involved behind-the-scenes in some interesting movies such as The Others, Shattered Glass, and a proposed remake of the Chinese film The Eye. So, we know that Cruise (or at least his production company) has an eye for promising filmmakers (and surprisingly, foreign genre filmmakers). So, it wasn't exactly shocking that Cruise tapped TV whiz kid J.J. Abrams to helm Mission: Impossible III. But, this also means that it makes it more difficult to decide who to blame for the film's failure.

When it comes to the Mission: Impossible films, I enjoyed the first one, although I found it confusing at times. I don't really remember much about the second film, save for the fact that it was shockingly boring. So, I wasn't sure what to expect from Mission: Impossible III. As it turns out, the movie is a disappointing combination of the first two films.

Abrams worked on the script with two of his TV collaborators Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. Having Hunt attempting to settle into a more "normal" domestic life is an interesting way to begin the film. But, once the action starts, the story becomes quite clichéd. Hunt and his team travel the globe (Germany, Itlay, China) chasing Davian and trying to protect Julia. The action scenes are long and detailed, but there are moments where it’s very easy to forget why the team is doing what they are doing. (The scenes in the Vatican really confused me. Wouldn’t the Vatican want to know that an international villain was on the premises?) When the explanation of who’s doing what finally arrives, I may as well have been on Abrams hit TV show, because I was lost. While it’s pretty clear from the middle of the film that Hunt is being double-crossed, when the explanation is given, there’s a ton of information dumped on the audience’s lap.

But, enough about story, we go to see Mission: Impossible III for the action scenes. Well, those are disappointing as well. The fault doesn’t seem to lie in Abrams’ hands, because the action scenes are competently shot. But, of the four major action sequences in the film, only the scene on the bridge held my interest. Everything fell into two categories; I either felt that I’d seen it all before, or the seen was so incredible (such as when Ethan Hunt is falling off of a building but is still able to shoot villains point-blank) that it totally pulled me out of the film. Also, the fact that this is a Tom Cruise film robs the action scenes of suspense because we know that no matter what kind of peril he’s in, he’s not going to die.

The acting in the film is also a mixed bag. Abrams may be the perfect director for Cruise, as (a good friend pointed out to me) in the first scene of the film, Abram has Cruise’s hand tied to a chair. Here’s a man who does nothing but “act” with his hands who is suddenly forced to do something else. Other than that, it’s hard to gauge his performance, because, simply put, he’s Cruise being Cruise. I can say that Philip Seymour Hoffman underplays his role as the villainous Davian. Davian is meant to come across as a powerful man with a nearly psychotic ego and anger, but Hoffman is simply too subtle in his acting, and thus, isn’t threatening. Abrams and Cruise have wisely filled out some of the smaller roles with familiar faces like Laurence Fishburne and Billy Crudup (both of which play important parts).

When Mission: Impossible III didn’t meet expectations on its opening weekend, there were theories that the public’s feelings about Tom Cruise played a role. Whatever the case, those who stayed away for personal reasons would have most likely been disappointed in the film anyway. Mission: Impossible III is loud and bombastic, and while it tries hard to have a compelling story, the entire affair feels quite pointless.

Mission: Impossible III implants a small detonator into the brain of DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in both widescreen and full-frame editions. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks good, as the image is sharp and clear. The picture shows essentially no grain and is free from any detects from the source material. The action scenes look great, as there is no shimmering or stuttering to the picture. The nighttime scenes are just as clear as the daytime scenes. The colors look good and the framing is accurate. In short, this is what you’d expect from a recently released Hollywood blockbuster. The audio is another story. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track offers clear dialogue and sound effects with no distortion. The track is nice and loud, and offers nearly constant surround sound and subwoofer effects. The problem is that there’s little detail in the surround sound. During the first action scene, I could pick out some distinct glass breaking, but otherwise, it was simply a barrage of loud noises. On the plus sides, the stereo effects are very good.

The Mission: Impossible III DVD offers a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with co-writer/director J.J. Abrams and actor/producer Tom Cruise. This is an interesting commentary as this pair seems to have really bonded while making the film. They give numerous details about each scene, commenting on the actors, sets, location, and production. The only thing that I didn’t like was that Cruise constantly interrupted Abrams. “The Making of the Mission” (29 minutes) is an in-depth behind-the-scenes featurette which closely examines the shooting of the film’s action scenes. From Los Angeles to Italy to China, we see Abrams and Cruise planning each scene. There is a wealth of on-location footage here, as well as comments from the cast and crew. The DVD contains 5 DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes, and all of them are fairly incidental. “Excellence in Film” is a 9-minute montage of Cruise films which was shown at the BAFTA Awards when Cruise was given The Stanley Kubrick Brittania Award for Excellence in Film.

Along with this single-disc version of Mission: Impossible III, Paramount Home Entertainment has also made available a 2-dsic “Collector’s Edition” DVD. This second disc features 102 minutes total of extras which includes 7 featurettes which explore the film’s production, stunts, effects, music, and publicity. There are also trailers, TV spots, and a still gallery.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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