Mission: Impossible III Review
By Joe Lozito
Ethan Hunt - the character Tom Cruise reprises for the third time in "Mission: Impossible III" - has got nothing on J.J. Abrams. As the director of the latest installment in this flagging franchise, Mr. Abrams has the real impossible mission: make us forget what a mental patient Tom Cruise has been in the media this last year and buy him as an action hero again. Mr. Abrams, it seems, has chosen to accept his mission. And I'll be darned if he doesn't succeed.
I guess it's no surprise that the man behind "Alias" and "Lost" would deliver a solid spy thriller. And make no mistake - for all the talk in the press about how "M:I 3" amps up Ethan Hunt's personal life, this is a non-stop spy movie. The few lines of dialogue that exist serve only to setup a MacGuffin so obvious that I wish they would just call it MacGuffin already (this time it's named the Rabbit's Foot because, I suppose, one of the screenwriters thought that sounded cool).
After the harrowing rescue of a captured agent (Keri Russell - yes, Mr. Abrams' Felicity is a spy!), Ethan and his team, including the always lovable Ving Rhames, must track down the evilly-named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman, enjoying the role almost as much as the paycheck), a nasty arms dealer. Then, wouldn't you know it, just when everything seems to be going okay, there's one of those double-crosses that exist only to make the movie longer. Honestly, someone has to clean house down at ol' IMF (I still love that it stands for "Impossible Mission Force"). After three movies, there have been so many double-crosses and rogue agents, it's a miracle anything ever gets done. Eventually, Davian gets a hold of Ethan's plucky new wife, Julia (moist-eyed Michelle Monaghan, baring a more than mild resemblance to Katie Holmes), and forces Ethan to retrieve the aforementioned plot device.
That's about all you need to know before, during or after the movie. The script, co-written by Mr. Abrams and longtime collaborators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, really exists only to string together some over-the-top action scenes, including one of the most vertigo-inducing stunts in recent memory. Mr. Abrams keeps the pace so breakneck you actually wish you could be globetrotting from Rome to Shanghai with these characters just so you could have some downtime on the plane. I mean, honestly, these people must sleep like babies if they ever get the chance.
Of course, by now the film series has virtually nothing to do with the original TV show from which it gets its name and theme music (this time around there was little fanfare about who performed the theme). After Brian De Palma's 1996 "Mission: Impossible" attempted to keep the general spirit of the TV show alive, the series got lost in John Woo's turgid second installment, Mission: Impossible II
(does anyone even remember what that one was about?). Now, with an injection of action like the syringe to the heart Ethan gives Keri Russell's character, Mr. Abrams sets the series back on track.
It seems the only commonality between the three films is those stupid latex masks, which again play a role here. Well, that and Mr. Cruise who, as always, makes a durable, watchable action hero. His mission, and let's hope he chooses to accept it: keep your on-camera action to movies.