“Mission: Impossible III” Movie Review

“Mission: Impossible III”

In my review of the second installment into the Mission: Impossible franchise I said, “From the get-go, I could tell that I wasn’t going to enjoy Mission: Impossible 2. I remember myself saying in the first few minutes of the film, ‘I’m not sure I like this.’” Just in case you’re wondering, that one never managed to rise above that first impression. I am happy to say that I had the exact opposite reaction to Mission: Impossible III.

From the get-go, I could tell I was going to enjoy Mission: Impossible III. I remember myself saying in the first few minutes of the film, “This is so much better than that last one.” The film begins with one of those instances where you start at the climactic scene and then go back and see how the characters got there. This climax shows secret IMF (Impossible Mission Force…yes, I know) agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tied to a chair across from his wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan) who is in a similar situation. This installments villain, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), has a gun to Julia’s head. He is threatening to kill her if Hunt doesn’t give him the location of the mysterious “rabbit’s foot” by the count of ten. The problem is, Hunt does not know where it is, he claims he’s already given it to Davian. As Davian gets closer and closer to ten, Hunt gets more and more desperate, even beginning to weep. The film cuts to the opening credits as Davian reaches ten. I had to take a minute to catch my breath.

Mission: Impossible III takes the second installment of the franchise and does the exact opposite. No more mindless action–all the action has a specific purpose within the story–no more dumb dialogue, jokes, and one-liners–the script is smart, taut, and engaging–and the direction is impeccable–we have JJ Abrams to thank for that. What it also does is it takes the first installment and expands upon it. What that film didn’t do exactly right, it improves upon that. The plot is much easier to follow, the characters are developed a whole lot more, and the action scenes are a tad bit more believable, albeit not by much. This is a sequel done right and it is easily the best of the series thus far.

Thank God the plot is easier to follow. It felt good to actually know what was going on at all times. The mission this time, should you choose to accept it, is to retrieve the rabbit’s foot. You cannot know what it is, but it is something bad, and you can know that much. It is in the possession of one Owen Davian, a man who looks very seemingly like that one guy from Twister. You must retrieve it and bring it to headquarters before he uses it for some end of the world type stuff. This message will self destruct in five seconds.

In this installment, Hunt is looking to get out of the field and begin a life with his fiancé Julia, but one last caper pulls him in when a trainee, whom he was very close to, gets kidnapped and eventually killed. Her killer: Owen Davian, and as much as Hunt would like to retire, he has one last score to settle. Espionage action ensues with plenty of cool stunts and latex masks, but what divides this installment from the others is its sense of realism.

This is definitely the darkest of the three thanks to the gritty feel of both the direction and editing, but it’s the emotional payoff that puts it over the top. While the other two were action films, this is the only one I would consider more than that. What this installment does that the others lacked was a chance for the actors to truly show off their talents for, well, acting. Tom Cruise gives one of his most intense and impassioned performances to date. He gives the character of Ethan Hunt a complete evolution. Especially in the later scenes, he becomes a tragic character. When his work interferes with his personal life and endangers his wife, he is no longer cool, calm and collective, but desperate, disquieted, terrified, and determined. He’s a more mature incantation that is easily the 007 for our time. Michelle Monaghan shows that she’s still an underutilized gem in Hollywood, and even Keri Russell gives a heartbreaking performance for the short time she’s on screen, but the man who steals the show is the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. His villain is menacing, brutal and relentless. His charisma is second-to-none and he commands the screen with every scene he’s in.

Mission: Impossible 3 is a success, there’s no disputing that. How often do you get an action film that not only engages you visually, but emotionally as well? There’s a love story here too, and it’s a good one. It’s good because the characters are developed and the actors have chemistry. Thank God for that. One thing I did notice is that they changed the title from numbers to numerals for this one….what’s up with that?

4 out of 5