Mission: Impossible III

Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 05/07/06 17:55:30

"I guess nobody will be standing in line for ‘Mission: Credible.’"
3 stars (Just Average)

By handing the reigns of the third “Mission: Impossible” movie to “Alias” and “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams producer and star Tom Cruise has moved the franchise into much smarter and more emotionally involving territory. If only he had moved a little bit farther in that direction.

The first two “M:i” movies simply blew things up, and character and story seemed like afterthoughts. In the case of “M:i:II,” I didn’t mind so much because mayhem master John Woo was orchestrating the silly chaos. This time around, rookie director Abrams gets close to making a much more substantial thriller, so it feels curiously disappointing when the explosions return.

Abrams gets off to a nail-biting start when we see Impossible Mission Force (IMF) veteran Ethan Hunt tried to a dentist’s chair as rogue arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) threatens to gun down Ethan’s girlfriend Julia (Michelle Monaghan).

Hoffman, who could have either coasted on his Oscar for “Capote” or hammed it up, makes this scene work remarkably well by playing down Davian’s emotions. He projects a cold but brutal determination that’s remarkably intimidating. Firing a bullet through another human being’s head is like stepping on a bug for this guy.

After the credits roll, we find out that Ethan shouldn’t have been there at all. After years of risking his life, Ethan has switched to being an IMF instructor and is about to marry Julia. His boss Musgrave (Billy Crudup), however, has other plans.

One of Ethan’s former students (Keri Russell) has gone missing in Berlin while she was on Davian’s trail, so Ethan and his crew (Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Maggie Q) fly there to rescue her.

Needless to say, things get a little more complicated, and Ethan and his pals have to outsmart (and out explode) both Davian and an impatient IMF boss (Laurence Fishburne) who thinks that Ethan is more of a liability to the organization than an asset.

Abrams blows up just about as many things and Brian De Palma and John Woo did in the first two films, but his setup isn’t as dry or uninvolving. Somehow all of this espionage leads to thrilling car and even helicopter chases. Until then, Cruise, the producer, deserves credit for assembling a terrific supporting cast that runs the danger of upstaging him. Fishburne is appropriately imposing, and Simon Pegg (“Shawn of the Dead”) is a riot as a harried IMF office nerd.

On the downside, Abrams and his co-writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman stick the film with a couple of glaringly obvious plot twists (can you find the mole?).

There is a sense that some of the scenes might have resolved themselves in a more satisfactory manner if nothing had blown up. As with the James Bond films, one gets a sense that the story might have been more potent if the resolution involved secrecy instead of car crashes.

By the time the end rolls around, Abrams has spent his emotion capital on the wreckage so it’s hard to get worked up about the people who fought over it. It would be nice to think that making a big thriller that didn’t dumb itself down wasn’t “Mission: Impossible.”

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