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Movie Review: Mission Impossible III

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Super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is shackled to a chair. Battered, bruised, and desperate, he looks at his wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) seated across from him. Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), their captor, points a gun at Julia’s head. “I’m going to count to ten. If you don’t tell me where the Rabbit’s Foot is, I’m going to kill her,” he says. Ethan tries to smooth-talk Davian, who won’t hear any of it. Ethan’s confidence quickly turns to frantic pleading as Davian’s count approaches ten.

Mission: Impossible III opens with this taut scene, an unexpected moment of complete vulnerability for the hero. For a minute, I’m hopeful that the film will be a gritty, intense, wildly entertaining blockbuster with a post-modern action hero. What comes next proves to get the ‘entertaining’ part right, but leaves out everything else.

Oh sure, the film has its fair share of violent and spectacular scenes. Ethan’s spy team finds itself spinning from a German steam and sparks factory to the Vatican to Langley, never bothering to explain why things are happening where they are, other than that the locations look cool. A threadbare plot exists concerning a super-weapon and an arms dealer, as well as the kind of inter-agency back stabbing that 24 does much better. (Then again, 24 does everything better and is a TV show, so the comparison may not be fair.)

Speaking of TV shows, Tom Cruise picked J.J. Abrams, creator of Alias and Lost, to direct Mission: Impossible III. He may be a first-time director, but his skills may be a moot point, as the film clearly belongs to Cruise. I’m reminded of how Stanley Kubrick supposedly referred to himself as hired help for Kirk Douglas when talking about Spartacus. Cruise features in virtually every scene, the camera never forgetting to frame him in macho, heroic close-ups. He looks good, despite age creeping in, though the formula gets tiresome quickly. I’d like to see more of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s gruff, sadistic villain, but unfortunately his screen time doesn’t surpass 20 minutes.

In Roger Ebert’s review, Ebert makes a great case against the MacGuffin used by the film, a super-weapon called the Rabbit’s Foot that never receives an explanation. I take a different point of view; the film’s Macguffin isn’t the Rabbit’s Foot, but Julia, Ethan’s wife. The film quickly establishes Julia as a hopelessly cute but bland love interest, her primary purpose being to smile when safe and sob fearfully when threatened.

Why not expand on their relationship? When they marry, Julia believes Ethan to be a traffic executive, which says little for both of them. She doesn’t pay enough attention to her husband, and he has no problem concealing crucial details of his life from his wife, details that eventually get her kidnapped and tortured. Instead of portraying their relationship as childishly affectionate, why not be provocative and seriously explore the pitfalls of Ethan’s double life? In a brief scene, Ethan’s partners insist that normal relationships are impossible for men such as them, and briefly discuss how it affects their edgy existence. I’d gladly trade a $30 million action sequence for a couple more scenes like that discussion.

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About James Frazier

  • Silas Kain

    I’d rather see a George W. Bush III than M.I.III. Cruise will never get another cent from my entertainment budget.

  • nugget

    even if Tom starred in Brokeback Mountain II?

  • James Frazier

    Silas, you’re likely not alone, as the first day take from the film is considered a disappointment. Granted, it will still be a huge success financially, but likely not as much as previous installments. Cruise’s recent antics may proven to be a terrible mistake on his part.

  • Rodney Welch

    I liked it about as well as you did. Lots and lots of implausibilities that either weren’t explained or rushed by me — like, how did the whole gang know to show up at Cruise’s crummy little dive in Shang-hai? And why, when Cruise goes to meet Davian out in the country, there are all these little campfires burning? Forget Jake, it’s a summer blockbuster.

    In fairness, though, I was never bored and I’ll even admit to biting my nails on the roof sequence.

    The audience I was with filled with ripples of laughter when Monaghan tried giving CPR to Cruise. The jiggle factor got a little out of hand. I think in the end it was her tits that saved him.

    And I still want to know what that prayer was that Maggie Q. said over her kitten.

  • Silas Kain

    even if Tom starred in Brokeback Mountain II?

    Yuck. While it would be totally believable due to the fact that Cruise comes across as the comsumate power bottom it wouldn’t be enough for me to pay to see BB II with him in it. He ruined Interview With A Vampire. He was a joke in Cocktail. I thought that was about his quest for men in the tropics. Silly me. The only role he’s ever played that was true to life was the fairy in Legend.

  • reggie von woic

    Cruise will never get another cent from my entertainment budget

    Come now, Silas, give the movie a chance.
    At least do it for Fishburne, Ving, Phillip Seymour (the man plays a villain like no one else can), and above all Keri Russel (she will blow you away– guaranteed.

  • PS

    Would anyone care to explain what the heck happened at the end of the movie? I mean, I don’t want to spoil the ending but none of it made sense!

  • James Frazier

    PS, I’m not sure there is much to explain. For some mumbling reason they had Tom Cruise hostage, and he overcame his captors to save the day and his piece of ass. The film was pretty bold in its use of the MacGuffin.