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Guilty Pleasures

Mission Impossible III


Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Written By: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci,
                     and J.J. Abrams

Main Cast:
Tom Cruise – Ethan Hunt
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Owen Davian
Ving Rhames  – Luther Stickell
Billy Crudup – Musgrave
Michelle Monaghan – Julia Meade
Jonathan Rhys Meyers Declan Gormley
Keri Russell
Lindsey Farris
Maggie Q
Zhen Lei
Simon Pegg
Benji Dunn
Eddie Marsan
– Brownway
Laurence Fishburne – Theodore Brassel
Bahar Soomekh
– Davian's Translator
Jeff Chase Davian's Bodyguard



To sum up:  Ethan Hunt is getting married but the spy world is calling. Can he avoid it or will he find it impossible.

“Please don't interrupt me when I'm asking rhetorical questions.”

     Let's face it. Tom Cruise has been a bit of a weenie as of late. Only a casual glance at various media is required to get a gleeful chronicle of the quirky exploits of this star who clearly seems to be taking himself way too seriously.

     As with the romantic lunacy that overshadowed last year's "War of the Worlds", can this latest installment of the Mission Impossible franchise cruise above the waves generated by Tom's personal life that are creating a tsunami of negative reactions from the people and threatening to sink his career.

     Cruise once again plays agent Ethan Hunt, part of the I.M.F. (Impossible Missions Force), a secret agency of the government that enforces American imperialism by going into the far corners of the world and engaging in spy missions that are, well, impossible.

     Having never seen "The Bourne Supremacy", and therefore learning that it can't be done, Ethan is trying to ease into an espionage free existence, get married to a lovely girl named Julia (Michelle Monaghan), and attempt to live a normal life. It's also clear that he's never watched "True Lies" and learned the lessons of that film because he let's her believe that he works for the Department of Transportation, all the while allowing himself get pulled back into the spy world for yet another impossible mission.

VOICE RECORDING: As always, Mr. Hunt, should you or any of your fellow operatives be captured, the I.M.F. will disavow any knowledge of-

ETHAN: Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at "Should you choose to accept this mission."

VOICE RECORDING: This copy of Dianetics will self destruct.

     This particular mission involves sneaking into an evil lair and rescuing Special Cameo Actress Agent Lindsey, played by Keri Russell. Turns out that Ethan loved the show "Felicity" and thought she would make a good spy. In fact, Lindsay was so impressive that she was the first of his students that he recommended for active duty, and she demonstrates this by getting captured.

     So using nifty spy gadgets, Ethan finds her brutalized, bloody, and burdened with a bomb that was implanted in her head right up through the nose. Talk about the world's worst nasal infection.

     So after Keri's cameo, Ethan is left with a number of questions. How did she get captured? Who captured her? What info did she have that they wanted? What was her mission? Was it impossible?

     The answers arrive in the form of a blank post card, from Lindsay, addressed to Ethan. Well, there certainly has to be more to this, so the postcard is sent to be analyzed where, after rigorous testing, it is confirmed that the postcard is indeed blank. But wait! Turns out that there is a message concealed in a microdot that is covered under the stamp on the post card. There's also the mystery of the Rabbit's Foot, an unknown device that has all of the trappings of a MacGuffin, which Ethan must track down even though he doesn't know what it is or what it does. And finally there's the heavy Owen Davian played by Academy Award Winning Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, an evil international weapons dealer. He was the man that Lindsay was sent to spy on and who Hunt and the team must capture and interrogate to learn all they can about the above questions.

     Mission Impossible III surprised me. Now, to clarify, I didn't like the first two Mission Impossible ventures. The first was a convoluted mess and the second felt like a James Bond rip off as well as a textbook example of how not to use slow-motion in action scenes. Neither of them really, except in name, had much to do with the original television series. And there wasn't even a hint of Peter Graves, Martin Landau, or Leonard Nimoy!!

     The director, J.J. Abrams, most famous as the creator of the current TV. classics Alias and Lost, as well as winning the George Lucas Shrewdly Skillful Screenplay Award for co-writing that magnificent magnum opus "Armageddon", turns out to be a very capable director. As an actor's director, he knows how and when to use the close-up to get a maximum effect from the actors. He's not afraid to let the drama play out and allows for moments of genuine emotion. His pacing of the action scenes is exciting and moves fast enough that tech clueless guys like me don't take the time to stop and think if some of the gadgets we are exposed to could actually exist. (O.K. those rubber masks are B.S.). So while a lot of what he throws at us is ridiculous, it is mostly ridiculously fun.

     Tom Cruise comes off well enough to make me almost forget the ego driven eccentric he's become that has perplexed the populous. Cruise, who is well known for wanting to do as many his own stunts that he can, pulls off his action scenes very well. Not only can he leap onto a couch better than any stuntman alive, but as I understand it, in the scene where an explosion knocks Tom against a car, it really is Tom flying into that car. And even the scenes that require some non action acting, Cruise has an earnest intensity that draws you in.

     When I first learned that Philip Seymour Hoffman was to be the adversary for this film, I was a bit skeptical. He does seem a bit wide of girth for the type of mano y mano action showdown with the hero that these films must all have. But right at the beginning of the film, when Ethan is tied to a chair and Hoffman has a gun on Ethan’s now hostage fiancé, all doubts went out the window. He impressively comes across, as cold, ruthless, brutal, and efficient. It’s going to be fun watching him in this film! He’s a man who’s in control. As the favorite phrase of the times goes, he’s a man with gravitas. The scene where he simply learns Hunt’s first name was chilling.

     Then right after establishing that he is a force to be reckoned with, the film takes every step it can to undermine him. As it ratchets up the tension, the movie, through the very nature of the story, methodically ratchets down Hoffman as a genuinely threatening nemesis.

     In fact that can be considered the major flaw with the film. Mission Impossible III continually undermines itself as well as its villain. Its plot will progress in one direction then present results and revelations that make one question why they did this in the first place. In the afore mentioned scene where Davian learns Ethan’s first name, I said it was a chilling moment. And it was, right up until about two minutes later when we learn that all he would have had to do was ask someone. Whew! That sure helped cut the tension.  I was getting worried that the guy might be clever.

     In the end it’s an o.k. film that was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It passed the time in a generally entertaining fashion and did have some very enjoyable action moments. But it didn’t help that the film required me to ask a few pesky questions regarding the logic of the plot as well as the action. The problem is I can’t ask them here due to the fact that I would reveal key plot points. Another problem is the fact that the film would have been better if it leaned more in the direction of character development. There’re a few moments here and there but internal character motivations are kept mostly in the background while the action remains constantly in the foreground. And finally, it is sad that in spite of the shortcomings of the character of Owen Davian, that he did not enjoy more screen time, because when he’s there, he thoroughly commands your attention. It would have nice to see more Hoffman.

     It’s not impossible to enjoy this mission.

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