Tom Cruise risks life and limb again as super-spy Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible III. Now a well-seasoned veteran, Ethan finds himself in even more tense situations that go from bad to worse. This time there’s more personal development, most notably his relationship with fiancé, played by Michelle Monaghan (Pixels).
Veteran television director J.J. Abrams (TV’s Alias) creates a great balance of action, power struggle and emotion in his feature film debut. Abrams handles the action sequences very well producing about five or six memorable action moments. Abrams even works in some great humor…don’t worry, no annoying tag lines here (thank goodness).
A helicopter chase (notice the realistic camera movements) and Ethan’s race through a crowded Chinese neighborhood demonstrate Abram’s amazing skills. He also adds little touches complimenting the characters that audiences will catch after multiple viewings.
Legendary screenwriter Robert Towne doesn’t contribute this time, instead Abrams co-writes a solid plot with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
Towne’s plots had a few more surprises, but this sequel has deeper characters, realistic direction and a flash forward sequence at the start, which sets an intense tone without overwhelming the audience.
This plot wisely maximizes the good and bad side of Ethan’s veteran status. You see how his work hurts him personally, yet he cavalierly uses his skills at dinner parties and forges strong relationships with his team to improve his wavering desire to do IMF’s (Impossible Mission Force’s) bidding in the field.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the main antagonist Owen Davian, a confident, ruthless man trying to acquire a special weapon called “the rabbit’s foot.”
Knowledge is power here as Davian threatens other people more physically intimidating even when he’s in no position to give threats. “What I’m selling and to who should be the last thing you should be concerned about,” he says, which foreshadows important future plot points.
Filmmakers wisely reduce the focus on Davian’s henchman compared to the previous installments. This extra time should’ve been used to weave a more interesting background on Davian.
You really want to know how this guy works, but the film makes certain assumptions and stereotypes, which decreases the impact of his character by the end of the film.
Ethan has a very faithful team including pilot/field specialist Declan, played by rising star Jonathan Rhys Meyers and covert ops specialist Zhen, played by Hong Kong star Maggie Q. Techie, Luther Stickell is reprised again by Ving Rhames, the only actor, besides Cruise, to appear in all three installments.
This time Luther gets a well protected van and explores many personal issues with Ethan, which works beautifully since they’ve known each other the longest time.
“If I don’t ask you, who will,” Luther tells Ethan. When discussing Luther advises Ethan, “A normal relationship isn’t viable for us”, which opens a new chapter in Ethan’s persona – his personal desires and goals.
Ethan’s long shot attempt for true love can make you cheer him on more, while others might dismiss it as a ploy to attract female audiences.
Laurence Fishburne also factors into the plot a demanding IMF manager, Brassel. “This is intelligence, so far I haven’t seen any,” says Brassel during an IMF meeting.
Billy Crudup (Big Fish, Almost Famous), Keri Russell (Waitress, TV’s Felicity) and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) also play key IMF personnel.
Composer Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Lost) delivers a great music score using punctuating strings and piano during key scenes. Lalo Schifrin also composes different versions of the classic theme.
Filmmakers owe much to the second second (yes, that’s no typo) assistant directors, numerous stuntmen and Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) visual effects for their subtly amazing work.
Recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for intense action scenes, violence and some sensuality.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler