Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mission: Impossible III


With this being the first movie I've seen in a theater since "United 93," I felt awkward for about the first 10 minutes of this one. I needed a little while to remember that it's OK to just have fun at the movies.

It didn't help that the weakest link in this mostly fun bowl of popcorn from TV hotshot JJ Abrams is the first third.

In the setup of reuniting with MIF agent Ethan Hunt (TomKat, of course), we find out he is about to be married to beautiful Michelle Monaghan (more on that later.)

As he is called away from the party to rescue an agent he trained (Keri Russell) who has been kidnapped by a blackmarket dealer in all things nasty (a seriously slumming Philip Seymour Hoffman), I had a very unpleasant flashback to the virtually unwatchable "MI2." Just as John Woo smothered that one in his bullets that defy all logic, not to mention gravity, Abrams filmed the first action sequence with the shaky-camera, quick-cut, strobe-like technique that just gives me a headache.

After that, however, things only get better. It quickly becomes a battle of wills between Cruise and Hoffman (whose character has, of course, kidnapped Cruise's fiance Monaghan and is trying to buy a doomsday device and sell it to shady characters.) From here the action is refreshingly low-tech, including a scene supposedly on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge that will have you thinking fondly of "True Lies."

Abrams keeps the foot firmly on the pedal from there, and the rest is all fun. Though TomKat seems to have little need for an entourage, he has one here of course in his MIF squad. He and Ving Rhames have by now developed a believable and often witty repartee, but the other team members, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q, are just there to take up space. Billy Crudup and Laurence Fishburne are Cruise's rival handlers at agency headquarters, and they both factor in the predictably outlandish twists that take you to the end.

Despite all the gadgets on hand here, it all has an old-fashioned spy-vs.-spy feel, the kind we used to get from the best Bond movies. Unlike the haters already lining up against him well before the release of "Casino Royale," I predict new Bond Daniel Craig will have similar success later this summer.

Now, a final note about the dangers of thinking too much about silly movies. New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis, in a review that told us much more about what she thinks of Tom Cruise than what she thinks of "M:I:III," she said having Cruise be a joyful newlywed-to-be who is forced to rescue his damsel in distress is all an elaborate ruse to make us think more positlvely about the couch-jumping antics of his personal life.

Surely Tom Cruise didn't invent the damsel in distress, but on a larger level, will the man ever again be able to make a brainlessly entertaining flick without being put on the psychiatrist's couch?

Making me feel sorry for Tom Cruise is no easy accomplishment, but Dargis has pulled it off. Now there's a real Mission Impossible.

20 comments:

Danielk said...

Talking about baggage, I was struck by the spectacle of Cruise risking his life to save two beautiful women, rather than just one. Excessive. Protesting too much?

This is still the best MI and maybe the only good one... it's definately the best ALIAS episode ever.

palinode said...

The two-women scenario in Mission Impossible reminds me of the Bond formula. There are always two women who compete for Bond's attention, one of whom is pure sex, the other offering something a little more stable (if only by the way in which the sex appeal is held in reserve). And one of them always seems to die.

As danielk says: definitely the best Alias episode ever. Maybe Abrams can direct the next MI installment and set it on a mysterious Pacific island.

Reel Fanatic said...

I hadn't thought of the two-women Bond parallel ... interesting stuff

William K. Scurry Jr. said...

I got a lot more out of this flick than I might have expected... quite entertaining. JJ Abrams was a good choice -- but I'm still curious to see what Carnahan could've done with it.

Tonally, this was similar to DePalma's "M:I," which I remember fondly.

themarina said...

I haven't seen this yet, maybe this weekend. Thanks for the review, it's refreshing to read one about the movie rather than the actor.

On another note, though I'm not a huge fan of Bond and Daniel Craig wasn't my first choice as replacement, I must say that after seeing the trailer, I'm more than a little excited to see the movie. Casino Royale looks like it'll be a good one!

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