Mission: Impossible 3 would mark the feature film debut of J.J. Abrams whom before this point worked on the small screen on series like Alias, and Lost. The former of which Tom Cruise binged watch, and made him offer the directing gig to him. Given the generally mix reaction of Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) would explain the six year wait between sequels, but the profit gained from MI 2 also ensured another installment in the franchise was always possible. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit of this third outing is David Fincher almost directed the movie. However, he dropped out over creative differences. Like other before him, J.J. Abrams takes the mantle of the franchise providing his own spin on it exceeding where the two previous directors failed before him. Offering a story that will satisfy fans of the original, and providing blockbuster spectacles fans of the second outing expect into this entry.
Mission: Impossible 3 puts agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) into conflict with Owen Davian, a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer who threatens Hunt’s life and his fiancee in response. It might have taken three films, but here is where the series finally hit the mark on balancing its tone. Being neither too serious, or too over the top. Starting out strong with a great opening sequence that perfectly set up the stakes as well as serve as flash forward to were the viewer will eventually end up at. It’s a great hook that immediately gets the audience attention. Everything else that precedes the opening sequence does a fine job in the keep the viewer invested in showing Ethan Hunt personal life, banter between the team, some levity to prevent from being too serious, and some eventual mind games between our hero, and the villain. All this is done in its fast pace that never lingers too much on any scene. Being very streamlined in its storytelling while properly spacing out the action sequences infuse in itself as a blockbuster.
Another balance in the film is the handling of Ethan Hunt character. Making full use of not only his physical abilities, but also his intelligence in quickly thinking of a way out of a dangerous situation. Showing the audience him thinking on the spot to pull off a difficult task. Retaining his experience from the previous movie Ethan Hunt is still capable on the field, but you won’t see Hunt doing back flip kicks, or dodging bullets by taking cover on the side of his high speeding motorcycle with arm goons right behind him. With the addition of having someone to lose there’s a semblance of weight that returns to Ethan Hunt. Now that you know he has something to lose it makes those set pieces more engaging. A personal bonus I would say is the dialogue is a nice fusion of the serious story of the first one with a more tone nature of dialogue from the second film. Offering some memorable lines like the ones below to provide a few examples. Needless to say, the dialogue is on point.
Brassel: You can look at me with those judgmental eyes all you want, but I bullshit you not, I will bleed on the American flag to make sure those stripes stay red.
Luther: Look, I don’t mean to cross the line here, but was there something going on between you two? You and Lindsey?
Ethan: Lindsey was like my little sister.
Luther: And you’ve…never slept with your little sister? [Ethan stares at him again] Look brother, if I don’t ask you, who would?
Lindsey: I’m out, how many rounds have you got?
Ethan: [Checking his magazine] Enough.
[Ethan jumps out and fires in slow motion, killing the henchman with a single shot]
Ethan: [tosses the gun away] Now I’m out.
The team dynamic is greatly improved from the previous entries. Hunt’s teammates are given roles in the operations with greater importance. Being more active in performing on the field, even computer expert Luther (Ving Rhames) becomes more of a active participant in the operations than he did before. Luther expanded role in this third outing works in favor for the film. Providing not only a character Hunt can open up to, but also provide levity to the story without coming across as a rewritten character. Most important of all, Luther gets the characterization he deserves finally given viewer more to his character. Instantly making Luther the most fleshed out recurring character in the series.
While the effort to humanize Ethan Hunt is admirable it also suffers the same issue that Mission: Impossible 2 suffered from; Ethan Hunt settling down with a wife comes across as rewriting the character instead of a natural change. There are a few scenes between Luther, and Ethan Hunt talking about their love life that try to remedy this. Luther provides insight on his failed relationship while not forgetting to mention why it likely won’t last. Hunt other team members tell him the same, but not quite as much as Luther does. This change doesn’t entirely work since Ethan Hunt is hardly shown being with his fiancee making the romance feel less genuine, and Hunts motivation to go back on active duty for the IMF is kept on a surface level. A person vendetta is enough to carry him, but not enough to justify why Hunt would actively put himself in riskier situations considering he loves that Julia reminds him of a life before IMF. In two instances, the movie overlooks details in order for the story to progress, and not come to a halt. Resulting in one escape sequence making you wonder how this voice changer was able to copy someone else’s voice so quickly when in a operation it took minutes to prepare. There’s also an operation in Shanghai which instead of seeing first hand will only witness the end result.
There’s also the return of a plot twist from the first movie, and it’s not the face mask usage that is the twist. It involves there being a traitor within IMF (again) which would have worked if the story better foreshadowed the twist. When the traitor is revealed, who it turns to be comes across convoluted within a film that is more narratively coherent than it predecessors. There’s also two new team members introduce in this movie, but unlike Luther, or Benji (Simon Pegg) who both manage to leave an impression despite their screen time the first time they appeared on screen. Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and Zhen Lei (Maggie Q) don’t offer anything in the way of personalities. They simply go onboard with what Ethan, or the story says. Coming off as mechanical when movie tries to hint at some intimacy between Zhen, and Gormley. With the already mentioned of the mole in IMF being reused also expect disavowed agent Ethan Hunt, and saving the world last minute, but they remain a stable in the series, and reuse in later installments. So me criticizing part three for these conventions would be unfair, but everything else around these plot points is fair game. Especially the happy ending that attempts to overlook the fact that Hunt’s wife is just cool learning about her husband secret.
Tom Cruise delivers his best performance in the franchise in this outing finally giving Cruise the perfect material that offered him plenty of range missing from the previous two movies. Providing plenty of scenes where Tom Cruise gets to show Ethan Hunt more vulnerable side. In particular, his sequences with Michelle Monaghan you get to see Cruise at his more vulnerable, and most uncertain than he ever portrayed Ethan Hunt. It’s this reason the opening sequence has the great hook that it does. When carrying the weight on the drama Cruise delivers some great comedic banter between his co-stars. Delivering his comedic lines perfectly with his reactions. He also gets some great one liners, and he delivers making them sound cool, even if they are cheesy. As with the previous installment, when it comes to the action sequence Cruise looks just performing them as he is in the acting department. Yes, like in all his movies, you will eventually get to see a long take of Tom Cruise running in the movie. Very few actors can make running look as good as Tom Cruise.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the film villain, and hands down is the best actor who played a villian in the Mission Impossible franchise. He is everything you want in a good villain; snarky, ruthless, and all around intimidating in his delivery despite his appearance. The intensity in the scenes between Hoffman, and Cruise are the best bits of acting this series will provide. Just witnessing the two of them be able to deliver intensity into the movie in a matter of seconds is a sight to behold. Easily being the most memorable villain on just Hoffman acting abilities alone.
Ving Rhames role is graciously expanded upon. Proving reliable, like he has before, of being able to deliver comic relief just fine. Rhames is just a joy to see on screen. Simon Pegg who eventually becomes a mainstay makes his first appearance here, but has very little screen time. Like Ving Rhames before him in the first entry, Simon Pegg is able to make an impression, and feel like a natural fit in the series. His smooth delivery of his comedic lines, and making expository dialogue fun to listen through his energy is why he stayed around. Michelle Monaghan does mostly play a supportive role in the emotional sense, but does get to perform in the action in the climax. Her character doesn’t offer her much to do, but she makes it work.
Laurence Fishburne, and Billy Crudup also make appearances in the film in supporting roles. Fishburne comes out looking good in the movie, somehow making his wholly serious portrayal work even he’s poking fun of the other co-stars. Billy Crudup is also good, until the climax where he becomes hammy. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Maggie Q on the other hand are the weakest link in the cast. Neither of them try to provide their characters with any sort of personality. Making them come off as bland.
J.J. Abrams helming the results in action sequences in that movie lack complexity in their choreography, but more than makes up for it in other areas. For starter, there’s a lot more stunt work involved in the sequences. In my favorite moment of the movie you Tom Cruise hanging from the side of a car trying to shoot vehicle pursuing him, and his team. Resulting in the vehicle crashing into a truck. In another moment, Tom Cruise character only has a single bullet left in the chamber of his gun, shoots a person, and they fall out of window. Small instance of stunt work like these make the action sequence appear more eventful. Doing as much as possible to minimize the usage of CGI. There’s some shaky cam involve, but nothing to outrageous. However, there are the rare occasion where the camera visibly is readjusted to get the frame of the shot right.
The film’s first big set piece in a factory that moves to a helicopter chase sequence escalate things in a manner. Abrams always keep the audience inform in spite of the chaos of endless gunfire that follows. Keeping things simple enough to follow. As the film progresses, Abram is able to keep the action set pieces large in scale. There’s a fantastic sequence on a bridge that shows Abram ability to get inventive in isolated location. Unfortunately, when it comes time to finally have the climax it’s the film smallest set piece. Abrams tries to remedy this by having Tom Cruise get tossed around the set, and having break many props in the process. In terms of scale, it’s small fry compare to what came before it.
Michael Giacchino takes care of composing duty, and his original music works for the scene they’re used. It’s unlikely you’ll remember a single track from the movie that isn’t “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. Finally, yes this the last thing I’ll mention promise before ending this review. There’s a song called “Impossible” by Kanye West featuring Twista and Keyshia Cole which is an improvement over Limp Bizkit, but is also forgettable. That’s probably the reason why it wasn’t used in the opening credit sequence.
Mission: Impossible 3 successfully combines elements from it predecessors into a entertaining third outing. Providing a good story, great performances from lead actor Tom Cruise, and giving him a great villain to play of in Philip Seymour Hoffman, and delivering on its action set pieces. It’s a great action blockbuster that gives you what you expect, and a little bit more.