The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mission: Impossible III

Wow, what a rush.  Truth be told, I liked the other two, even though the 60’s series I loved had been transformed from a team-oriented caper series into a star vehicle for the hyperkinetic Tom Cruise.  But here, under the steady hand of J.J. Abrams (“Alias,” “Lost”) they actually do recapture some of that feel, and it’s all for the best.  Cruise is something of a phenomenon, a true “movie star” who people identify with so strongly that outbursts on Oprah or opinions about the medical establishment or his choice of religious philosophy create headlines in tabloids across the world.  Whatever a “Star” is, it is something separate from acting ability, cannot quite be quantified, and has something to do with that mysterious quality called “Charisma,” and here Cruise displays it in spades.

In many ways this is Cameron’s “True Lies” played straight, and that’s a smart choice, because a better deconstruction of the Bond mythos has never been offered.  Cruise’s indestructible Ethan Hunt begins the film battered, bruised, and forced to watch the woman he loves threatened with death.  We flash back to happier days, before he had the temerity to challenge a deadly arms dealer played to succinctly devastating effect by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  The Impossible Missions Force, in taking on this supremely powerful and mysterious figure, has finally overreached itself, made crystal clear in a sequence when Hoffman is rescued by his underlings in an horrific, exciting, table-turning five minutes of bridge-blowing mayhem that rocked the theater.  Wow.

The action ranges from the Vatican to Shanghai.  The IMF team has never been better, and we’ve never seen more of the way they operate…and despite their excellence, these guys are one step behind Hoffman the whole time. The guy has maybe ten minutes of screen time, and dominates the entire movie.  THAT is acting.

At any rate, I had a great time.  In some ways I liked the second one better—but that’s just because I have a crush on Thandie Newton.  But I’ll bet this one does better.  It kicks the summer off with a bang, not a imper.  The Bond franchise had better watch its back—between this and Jason Bourne, 007 is facing greater danger than he ever did from SMERSH or SPECTRE.  An “A-“

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