Mission: Impossible III

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        Talk about low expectations. The last Mission: Impossible movie was terrible. I gave it one of my worst reviews. Then, there is the Tom Cruise problem. He used to be such a nice bad boy. But now he's nuts. There's the whole Scientology thing, and jumping on Oprah's couch, and him and Katie Holmes. Ick! So this is the problem. Even if Mission: Impossible III, against all odds, turns out to be a decent movie, can anyone overcome the 'ick' factor and go to see it? Well, that's my job. It's what I do. I'll take a bullet for you and go see these movies. But surprise, surprise, surprise, Mission: Impossible III is really very good. I mean it! Ignore those other reviews. Maybe my expectations were so low, that anything halfway decent seemed great. But I don't think so. I think it is J.J. Abrams. This guy is turning out to be a god. Until last year, all he had done was Felicity and Alias. But then he created Lost which is the best thing since Twin Peaks and The X Files. And after Mission: Impossible III, he is doing the next Star Trek Movie! Ya gotta love him.

       OK where was I? Oh ya. Mission: Impossible III  rocks! Why? Because, unlike Brian De Palma who directed the first movie and John Woo who directed the second, Abrams seems to have actually seen an episode of the original TV show. If you saw the first two movies, you know what I mean. The first 20 minutes of the first movie was great. It was so Mission Impossible but then they killed off the whole IMF team without even disavowing any knowledge of their actions. And then the rest of movie #1 and all of movie #2 were just bad action films. Maybe it's because he comes from TV, but Abrams seems to care about the original Mission Impossible. And he has put together a real action movie. I mean it. Take a few deep breaths during the party scene at the beginning of the movie because after that, Mission: Impossible III never slows down for a minute.

       Unless you grew up in some other part of the spacetime continuum, I don't have to explain the basic set up of Mission Impossible to you. Mission: Impossible III gets you on the edge of your seat right away by showing what is apparently the last scene of the movie first. But, of course, things are not always what they seem and you have to wait a couple of hours to see what happens leading up to that scene, where the evil bad guy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is threatening to kill the fiancee (Michelle Monaghan) of IMF operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) unless Hunt tells him what he wants to know. But, then we cycle back a few days to Hunt's engagement party which is going great until he gets a call from his IMF handler (Billy Crudup). A member of the IMF (Keri Russell) has been caught by Hoffman. And the IMF doesn't want to disavow any knowledge of her actions so Hunt and his IMF team (Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) head off to Berlin to try and save her. Soon all hell is breaking loose and Hunt is being called on the carpet by the head of the IMF (Laurence Fishburne). I don't want to give too much away because there are a lot of twists in Mission: Impossible III and they are good twists. But Hunt and his team are soon off to Rome to try and kidnap Hoffman and bring him back. Of course, this all goes awry and we end up back at that scene where Hoffman has a gun at Hunt's finance's head. I'll just give you a clue. They use a plot device that I haven't seen since The Abyss.

       The cast is really great. In addition to Mr. 'Ick', Ving Rhames is only other character returning from the first two Mission: Impossible movies. He is totally cool and has a much better role than in Mission: Impossible II. The two new members of the team are also really cool. Jonathan Rhys Meyers has another good part after his recent lead role in Match Point. Maggie Q is new to me, but she is a big star in Hong Kong films. Funnily enough, she is actually American. And Keri Russell (Felicity) makes the most of a different tougher character. The always thankless girlfriend role, is played here by newcomer Michelle Monaghan (North Country). She does very well with it. And I love how these chicks never scream for help but just shoot the bad guys. The key role of the supervillain is inspired casting. I can't think of a more different role for Philip Seymour Hoffman from Capote for which he won the Oscar. He is great as a baddie. Well, he's always great. But he really makes you believe that he might actually win in the end. And he almost does win but in the end, he succumbs to "evil genius syndrome" as he must. Oh well, some plotlines must be followed! Billy Crudup (Big Fish, Jesus' Son), also has a different role than he usually does. And Laurence Fishburne, well, he's Morpheus and it's hard to accept him in a different role now, which is too bad because he rocks.

       Ok, by now you realize that I liked Mission: Impossible III. Frankly, I was amazed. I kept thinking that the movie would drag in the middle or peter out in the end. But it didn't. Abrams is a revelation. I've never watched Felicity or Alias. Lost is great but it's just a weird TV show. Mission: Impossible III is a big screen blockbuster that held my attention from beginning to end. It has a nice twisty plot, a cool cast, great pacing, just the right amount of humor, and at the end, there are still some characters left alive for a possible sequel. And it's fun to watch. The only problem was the 'ick' factor. It did bother me to see Tom Cruise for the first 5 minutes or so. And I have subtracted half a bottle for that. But I willed myself to forget Tom Cruise, the person, and let go. And it worked. Think about Risky Business or Top Gun if you have to. Grit your teeth and try not to think about the 'ick'. There is a nice bad boy in there. And even if you can't root for Cruise as Hunt, go see Mission: Impossible III anyway, and root for the bad guys! Your mission, should you decide to accept it.....