The Movie Buffer

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mission Impossible 3


May contain spoilers


Think what you will of Tom Cruise’s off screen antics, personally I think he’s two Cocktails away from a Legend if you catch my drift, but this movie has plenty of other features that make it appealing. Not only is it by tv-director extraordinaire, J.J. Abrams, it has Philip Seymour Hoffman as the principle villain and a few very interesting secondary characters played by Ving Rhames, Lawrence Fishburne and Simon Pegg. Yes, the story is old, tired and exactly the same as the last two movies but you need to expect this from the MI franchise just like you would expect it from the James Bond series, the Rocky series or the Terminator series. It’s not good or right but it happens. The story revolves around two main plot points: a witch hunt for an agent gone bad in the IMF, Impossible Mission Force, and an elusive weapons dealer.

J.J. Abrams is an accomplished television director with such hits as Alias and Lost under his belt. A lesser known fact, he also acted in Six Degrees of Separation with Will Smith and Donald Sutherland. His style of directing fits well with the hour format but shows some faults when this timeline is stretched to the feature film length. The pacing of the film was great for the first hour but then things start to ramp up to a faster pace and the story telling became secondary, the details were blurred and the main plot lines start to come apart (just like the other two films). The story was filmed in the style of starting with the ending and working the viewer back to this point throughout the film which works out nicely for getting the story back on track after much of the action. This being his first feature length film and knowing his pedigree on television, Abrams gets a pass on this movie, there’s nothing outstanding about it and there aren’t enough flaws to bog the whole thing down.

Cue Captain Amazing, Tom Cruise, as irrepressible Ethan Hunt. Cruise provides the same cut and dried performance we’ve come to expect from the other MI movies and several of his other performances. It’s pun time - You could say he’s on cruise control! (Thank you, writers of The Critic). His performance leaves a lot to be desired; he lacks in intensity and most of all credibility. Cruise strides through all his lines giving them little to no emotional presence whatsoever. He delivers lines about his fiancée at his wedding party as cold and mechanically as he would direct his covert ops personnel. If there’s one thing that Cruise needed in this flick, it was great performance so when people talk about him around the water cooler they can add “…but he was great in MI:3” after “So Tom Cruise is plain crazy…”. I’ve seen interviews with “industry insiders”, critics and actors themselves saying that off-screen antics do not affect on-screen performances but I would starkly disagree. In a world that is based solely on perception, what an actor does off-screen affects how the audience sees them. Look at the box office tallies for movies with actors and actresses that have had bad publicity off-screen. Actions do speak louder than words in the world of motion pictures.

Playing opposite to Cruise is Philip Seymour Hoffman who, riding high on his Oscar winning performance in Capote, brings a good performance to his part as the intelligent villain, weapons dealer, Owen Davian. His character has foiled every attempt of capture that the IMF has thrown his way and thus has become the most dangerous man on the planet. Some of his files are captured in a botched mission and a trap is set as he prepares to sell the mysterious weapon code named “the Rabbit’s Foot” (which is never really revealed but is encased in a thermos covered in Hazardous Biological Material stickers, so think avian flu or something). Hoffman plays a villain very well and I giggled seeing Hoffman beating up Cruise. In the end, Cruise needs to win the fight and dispatches Hoffman in the least interesting way, he gets rolled in front of an on-coming bus.

Some of the better parts of the movie are the secondary characters: Ving Rhames returns as the clever tech specialist, Luther. Some of the best dialogue is in between Rhames and Cruise. The subtle jabs and witty banter as only Rhames can deliver. Laurence Fishburne plays the “by the book” superior officer in the picture and he plays it to perfection bringing authority and order to an otherwise rogue department. Finally, Simon Pegg, famous for his hilarious portrayal of slacker, Shaun, from Shaun of the Dead, is Benji, the nervous lab tech at the IMF. Pegg was instantly recognized by the crowd and effortlessly got laughs.

The technical features of this movie were exactly what you would expect from an action movie directed by the guy who did Alias as many of the camera shots and much of the scene construction was done in the same way. There was the requisite shaky camera shots, the car chase with explosion and the cg masks. This wasn’t as stylish as the Woo contribution or as tightly constructed as the De Palma original but it has a simple flair that lets the story flow with out ruining the suspension of disbelief.

Overall, this movie deserves a 5/10 or a 2 star rating because there was nothing new or exciting about it. That being said there was nothing particularly bad with it either. The acting on the part of everyone except Tom was great. The story was tired and predictable and the pacing was wrong so the good acting was wasted at times. It was an average action flick that will disappoint though looking for more and appease those looking for 100 million in stunts and explosives.


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