'Mission Impossible III' *** 061506
Movie Review (2006)

The Work = ***
'Mission Impossible III' is an enjoyable action movie that could have been a great one but is instead just a pretty good entry in the genre. Once again Tom Cruise Stars as secret agent Ethan Hunt, who must go on dangerous missions to save the day. This time out J.J. Abrams co-writes and directs and he has made a movie that is probably a tad bit stronger than the second film and maybe not quite as strong as the original. I can recommend it but I must admit you kind of have to be inclined to this sort of picture to enjoy it.

What becomes clear watching this film is that it really should have been rated R. It is a shame really, because the material is R rated (the movie has a pretty high body count) and I think the film would have been stronger if it had gone a bit more for the grit and the violence in Hunt’s job. The opening of the film sets a pretty dark tone that 'Mission Impossible III' carries as well as it can in the PG-13 universe. The opening also shows what is (along with Abrams) the best new asset the series gained: Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Hoffman is a skilled actor that has been working for awhile now. He is able to blend into roles and is often cast as oddball outcasts (such as in 'Boogie Nights'.) I must say I have never found Hoffman particularly intimidating in any of the roles he has played. Here Hoffman plays arms dealer Owen Davian and he has never seemed so imposing. Hoffman lights up the screen and the combative energy generated as Hunt takes on Davian gives a fresh charge to the series. In fact had the movie focused more on Hunt vs. Davian it would have been much stronger.

That would seem to be too simple for Abrams and co. This is the another weakness of 'Mission Impossible III': the movie tries to do too much. Wanting to give Hunt more backstory there is some screen time spent with his home life. The problem is all the home life scenes drag like you wouldn’t believe. They also pad out the runtime of 'Mission Impossible III', making it seem downright boring in passages. That combined with toned down grit and a series of plot twists and turns that come as totally unnecessary keep the movie from being the great action flic’ it could have been.

It is a shame really, because many of the sequences are much better than you might think. A sequence on a bridge is one of the highlights. Abrams stages several others that are taught and engaging. The trouble is, they are broken up with slow passages that tended to take me out of the film. 'Mission Impossible III' was still enjoyable but not what it could have been.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that 'Mission Impossible III' has a pretty darn good cast. In addition to Hoffman joining the film, Ving Rhames returns, Billy Crudup, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell (of Abrams first Tv series 'Felicity',) Maggie Q, Simon Pegg (of 'Shaun of the Dead' fame,) and Laurence Fishburne all make appearances. Michelle Monaghan has a role as Hunt’s significant other and I must say that I though she seemed miscast. (Although I might have thought that in part because there were these odd profile shots that had funky lighting and made her have a strange resemblance to Michael Jackson.) The cast helps bring credibility to their brief roles.

I’m recommending 'Mission Impossible III' but as I say, you have to be somewhat inclined to action flics’ to enjoy it. Yes Cruise is wacky in real life but he is also not that bad an actor. He has been good in films like 'Born on the Fourth of July' and 'Collateral' and he is pretty good here. I wish this had more Hoffman vs. Cruise but the film still works. Heck, at the least this is better than freaking 'War of the Worlds'. Recommended.


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