Mission: Impossible 3 (2006)

For three movies, the line “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” is given to highly skilled IMF agent Ethan Hunt through some kind of electronic device that’s beyond our current technological means and each movie, the world is saved by the skin of its teeth in the 11th hour. Before said earth is saved and the device that could scorch the earth and everyone living on it detonates or becomes exposed, it’s Ethan (Tom Cruise) and his small team that has more employee turnover than a retail store pulling off the impossible, just like the title and the secret agency suggests.

It’s not just Ethan’s team that experiences the turnover either, every film, someone new gives Hunt the 8-word sentence. At Least the Bond Franchise has that consistence down. For nearly 2 decades Bernard Lee gave James his mission like clockwork while other key characters rarely changed. Outside of Cruise, M:I:III does have a reoccurring character in which Hunt has built a trusting rapport with – Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). In the high velocity and pressure situation Ethan lives his life, its Luther’s presence that elicits a calming sensation. Ethan knows that Luther will be there for him, and Ving has seen a transition of his character from mere hacker to trusted advisor.

Who else is going to tell Ethan that his crazy plan to steal the next macguffin known as the “rabbit’s foot” is going to fail with Ethan considering it for a millisecond? Everyone else is expendable though the team this time consisting of Zhen Lei (Maggie Q), and Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) certainly are more than capable to hold their weight when the mission is 5 seconds from failure.

The mission in question once again does not matter and is the result of a convoluted mess. One of IMF’s technicians Benji (Simon Pegg) sums up this entire franchise with one sentence, the bad guy, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an arms dealer is looking for an anti-god device to destroy the world.  Anything beyond that understanding winds up being a distraction through all of the jargon used. Like the previous films, it’s the surface level plot that happily takes a back seat for the dazzling display of adrenaline-fueled action and high stakes.  

That being said, the previous entries M:I and M:I:II are more messy, concerned with flashy style over substance and less focused especially with the competition heating up as far as secret agents are concerned. The main draw for these M:I films that are based on the 1966 tv series has been the phenomenal stunts and action set pieces. With each installment, they get bigger, bolder and riskier to pull off and for those watching comfortably from a theater or their home, Tom Cruise makes it look easy from 100 stories up and leaping off a building, swinging to the next one from a single wired harness, with enough control to still fire a gun and hit his targets.

I don’t think Tom Cruise has broken a sweat once.

Leave that for the rest of us.

Written by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman with Abrams serving as director, the quality has shifted. No longer do we have to believe that a helicopter can fly at top speed through the Chunnel without causing structural damage to the Chunnel, the helicopter or the train full of unsuspecting passengers. However disbelief should still be held in suspense – Ethan and his team have no trouble breaking into Vatican City’s catacombs to capture Davian before he can obtain the biological weapon. Along the way in capturing Davian, a familiar gag gadget is used, one that is recycled, repeated and updated as if to say look how we stand out against Bourne or Bond – The face mask gag.

As tiresome as this gadgets appearance is becoming, the way J. J. Abrams uses it works for the film. Opening the film sees Hoffman’s Davian calmly explaining that an explosive device has been implanted in Ethan’s brain through the nose. Director of photography Dan Mindel pulls the camera back to show Davian with a gun pointed at Ethan’s wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) in which Davian begins a count to 10. By 10, Julia will die if Ethan doesn’t give up the rabbit’s foot. If it even existed. This scene comes to a climax and leaves us all hanging by a thread and when the moment comes full circle, the cliffhanger makes sense – the gimmick of the face mask does its job and a second thought about it never happens.

Opening the film on this scene says a lot going forward for the M:I franchise. For 1, It says that this franchise is committed to stepping their game up, competing in the new revitalized era of the spy thriller and it proves that M:I and M:I:II walked so III could run. The potential is there, and Tom Cruise is on to something.

Aside from the face mask, gadgets are absent from this film. The R&D department at MI6 were constantly giving Bond the latest and greatest in spy technology however the tech in M:I:III becomes less flashy, more practical and more realistic to the world this made-up agency lives in. What better use of Ethan scaling the walls of the Vatican City than to call back to M:I and breaking into Langley. For a moment it may hinge on self-parody but it’s a nifty little trick that becomes Ethan’s signature move.

Mission: Impossible 3 is a major step up for the franchise with brighter days ahead of itself. In the span of a decade 3 films have been put out and Tom Cruise still moves just as quick as he does in the first installment. Taking over composer duties for Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman respectively is Michael Giacchino who delivers the best score of the 3. It’s loud, pulse pounding and booming. The theme song has started to resonate the way Bond’s theme has for decades. Backed by a talented supporting cast including Billy Crudup, Keri Russell and Laurence Fishburne, Philip Seymour Hoffman steals all of the thunder. His calm, cool and collected villain is exactly the type of villain this franchise needs, and the film is elevated because of Hoffman’s unforgettable performance.

Screenplay By: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & J. J. Abrams

Directed By: J. J. Abrams

Music By: Michael Giacchino

Cinematography: Dan Mindel

Starring: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan, Maggie Q, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Billy Crudup, Simon Pegg, Laurence Fishburne

Where to Watch: Paramount Plus

Edited By: Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon

Release Date: May 5, 2006

Running Time: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

Based On: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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