Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Director: J.J. Abrams
Plot: Ethan Hunt comes face to face with a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer while trying to keep his identity secret in order to protect his girlfriend.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Thriller
Awards: -
Runtime: 126min
Rating: PG for intense sequences of frenetic violence and menace, disturbing images and some sensuality.

With Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol coming out in December, I find myself the need to review Mission: Impossible III. As I popped in the DVD, I realized that the Mission: Impossible and Alien quadrologies share something in common – each film (no matter how good or bad) is directed by a filmmaker of note. Ridley Scott, Brian De Palma, James Cameron, John Woo, David Fincher, J.J. Abrams, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Brad Bird make up this tremendously talented list. Abrams, who is now one of Hollywood’s hottest properties, made the successful transition from television (Alias, 2001-2003; Lost, 2004) to feature filmmaking in 2006 with M:I:III.

For a debut, M:I:III is a decent action film though it is more entertaining than stimulating. I say this because Abrams has since made two stimulating blockbusters in Star Trek (2009) and Super 8 (2011) and seem to be continuing in this vein with the sequel to Star Trek. Starring Tom Cruise, who still effortlessly tackles both acting and stuntwork after nearly three decades in film already, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the lead antagonist, and Michelle Monaghan, M:I:III gives us characters that are far from disposable as there is an effort to bring out some degree of character development in scenes of quiet drama that are often lacking in blockbusters like this.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) finds himself sucked back into the whirlwind of the job he left as a secret agent. He marries Julia (Monahgan) before he takes on his next mission: To capture Owen Davian (Hoffman), an arms dealer who is crafty, sadistic, and outright sickening as a person. In the tense opening sequence, we are catapulted into the world of espionage with Ethan at the absolute mercy of his nemesis. The film will gratify viewers seeking action and death-defying stunts. While not as stylistic as Woo’s M:I:II, the action sequences in Abrams’ film are nonetheless executed with aplomb.

The tightly-paced set-piece at the Vatican is the highlight of the entire film, I feel. It also stays close to the tradition of the M:I style with its showcase of stealth and strategic planning. By casting Hoffman as the film’s scene-stealing villain, half the battle is already won by Abrams who allows viewers to engage with the conflict, both physically and psychologically, as played out dramatically by Hoffman and Cruise. In a nutshell, M:I:III is a well-shot action feature with steady (read: non-nauseating) camerawork, and at times, using excellent crane shots to immerse viewers into the visual spectacle. Despite being a tad cliché in terms of storytelling, the film remains to be a respectable popcorn effort by a very promising director.

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