Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

I declare M:I3 the summer blockbuster product placement action movie of the year!

JJ Abrams is better known as the writer, producer, and director of gripping television spy series Alias. With this experience, JJ Abrams has a deeper understanding and respect of television serials than the previous directors of the Mission Impossible series. You can count on Abrams to deliver a script that is more true to the feel and vision of the original television series, and one that is just as intelligent and complex as any episode in the series, or even a James Bond movie.

Audiences will realise even as the opening credits roll, that M:I3 is not just far superior to M:I2 (John Woo’s music video bulletfest dramatic ballets felt so out of place), or everything the Mission Impossible series should have started out as, but it rivals even the James Bond series, in terms of villains, explosions, and explosive chase sequences involving multiple forms of transport, and a plot set in various corners of the globe. Abrams also sets down what audiences expect to see in future instalments as well: the traitor/mole betraying Ethan Hunt’s entire team, Ethan Hunt hanging suspended by a cable wire, latex masks, and the prerequisite amount of plot twists, reversals, and double-crosses.

Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci begin the movie with great storytelling – in a flashforward, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is apparently captured by cold villain Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is about to extract some valuable information using a most nasty and painful method. In present time, the film begins again with a mission that will be familiar to fans of the original series: Ethan and his team must retrieve an agent who has been captured by Hoffman’s international weapons smuggler. However, the agent possesses a secret that may lead to the identity of the agency operative who betrayed her, as well as Hoffman’s most dangerous arms deal to date.

The rest of the movie is decently plotted, with minimal plot holes, a fine balance of action sequences alternating with slower espionage/mindgame scenes, and for once, Abrams correctly focuses on the M:I team as a collaborative effort instead of just a supporting cast for Ethan Hunt’s superspy character. While Tom Cruise impresses by acting in his own stunts, the rest of the cast really shine in their portrayal of a well-honed and close-knit operations team. Rhys-Meyers is the pilot and driver, Rhames is the tech specialist, and Maggie Q is the explosives expert. In a sly wink to Alias, there’s even a computer nerd (played by Simon Pegg) in headquarters who helps the team out.

Mission: Impossible got off on a bad start by making Ethan Hunt, instead of the team, the centre of the movie, John Woo made it worse by changing the spy movie into a Hong Kong stylised gunfight stuntman show, but finally JJ Abrams brings the franchise to the level it was destined for. Mission: Impossible is to the World Cup as James Bond is to the Olympics.

It’s a sign that the franchise has finally arrived, when MI:3 has as many product placements and cool gadgets as recent Bond movies. I was amazed at the number of cellphones that Tom Cruise used in the movie, as well as the gorgeous sports cars and SUVs featured. Oh, don’t forget the laptop computers, LCD screens, and the yellow DHL van. The only thing future producers of Mission: Impossible movies need to work on is the title song. Kanye West’s Impossible is bad enough to drive away audiences trying to enjoy the ending credits in the cinema. A more memorable villain might help as well – Hoffman didn’t have much material or screentime to work with, poor guy.

First published at incinemas on 3 May 2006

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