Director: J. J. Abrams
Cast: Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Billy Crudup, Maggie Q, Simon Pegg and Laurence Fishburne
Plot: Ethan Hunt (Cruise) tries to adjust to a normal life, but when an old apprentice is kidnapped over a mysterious device called the Rabbit’s Foot, he is brought back to the IMF.
In my opinion, this is what a Mission Impossible movie should be. No, it’s still not as good as the mind-blowing original, which is a surprisingly fantastic spy thriller, breaking away from the curse of being another Tom Cruise movie and delivering a paranoid-filled, suspenseful action. However, I feel that if the Mission Impossible movies were going to be a franchise and not a one-hit wonder, then this is the way to begin achieving that. The second movie, which stripped away all of the finesse and intelligence from the first, is largely forgotten and we are given a fresh start into a franchise. Ethan Hunt is no longer a spy and living with his new fiancée, Julia. When a shady agent pops by his local street revealing information that one of Ethan’s most devoted apprentices (Ethan semi-retired into a trainer figure since we last saw him, it seems), has been kidnapped, trying to retrieve a mysterious weapon, called the Rabbit’s Foot, Ethan is forced back into the fold. Through Ethan, we rediscover the world of Mission Impossible: the spy ensemble hacking their way into impossibly secure locations, the out-of-this-world stunt sequences (as ever involving dizzying heights), and the gadgets that feel like James Bond, pumped full of adrenaline. We are immersed back into the world at a sensibly paced rate and by the time the movie rocks to a close, you have to admit that Mission Impossible finally seems to have found some kind of formula and could potentially become a movie franchise (cue Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation, proving the point).
My favourite thing about Mission Impossible III is that it feels more genuine that the second’s stylised approach to the genre. It isn’t about Tom Cruise playing yet another action hero that needs to duke it out with an appropriately nasty villain on a beach. No, here, the enemy is largely unknown, a duo of antagonists: one, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s subtly nasty arms dealer, who stays off the radar with relative ease, and two, a mole inside the IMF. Because what good is a Mission Impossible movie without some form of treacherous sub-villain? Ethan Hunt therefore needs to rely on both smarts and a team. The team element is better than it has been before. While the second felt like it was ticking boxes by introducing two side-kicks for Cruise, here, Ethan’s entourage are charismatic, useful and fun to spend time with. On one hand, they offer very little to the plot. Rhames has the benefit of being a series regular, but Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers are devoid of back story, merely there for the back-and-forth banter. They are defined by their actions, which does feel fairly criminal, seeing as they are fairly big actors. However, they definitely make up for it with the heist sequences. A prolonged break-in to the Vatican segment is glorious, everything we want from a Mission Impossible movie, boasting the camp fun and inventive spy games that we want to be subjected to. It does feel like an impossible mission, yet the agents handle it with relative ease – they are professionals and it is great to see the security of their target built up to impossibly difficult extremes, only for the IMF to calmly plot out a plan of attack and carry it out with precise results. It makes that glorious Mission Impossible theme tune all the more satisfying.
But J.J Abrams still lets Tom Cruise do his thing, which is why the movie allows moments to strip away the other cast members for small moments. J. J Abrams makes Ethan Hunt more three-dimensional than he has before. He is more than just a spy; he is a fiancée to his girlfriend and a father figure to his team. The lengths he goes to protect his loved ones is touching, as well as making for some great tense showdowns. The movie dies down to a one-on-one chase in Shanghai, Phillip Seymour Hoffman having his hands on a hostage. That whole segment is genius, the stakes racked up to – and here’s that word, again – impossible odds, and Ethan Hunt delivering the action hero figure that we love to pieces. As much as we may sometimes frown at the fact the series is sometimes trapped by having Tom Cruise as its lead, there are moments when you have to admit that it wouldn’t be the same without him. Maybe, when the Mission Impossible franchise has grown a little more, the third movie will fade into obscurity, not quite as relevant and impressive as it appears, when it is bringing back the franchise from the brink of collapse. However, it will always be a great action movie for anyone willing to dig it out. It delivers on the promises of explosions, stunts and great spy characters. What more could you ask for?
Final Verdict: J.J Abrams lays the ground for the Mission Impossible series, finally finding formula in a series that previously didn’t have any.