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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys-Myers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne
Director: J.J. Abrams
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: October 30, 2006

“This message, let’s call it my excellent engagement gift to you, will self destruct in 5 seconds. Good luck, Ethan, and thanks again.”

Film ****

Every once in a while, a third entry in a certain film franchise seems to blow me away in more ways than one. I would’ve never guessed in a million years that Mission: Impossible III would be among those rare entries. And yet, as remarkably and vastly entertaining as the first two films were, courtesy of Brian De Palma and John Woo, the third installment of the spy movie franchise is easily the most riveting and well executed of the three films.

And it took a while for this mission to finally begin. At first, David Fincher was set to direct the film, but the plans just didn’t fall through. Then it was reported that Narc director Joe Carnahan would helm the third installment, which also didn’t go through as planned. Finally, a director was found in the form of J.J. Abrams, best known for his television creations Lost and Alias. After seeing the movie, I can honestly conclude that there wasn’t a director better suited for the job.

If you recall the first two films, you may remember that the first one relied heavily on suspense, while the second one was more action-driven. What Abrams has masterfully done here is combine both elements to create, what I can see as, the absolute best contemporary version of Mission: Impossible imaginable. It doesn’t hurt that screenplay, co-written by Abrams, offers up the best plot of the three films.

After a bang of an opening, which I won’t go into detail except to say that at some point later in the movie you will end up at that exact same scene, we are reacquainted with IMF super agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). He is about to be married to the woman of his dreams, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), who of course knows nothing about Ethan’s true profession. He tells her he works for the Department of Transportation.

Ethan has long been away from field work, as he now trains young recruits. But he is brought back into the field at the request of friend and IMF operations manager John Musgrave (Billy Crudup), to help rescue a kidnapped spy. The agent in question is Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), one of Ethan’s very first recruits.

Upon rescuing her in Berlin Ethan and his team, this time consisting of explosives expert Zhen (Maggie Q), helicopter pilot Declan (Jonathan Rhys-Myers) and, once again, computer hacker Luther (Ving Rhames), are unfortunately too late. Lindsey was implanted with an explosive charge in her skull. With Ethan distraught over losing his first trainee in the field, he and his team proceed to go after the man responsible, international arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

This leads to the most spectacular sequence in any Mission movie in regards to paying homage to the television series. The team assembles to capture Davian during a party gathering in the Vatican. It’s a lengthy sequence that will draw you in from start to finish, which you should be from the first minute of the movie anyhow. What’s more, director Abrams incorporates a genius sequence where we see how those flawless facemasks are created for the agents to wear.

Davian is captured and Ethan thinks he’s succeeded, but that is far from the truth. He is ordered to obtain information from Davian regarding a secret weapon known as the Rabbit’s Foot. But just moments after they place Davian in custody, several helicopters surround IMF’s SUV convoy on the Chesapeake Bay bridge and open missile fire, with men there to spring Davian free.

And it only gets worse. Davian, who promised to bring harm not just to Ethan but his wife as well, kidnaps his fiancée. He then gives Ethan precisely 48 hours to bring him the Rabbit’s Foot, or she will be no more. What follows is another set of sequences that will blow your mind as Ethan and his team go to Shanghai to accomplish, what else? The impossible!

Let’s talk about the action in M:I-III, not only does it outdo any sequences that parts 1 or 2 had to offer, but they are amongst some of the most enthralling and pulse pounding action sequences I’ve ever seen. If you think any action sequence in a James Bond movie can’t be surpassed, think again. Abrams stages some visually stunning and adrenaline pumping sequences throughout the movie.

The first is the rescue in Berlin, which features an intense helicopter chase as Ethan and his team try to elude an enemy chopper, with heat seeking missiles. What comes before that is a fast paced shootout as Ethan scurries to locate the kidnapped spy in a building, while Luther takes out the building with four computer-controlled machine guns. It’s a flawlessly executed scene.

Then there’s bridge battle sequence, which had me literally on the edge of my seat. It starts with a jolt of an explosion that comes out of nowhere and what follows is an all out assault, of both firepower and on the senses. Abrams’ directing of this scene plays a big part in the impact. It’s one of the most authentic looking action sequences I’ve ever seen in any movie.

And then the final sequences in Shanghai are nothing short of astonishing. Ethan, in one scene, has to recover the Rabbit’s Foot by breaking in a scientific laboratory. However, in order to properly do this, he will have to leap off the top of an adjacent building, swing himself to the top of the laboratory building and take out the guards before entering it. Sounds outrageous, but just wait until you see the scene for yourself.

The movie doesn’t let up for a single second, and there some wonderful twists and turns in the story that even had me fooled. If you are able to mix in heart stopping action, white-knuckle suspense and a truly smart screenplay into a Mission: Impossible movie, then that is one mission truly accomplished. After seeing this, I’m most anxious to see what movie J.J. Abrams will direct next, which will actually be the next Star Trek movie!

Say what you will about Tom Cruise (I, for one, feel that everyone has made such an unnecessary big deal about his off-screen persona), he is in full action game mode in M:I-III and brings his usual razor sharp charisma to the role of Ethan Hunt. And this time around, Hunt is given a bit more depth as a character and as a result, you root for him even more. Like I said, everyone’s got their opinion of Mr. Cruise, but for me it’s simply IMPOSSIBLE to not cheer him on in this flick.

And Philip Seymour Hoffman is nothing short of a knockout as the villain. He actually doesn’t have much screen time as you would think he would, but when he’s on the screen his presence is truly felt. He provides the most sinister villain in any Mission movie, and his character is so cold and brutal, the sound of his voice alone could send chills (especially when making harsh threats to our hero). And the movie gets some fantastic supporting work from Billy Crudup as Ethan’s superior and a truly dynamic Laurence Fishburne as the head of IMF. Fishburne has some of the best dialogue he’s had the pleasure of delivering.

For my money, M:I-III was the top entertaining flick of the 2006 summer movie season. Sadly, it didn’t perform to expectations at the box office (blame that on the tired Cruise backlash), but when compared to just about every other film this past summer, it was the true winner. In my honest opinion, not even Superman, the X-Men or Pirates of the Caribbean could surpass the superb entertainment quality of this astonishing piece of popcorn entertainment.

Mission: Impossible III is as fantastic, thrilling, smart and intense as action movies can get. It grabs you and never lets go for a single second. If you thought the first two Missions were entertaining as hell, then you haven’t seen ANYTHING yet. It’s the best movie of the three, and one of the best movies of the year!

Video ****

As of now, this outstanding looking release from Paramount is the single best video presentation I’ve seen this year, and from what I can tell it will be hard to top. Right from the beginning, the anamorphic picture delivers every possible element of video quality at an ultra high rate. Image quality is consistently sharp and crisp. Every single scene, be it night or day, turns out in amazing form on the screen. Even the blacks are rich and full of detail. Colors are truly magnificent. A fantastic presentation that is a treat for the senses!

Audio ****

The mission to blow the viewer away with outstanding sound quality has definitely been accomplished! The 5.1 mix has topped the list of the best sounding release of the year. Like I said, the movie never lets up for a second, and the accompanying sound mix makes sure that your attention will be grabbed with astonishing quality. Everything from music score to dialogue delivery is in full audio form. But when those action numbers kick in, WATCH OUT! What results is the most dynamically explosive piece of DVD audio quality I’ve experienced in quite some time! A tremendously executed presentation.

Features ****

Although also available in a single disc release, it’s the 2-Disc Collector’s Edition that is surely the one that deserves to be added to your collection. There is an extended lineup of extras in this package, which fans of the franchise will definitely appreciate.

Disc One features a lively commentary by Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams, who inform on details very well in addition to cutting jokes every now and then. Also included is the half hour featurette “The Making of the Mission”, as well as Deleted Scenes and a Tom Cruise Tribute Montage: Excellence in Film.

Disc Two offers even more behind the scenes action, in the form of six well made featurettes. “Mission Action: Inside the Action Unit” looks at the staging of the action sequences, “Visualizing the Mission” looks at how director J.J. Abrams brought his approach to this installment, “Inside the IMF” takes a look at that extravagant set piece, “Mission: Metamorphosis” looks into the scene involving the creation of the facemask, “Scoring the Mission” takes a look at composer Michael Giacchino’s unique approach to incorporating a memorable music score to the film, and “Launching the Mission” chronicles the worldwide promotion for the movie. Also featured is an unscripted interview segment featuring Cruise and Abrams, a Tribute Montage: Generation Cruise, a photo gallery and trailer gallery.

Summary:

M:I-III is popcorn entertainment dynamite at its most explosive. This is a cinematic thrill ride to end all cinematic thrill rides. It’s the absolute best of the three films and this 2-Disc Collector’s Edition is one of the best all around releases of the year! Accept this mission all the way!

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