Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Simon Pegg, Laurence Fishburne
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
First, I must address the reason many people have not seen this movie: Tom Cruise is bat-shit crazy. He is a living, breathing counter-argument to his own personal crusade against psychiatry, and has been so omni-present in the media over the past year that even supporters are tired of him. I can dig it. It took me a month to see it. Hey, if his weirdo act starts hurting his movies (and make no mistake, this is his movie, as Tom serves as co-Executive Producer of the film), then maybe he'll stop being so publicly weird (privately, he'll be crazy as ever I'm sure).
My personal philosophy in matters like this is to separate the art from the artist. I try not to think of him as Tom Cruise: Scientology high-priest, and instead think of him as Ethan Hunt. That said, even I needed a bit of time to get past the crazy as the movie began. It didn't help that Cruise was in his patented spastic-action mode, acting as though, despite being tied down to a chair, he was about to jump up on Oprah's couch.
Luckily, I did get past any Cruise hang-ups I may have had, and was able to appreciate the movie for what it is: a high-octane, almost-oppressively-action-packed, summer blockbuster, in the truest, best sense of the word. This is a big action, big explosions, big stunt spectacular, kicking off the summer season with an enthusiastic bang. New director J.J. Abrams takes the reigns of the franchise, bringing his Alias TV series spy-thrills to the big screen (complete with a cameo by an Abrams favourite). The film is an improvement from John Woo's M:I-2, proving that there is still life in this property, as long as audiences will still accept Cruise as an action star lead.
Each film in this franchise has taken the personality of its director, and this one is no different. If you loved the first two seasons of Alias, then you'll love this movie. This has all of Alias' standard around-the-world spy action, complete with disguises, gadgetry, and quiet, emotional moments between lovers and friends. He also borrows a climax from his other series Lost, and, of course, Keri Russell from Felicity. The only thing missing is some Rambaldi and daddy issues.
The film is filled with Mission: Impossible standards: masks, exotic locales, impossible heists, chases, self-destructing messages, and a complete lack of realism. Saying certain stunts, gizmos, and situations are unrealistic kinda misses the point of a movie that has the word "Impossible" in the title. You don't watch these movies for their realism, you watch them for excitement, and it delivers in spades. The stunts are impressive and original, delivering the requisite adrenaline rush to help you ignore the implausibilities of everything.
Ving Rhames returns to play Luther Stickell, giving the film charm and comic timing. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the highlight of the film, igniting his scenes as the cooly evil villain of the piece. Billy Crudup was a pleasant surprise, Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) provides comic relief as the nerdy, excitable tech guy (sound familiar?), and Jonathan Rhys Meyers shows that he's a star in the making, capable of starring in his own Mission: Impossible-type movies, instead of just smallish indies.
Frankly, I wasn't expecting to enjoy the movie as much as I did. I went because the first two movies provided some entertainment, and I was interested in what Abrams could do. I left genuinely entertained and impressed. It's a formulaic, big budget action flick that delivers the goods... if only it didn't have to star a crazy man.
Bourne Identity, The (2002)
Last Samurai, The (2003)
War of the Worlds (2005)