Mission Impossible: III

Credibility is seriously challenged throughout Mission: Impossible III, but it’s the sort of film aimed at a mass market audience that willingly suspends disbelief in exchange for the thrills of multiple action sequences and the presence of charismatic (if getting a bit long in the tooth) star, Tom Cruise. He offers his standard clenched-jaw performance as Ethan Hunt, a secret agent, more notable for athleticism than for the slightest inkling of character development. When a tear runs down Cruise’s cheek, the instant response is to look for an onion.

In any case, character development seems to have been the last thing on the mind of the committee of screenwriters responsible for the script. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Owning Mahowny), an actor of astounding accomplishment, is the villain here–all sadistic meanness, thoroughly evil, and as one dimensional as Cruise’s hero. Hoffman plays Owen Davian, a black market arms and technology dealer. He has captured Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), a one-time protege of Hunt’s, so the "agency" has no trouble recruiting Hunt to rescue her, providing the basis for action sequence #1, placed in Berlin and accompanied by enough explosions to satisfy the most deprived pyromaniac.

Subsequent action sequences are placed in other foreign locations (The Vatican, Shanghai) which provide some fine scenery as background for high tech tools and weapons, extensive car chases and crashes sufficient to put a Geico actuary into cardiac arrest.

The script attempts to ground all of this action in Hunt’s relationship with his fiancee, Julia (Michelle Monaghan). Hunt has not told Julia the nature of his real work, presumably because the Mission Impossible group operates under top secrecy, but the result is a relationship based on dishonesty. When Hunt looks in Julia’s eyes and says, "Trust me," she does, and for her trust she ends up in Davian’s psychopathic clutches. (This is no spoiler, since an early sequence shows Julia as Hoffman’s captive and the action then takes the form of flashbacks.)

The single admirable attribute of Mission: Impossible III is the technical expertise that goes into the making of the action sequences. Hollywood knows how to charge these scenes with fast moving, tension filled, adrenaline stimulating action, here enhanced with the use of hand-held cameras, extreme closeups, and lots of quick cutting. Aside from that, Mission Impossible: III is ordinary and forgettable..

Arthur Lazere

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San Francisco, CA
Mr. Lazere founded culturevulture.net in 1998 and worked tirelessly to promote its potential as a means for communicating a distinctly personal yet wide-ranging selection of arts reviews. Under his leadership, the site grew in esteem as well as in “circulation", and is well-regarded nationally and internationally as a source for up-to-date, well-written criticism. Arthur passed away on September 30, 2006.