Mission: Impossible III
Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan, Keri Russell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Simon Pegg, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Bahar Soomekh. (2006, PG-13, 126 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 5, 2006
Poppycock is the bread and bloody butter of the superspy genre, and J.J. Abrams, the third director to helm this orgiastic action franchise (after Brian De Palma and John Woo), both recognizes that fact and milks it for all it's worth. M:i III fairly lactates ordnance, spurting out gaudy ribbons of flaming, high tech explosivity, and some of the most hyperkinetic action sequences since Woo's beloved Hong Kong was still a Crown colony, and public praise for Chow Yun-Fat would net a befuddled, blank stare. Such is progress. Abrams cut his teeth on television's Alias and Lost, not to mention Felicity (an all-but-unrecognizable Keri Russell shows up here, too). Abrams works from a tight, serpentine script that never loses its rocket-sled forward motion – despite co-screenwriters, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, grounding the proceedings in the realistic (so far as that goes) bedrock of Impossible Mission Force hotshot Ethan Hunt's (Cruise) personal life. As the film quickly reveals, Hunt has retired from fieldwork (aka "fun") and is preparing to marry fiancée Julia (Monaghan), a nurse, and settle down a tad (aka "even more fun"). She believes he spends his days working as a Virginia traffic controller, so when he's called back to action by IMF honcho (Crudup) and sent to rescue protegée Lindsey (Russell) from the clutches of evil arms dealer Owen Davian (Hoffman, considerably upping the ante on his long-running "I have a mouthful of mashed potatoes" vocal technique, to fine, creepy effect), she's blasé, or unwitting, or, and I think this is the most likely (having just been insta-married and consummated in a giddy-fun hospital supply room sequence that serves well to humanize the too-often robotic Hunt character), she's sore and just wants to go back to bed. Meanwhile, in Berlin/Shanghai/Wherever-James Bond-Isn't, Hunt and his trusty team are fighting enemies within the gates of the IMF and Davian, who, flaunting a steely mien Ian Fleming would've greatly appreciated, does tremendously bad things with the air of a man making out his shopping list. From thereon out it's kiss-kiss-bang-bang all over the place, but never with less than a full measure of chaos. Abrams, to his credit, has made what may be the best of the lot when it comes to these impossibly, increasingly over-the-top films: Unlike its predecesors, M:i:III occasionally stops to catch its breath – hence the fascination with and fascinating depiction of Ethan Hunt's home life (who even surmised he might have one?) – and these smallish downtimes serve to ratchet up the surrounding fireballs all the more. Action connoisseurs will require defib after at least two of the set-pieces here, one involving a game of what can only be called Duck-Duck-Goose amidst a fluttery field of gargantuan windmills, and the other a smashingly well-edited battle between Hunt and the Bad Guys atop a doomed oceangoing causeway. It's all poppycock, of course, but it's done with such vim and vigor and both narrative and visual flair that you care not a jot. Summer has arrived.