Monday, December 26, 2011

Mission: Impossible III

Obviously the fourth Mission: Impossible movie just came out, but I still haven't seen the third yet, so I decided to correct that last week. Each movie in the series has had a different director and subsequently a different tone, and the third installment was the first feature film made by J.J. Abrams. It sort of mixes and matches elements from the first two movies. The first was a paranoid spy thriller, and the second was pretty much a Hong Kong action movie. The third film has some of the same kind of bombastic action and huge scale of the second, but it's ultimately closer to the first film in terms of realism (which itself wasn't exactly totally authentic, just look at the climactic scene for proof). Some elements definitely seemed silly - there were several one-liners and over-the-top moments that probably didn't need there, and got in the way of the story a bit. But the setup was smarter and the payoff better than the mediocre second film, and the darker tone seemed to fit the series well. I don't think it was quite as good as the original, but it was close enough.

Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt, though he is no longer a regular spy and instead trains recruits for the agency. He's even trying to settle down with a woman played by Michelle Monaghan, something his friends and colleagues are skeptical of. He gets pulled back into action when one of his trainees played by Keri Russell is kidnapped on a mission, a job that kicks off a plot involving someone bad inside the agency trying to stop him while a black market dealer played by Philip Seymour Hoffman tries to sell something that's potentially extremely dangerous. Backs get stabbed, explosions go off, and complicated heists get executed. The movie is completely packed with recognizable actors, and most of them do pretty well in their roles. It's fun to see Ving Rhames and Tom Cruise together again, and their team is rounded out competently by Johnathan Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q. Laurence Fishburne plays a fairly predictable but solidly slimy higher-up at the agency, and Simon Pegg only gets a couple scenes to do his wisecracking nerd routine but does it well anyway. Hoffman plays a totally creepy and intimidating villain despite his lack of physical prowess, and the mole subplot ended up being more interesting than I expected. Abrams makes a few unexpected decisions and shoots the action very well, and I thought the distinct color palette of the film worked as well. It's not a particularly special action movie in most ways, but it's done well enough to be pretty enjoyable throughout. It got me interested in hopefully seeing Brad Bird's take on the series before it leaves the theaters.

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