Merrick craves nachos...
Here’s Massawyrm with a review of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III.
I really liked this film. It’s not without its faults, and it certainly has its share of predictability and clichÃ©s…but it’s smartly paced, richly directed and performed, and punches every button necessary to overshadow its goosier elements.
Abrams and Co. taking over STAR TREK seems like an incomprehensibly wise decision to me - based on their execution of this film alone (this isn’t to say I don’t like LOST or ALIAS – I’m just saying M:I 3 best embodies the sensibilities I believe are needed in order for STAR TREK to feel fresh again).
My hunch is that excitement over the new TREK project will escalate dramatically once general audiences get a chance to see how well handled this film is.
Hola all. Massawyrm here. The Team Stoopid. That’s been the geek mantra for 10 years now, ever since the first installment of the latest incarnation of Mission: Impossible (aka The Tom Cruise Show) hit screens back in ’96. The Team. Where the hell was the team? The first movie had the team…for like five minutes before they were all slaughtered…and Tom Cruise put together another team…who almost entirely betrayed him…leading to a second film that ignored the idea of a team entirely. And for those that didn’t grow up with either of the two TV incarnations – the show was ENTIRELY about the team. Phelps wasn’t a point man, he was the brain – and always assembled a team of people who were very good at very specific things. In fact, the closest thing we’ve had to a true Mission: Impossible movie thus far was Steven Speilberg’s Munich. Wheelman, explosives expert, clean up man, brain. Now that’s a Mission: Impossible team.
Now personally, I really hated the first one. I just couldn’t get over the idea of Phelps being the bad guy. I mean, come on, that’s like making a Star Trek movie in which Kirk turns out to be the one who betrayed the Trek Gang – or like a Bond movie with a new 007 in which James Bond is the new M and sells the new Bond and the Union Jack up river. It’s just not done. But they did it. And it sucked. Then, the second one…well, here come the tomatoes. I like the second one. But not as a M:I film. I liked it as a John Woo movie. No, it wasn’t a REAL John Woo movie, filled with a beating heart and pathos out the yin/yang…but it LOOKED like a John Woo film. And if Hollywood wasn’t going to let Woo make a real Woo film, at least we got something that looked just like one. Like I said, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. But if there’s one thing that can be said about Paramount’s attempts at making M:I films, it’s that they’ve done exactly what we’ve been begging for MGM to do with the Bond films. Take big name action directors and let them have a go at their own stylized version of Mission: Impossible. I mean it at least gave us hope that eventually we could get a good one.
So, now that they’ve handed the franchise over to Alias creator J.J. Abrams, will we see a long time geek who’s heard all the complaints actually deliver something that we’ve been dying to see? Yes. Yes we will. For the most part. While the main storyline is entirely focused upon Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, this time he’s given a team, a real team – each chosen for their specific skills. And the team kicks ass.
Maggie Q is the bombshell infiltrator (there was always a bombshell) and master saboteur. Jonathon Rys Meyers is the wheelman/hotshot pilot who isn’t at all useful unless required to go very, very fast. And Ving Rhames is back as the single best field techie in the game. And in this Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is nothing without them. They work together, as a team, in complete unison – each playing their own part in each elaborate infiltration. And believe it or not, there are entire sequences in which Ethan Hunt can only sit and wait while someone else on the team has to pull something amazing out of their ass. No one plays second fiddle for very long, each member getting a chance to show exactly why they’re IM agents. So, yes. It is a real, honest to god Mission: Impossible movie. The Tom Cruise show has finally is over. Mostly.
If I have one complaint about the team focus, it’s that there isn’t enough character development with Maggie Q and Jonathon Rys Meyers (although they do get one, single, amazing scene together.) The focus of the film is still very much on Cruise. This time, however, the balance is almost just about right. At least they finally give Rhames the attention he deserves. Ving simply owns in this, finally being given the much needed Luther character arc. The Luther of ten years ago is dead and gone. No longer the guy simply happy to be back at work on the team, no longer the guy giggling at the opportunity to work alongside Hunt again, Luther is tired. IM has become his life and outside of that life, there’s nothing. He’s bitter, worldly and has developed a relationship with Hunt that only two guys who have almost died together a dozen times can have. And he’s become Hunt’s conscience.
And Hunt has a lot to think about this time around. In M:I3 Hunt takes on the pathos of Kirk circa Wrath of Khan. He’s gotten out of the game and is starting to secretly regret it. But when one of his trainees goes missing, several of his protÃ©gÃ©’s try to get him to come back and assume the role in which he belongs. He resists, but just like Kirk, can’t fight his nature. This incarnation of Hunt requires Cruise to pull out all of the stops and deliver a role that fuses both his love of high risk stunts and the honed talent he showed in Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut. He’s conflicted, in love and sells every moment of it in a way the previous films never allowed.
Abrams was absolutely the right choice for this. And to be perfectly honest, I was never sold on the idea that he was until I watched this. Come on, all of the previously attached directors were soooooo much sexier in terms of their body of work. Lost is awesome, but I’ve never been a fan of Alias. The “Chicks Beating Ass” genre in my opinion is far past played out and it always struck me as a poor man’s La Femme Nikita (the movie, not the low rent USA series that actually WAS a poor mans La Femme Nikita.) But much like he was right about Firefly, Herc was absolutely correct about what Abrams could do with a real budget. Hercules, and any longtime Abrams fan, is going to shit themselves when they see this. It is EXACTLY what you’ve all been talking about. M:I3 pulls out Abrams’ bag of tricks and story ideas and gives them the full backing that only a budget like this had could allow. It’s dark, brooding and puts its characters through hell. Much like the pilot for Alias, it opens with Hunt bound to a chair and fucked 6 ways from Sunday – then flashes back to show us just how he ends up there. And it’s a gruesome, heart wrenching ride to that chair where he ends up on the wrong side of a gun facing down one of the most ruthless son of a bitches he’s ever faced.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is amazing. Mother fucker channels, nay, becomes Lee Marvin. He’s cold, calculating and has zero time to partake in penny ante bullshit like monologueing. You’re going to give him what he wants or he’s going to put a bullet in your fucking skull and move on to the next guy, asking the exact same question with the same exact inflection. Without getting angry about it. No deathtraps, no leaving it to his lackeys. He’s going to pick up a gun and do it himself. He’s going to fuck you up and you’ll will think twice about crossing him. Hoffman is not only the single most perfectly realized villain in recent memory, but a real honest to god M:I villain. This isn’t some Bond villain retread like in the last two films. This is a businessman, a guy who’s doing his thing, is good at what he does, and only a team of top notch IM agents could ever imagine taking him down.
And just to add icing to the cake, Abrams brings in a cast of top notch support to add a genuine sense of what IMF is all about. Lawrence Fishburne lays the smackdown as the agency director like only he can. Billy Crudup once again proves he’s the best young actor no one in the mainstream seems to know about with a great turn as Hunt’s protÃ©gÃ© turned mission leader. And of course Simon Pegg commands every bit of screentime he’s given as the headquarters based techie – and as usual he’s funny as all get out, delivering a few of the best lines in the whole film. No one plays nervous likeability like Pegg and fans of his work will find this worth the viewing just for him alone.
This is a film so good, that I want a sequel. Now. Tom, seriously buddy. It’s time. Make one of these every two years. Ethan’s done. It’s time for IMF to promote him. He’s done with fieldwork. Let him oversee teams. Bring in a new pointman to work with Ethan’s team. I want more Q, more Meyer’s and a hell of a lot more Luther. Come on, I mean, Rhames is awesome. He deserves a regular gig…and we as an audience deserve more films exactly like this. Don’t worry, you can still appear in the films – show up for a couple days or a week of shooting – overseeing the team…maybe even the occasional surprise wild stunt to save their bacon. But this is exactly the type of film we need to see a lot more of. Mission: Impossible was a great series…and M:I3 could be the beginning of a great series of films. Think it over, Tom. Seriously.
This isn’t Mission: Impossible 3. This is Mission: Impossible – The Good One. The really good one. It’s an action blockbuster geek film, made by geeks for geeks. But Joe Six-Pack is gonna have a hell of a time too. One of those rare summer films that actually delivers on everything Summer films ‘promise’. Highly recommended for bitter M:I fans who have been waiting for the proper treatment of the material, anyone who enjoys action films, Abram fans…and pretty much anyone with a pulse that doesn’t look down their nose at movies with big stars or budgets.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.
This reviewer will self-destruct for even thinking about using this e-mail tagline.