Mission: Impossible 3
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Mission: Impossible 3

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All too often a film based on a popular television series falls flat. Usually the reason is the movie version tries too hard to recapture the flair or camp factor that made the TV show popular in the first place. One exception to the rule has been the Mission: Impossible franchise. When you combine the premise of the television show with a huge budget for special effects, one of the most popular actors ever and a director with a large following you have all the makings for a summer blockbuster hit. The basic theme here is so simple it is brilliant. A leader of a highly covert team selects experts from various fields to perform some extremely high risk mission. The requisite warning ‘if any of the team are caught or killed the secretary will disavow any knowledge of the operative or the mission’ is always provided.

Just to tease the audience the film begins in the middle of the story. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his fiancée Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan) are being held captive by the master arch villain Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). As things appear most dire for the pair the time line rolls back to five days before. Hunt has retired from his position as the team leader for the IMF, the Impossible Missions Force. He wants little more than to trade the dangerous albeit exciting life as a spy for the domestic bless living with his fiancée Julia, a nurse. He has to use all his deceptive abilities to convince Julia that he is a traffic manager for the Department of Transportation. Hunt is contacted by his former boss, Operations Director Musgrave (Billy Crudup) who pleads with him to return for a very important mission. Hunt is reluctant until he sees a video of his former protégée IMF agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell). She had been working in Berlin when she was captured by the evil Davian. Hunt relents and once again puts together his specialized team. For this mission he selects Luther Stickel (Ving Rhames), Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and Zhen Lei (Maggie Q). the team manage to extract Farris but a few minutes later her head explodes. Davian had implanted a nitroglycerin capsule that he was able to detonate. Shortly after the funeral Hunt receives a piece of mail that Farris posted earlier. Under the stamp there was a microdot. Hunt decides to go after Davian himself and without permission of his bosses he brigs the team back together and tells the clueless Julia that he has to go away on a business trip. She is worried about their relationship so to ally her fears he marries her in the hospital where she works. The trail leads them to Vatican City where Hunt, using the trademark peel off mask, disguises himself a Davian to obtain a briefcase with the clues to a sinister plot. It turns out that Davian is involved with a biologically deadly substance called the ‘Rabbit’s Foot’. They manage to apprehend Davian and on the way back to the States Davian not only resists Hunt’s interrogation he threatens the lives of Hunt and his new bride. While bringing Davian over a bridge over Chesapeake Bay Luther discloses to Hunt the contents of the microdot. It contained proof that Farris was set up by a traitor in the midst of the IMF. In a high action sequence Davian is freed by his henchmen. When he returns home Hunt discovers that Julia has been kidnapped by Davian. Hunt is told that unless he can deliver the ‘Rabbit’s Foot’ to Davian within 48 hours Julia will be killed. Hunt is detained by the IMF, escapes, gets the ‘Rabbit’s Foot’ and takes it to Davian with seconds to spare. Instead of living up tot eh bargain Davian wounds Julia by shooting her in the leg, captures Hunt and places an explosive capsule in his head. At this point we are pretty much back to the scene shown at the start of the film. The remainder of the flick is just how Hunt will manage to save the day.

The plot may seem just a bit overly complicated but after all that is true to the television series. Unlike a lot of summer blockbuster actions flicks this one requires a modicum of concentration on the part of the audience. Still, the story line is there to provide some rational for what you see a film like this for, the incredible stunt work. Unlike many action franchises the Mission: Impossible series uses a different director each time. This does ensure something fresh with each film. It also means that your enjoyment of any particular film will be affected heavily but how well you like the style of that director. Following the luminary likes of Brian DePalma and John Woo, J.J. Abrams was able to mold this film into his signature style. Known for such cryptic television as Alias and Lost Abrams tries to humanize Hunt more than the previous two films. He instills the man behind the spy letting the audience see a glimpse of an agent between missions. Naturally, what matters here is the action. No one will be disappointed in that department. Helicopters explode, Hunt is force to jump off buildings, run, fight, run some more and explode even more cars and various parts of the scenery. For Abrams who is more used to the format imposed by television he did well with his first foray to the big screen.

No matter what you may think of his religious affiliation or recent media faux pas there is a reason why Tom Cruise can pack a theater, the man delivers in films like this. With his trademark bad boy, over the shoulder smile he can woo the ladies in the audience while giving the guys enough action to keep them from getting up and going for popcorn. It is not that Cruise can act he just is able to act in the scaffolding of an action flick. I wouldn’t want to see him in Hamlet but when it comes to running and fighting he is one of the best. Michelle Monaghan sells her performance as the fiancée nurse. She gets the audience to believe why she overlooks so many aspects of Hunt’s life. The real gem here is the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He plays Davian almost like a James Bond super villain but gives the stereotype a little twist. Instead of portraying Davian over the top he pulls back just enough to make the bad guy believable. After all if you were a billionaire super villain you wouldn’t need to brag to the hero or create a hideout in some remote volcano. Hoffman plays Davian as a man who is successful in business and uses the same traits to get anything he wants. His evil is based on his sense of entitlement.

With the release of this film to DVD Paramount has provided a disc that you can use to impress your friends by showing off your home theater. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is exceptional. There is a pan & scan version but getting this variation will take away the fantastic scope of the video. The color palette is one of the best I have seen in years. There is no bleeding of the colors; each one is distinct and vibrant. The contrast is on the mark with no blurring. There are no edge enhancement flaws or any other errors in the video mastering. The Dolby 5.1 audio is spectacular. Each of your speakers will get a workout. This is not a movie to watch late at night. It was meat to be played loud. The front speakers are well balanced. The rear speakers give more than just ambience they enfold you in the sound field. The sub woofer is almost constantly active shaking the room with each explosion. You don’t feel like you are watching a film you feel lie you are in it. The deluxe set is the way to go when you purchase this film. The street price difference between it and the regular widescreen version is only a couple of bucks. The extras include a commentary track featuring Cruise and Abrams. They chat about the production and how arduous the filming was. Fortunately, Abrams avoids mentioning post partum depression so Cruise is able to stay focused on the film. The making of featurette is better than most. It details just how elaborate the process of doing the stunts has become. It takes stunt men, wires, and CGI to make a few seconds of action on the screen. There are also some deleted scenes to round things out. This film may have suffered at the box office because of some of the media hype of the star but it delivers what you want in this type of flick, almost non stop action.

Posted 10/20/06

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