At this point in the Mission: Impossible series, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), has gotten out of his active field work. We saw him in the last two films risking life and limb to save the world, but at this point, he’s happy with the home life. He’s about to married to a lovely woman named Julia (Michelle Monaghan), and only trains people these days. However, that probably wouldn’t make for a terribly exciting movie, so soon enough he’s got a villain to stop and heists to pull off.
Of course, because the first film begins in medias res, we know the point the film must eventually reach. In that scene, we see the villain, a black market dealer named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), intimidating Hunt while threatening Julia’s life. So, we know that, until we see that scene, neither of them can die. Knowing this takes a little bit of the tension out of some of the scenes leading up to there, because we know that nothing terribly bad can happen. Seeing Hunt lead from building to building, potentially falling to his death, can’t fail because his character has to reach a certain part in the story before death is even a possibility.
Anyway, there’s a thing named the “Rabbit’s Foot,” this story’s McGuffin, which will serve as the object of desire for both Davian and the team that Hunt puts together—this time consisting of the returning Luther (Ving Rhames), and newcomers Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen (Maggie Q). The initial plan is to capture Davian and bring him to the agency for interrogation, but when that goes wrong, Julia is captured and Hunt finds himself with 48 hours to steal the Rabbit’s Foot for the villain.
Like the first film, there is more than one heist scene. Each one is very exciting, relatively creative, and always fun. This is the first film in the series where bouts of drama are scattered throughout, showing the progression from the initial installment. That film had no drama or character development, while the second had some at the beginning but nothing afterward. Even the secondary characters are given some depth this time around.
The result is the most complete film thus far in the Mission: Impossible series. It has both the action and the drama, which leads to a satisfactory emotional conclusion. I mean, there’s still a large amount of film, chronologically speaking, after the opening scene, and everything after that point is weighted quite heavily. Seeing Hunt’s quest to save his girlfriend is quite fun, and while the final scene isn’t as visually impressive or inventive as the one in the first film, it is more dramatic.
Mission: Impossible III is the most complete film in the series up to this point.
It does all this while still making complete sense, despite the numerous plot twists and misdirection present throughout. As a total package, this film tops both previous films. It doesn’t quite have the same memorable moments as Mission: Impossible, and the pure action scenes are better in Mission: Impossible II, if only because there’s more danger to the majority of them—since we don’t know who will live or die—but this is the first film in the series that works from start to finish without any moments that don’t quite add up.
I think I can watch Tom Cruise run for hours on end. There’s one scene near the end of the film where Cruise is running through Shanghai alongside a river and it’s a wonderful unbroken shot that goes on for a good minute or so. He’s on a full-on sprint, and it’s just so beautiful. There’s something about it, perhaps because he puts so much into it, that makes it fascinating. The same can be said about most of the things that Cruise does, really, and it’s the main reason that I like watching him as an actor.
He makes everything he’s done in this series feel so real, even if it’s not. He does many of his own stunts, and there isn’t an overuse of CGI, and he’s so charming that watching him grin and laugh his way through the movies is so enjoyable. They’ve all been made by talented filmmakers who have brought something unique to the table, and with Cruise at the lead and behind many of the decisions made—he’s been a producer on all three—all three have been interesting for varying reasons.
This is also the first film to have a compelling villain. While there’s some misdirection and twists which change who is behind everything—a prime suspect early on is the head of the agency that employs our hero, played by Laurence Fishburne—Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers such a venomous performance that he’s impossible not to despise. He’s so effective that he actually takes some of the spotlight off Cruise, which is so difficult to do. He plays the part with a mixture of insanity and efficiency, and it makes for a memorable role.
Mission: Impossible III is the most complete film in the series up to this point. It has some good action, some solid drama, and characters that are deep enough to have some emotional payout at the end. If there’s anything negative to be said about it, it’s that nothing is exceptional; it’s all just very good, with the exception of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tremendous villain. It doesn’t really have any major problems, though, and is definitely worth seeing.
Conclusion: Mission: Impossible III is a solid film that rivals the original in terms of quality.
Recommendation: At this point, you’re either in or you’re out. I hope you’re in. Mission: Impossible III is lots of fun.