Mission Impossible Retrospective Part 3


J.J. Abrams attempts to tether Mission: Impossible with both forlorn heart and continuity neither of which is required. This series of films are episodic by design and can be stripped down to the elemental pleasures of globe-trotting yarns. For a film with a skid-row in media res torture opening, the film’s tonal shifts from morose to rip-roaring (ex. The Vatican City infiltration) are a tad jarring.

Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman dabble with widening our scope of interest into the IMF team but Maggie Q, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and even Ving Rhames are quickly overshadowed by Simon Pegg’s sublime comic relief Benji Dunn. The aesthetic that Abrams elects is a grungy 24 vibe with the spycraft occurring in dark, silhouetted corridors and filmed with unsteady handheld camerawork.

In my humble opinion, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen Davien might be one of my favorite screen villains ever. He speaks in dispassionate tones as if he doesn’t indulge in coffee talk with his captors. His placidly contemptuous attitude towards the composed Ethan is a beautiful counterpoint. He is forthright and matter-of-fact with his threats towards Ethan’s spouse Julia (Michelle Monaghan) and there isn’t an indication that he would be remorseful about killing her on a whim (“Whoever she is, I’m gonna find her and I’m gonna hurt her”).

I admire the notion of Ethan’s dalliance with Julia than the rudderless execution of it. The scene where Ethan discreetly tells Julia that he must furlough on an assignment is poorly hampered by flagrant green screen and a stillborn tempo. It’s the third film in a franchise with no endgame in sight. Why belabor Ethan’s unfounded desire to retire?

Since the second film abused the latex-mask convention, Abrams intelligently enriches the third film with a painstaking glimpse into how the doppelganger masks are molded and the vocal-cord synchronicity, are achieved. For me, the apex of nerve-tingling thrills is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge siege where Davien is salvaged by his operatives and Cruise is nearly flanked by drone missiles. Cruise is clearly jostled by wires into a car in the proximity during the impact and his stuntwork is peerless in its verisimilitude.

Of the CIA overlords who have disbanded the IMF, Laurence Fishburne’s Theodore Brassel might be the most intimidating in its patriotism and written with the most literary prose (“And he remains invisible. He’s a goddamn invisible man. I mean Wells, not Ellison.”). The MacGuffin (the Rabbit’s Foot in this case) is an almost inessential tool for the plot but that doesn’t prevent Mission: Impossible III from being a visceral neutron bomb.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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