Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2006
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dan Mindel
WRITERS: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, J.J. Abrams
MUSIC: Michael Giacchino
In every successful film franchise, there is always that one film where everything clicked and helped define the series. It also doesn’t have to be the first film that necessarily does that. In the James Bond series, even though both “Dr. No” and “From Russia with Love” are stellar films, it was the third film “Goldfinger” that finally brought all the right ingredients together and every film since that one has tried to live up to it.
For the “Mission: Impossible” series, it is also the third film in the series where everything finally comes together. Granted, the first two films had their leading star with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, but the first film tried to be too convoluted for its own good and “Mission: Impossible 2” was a film that was made for the time it was released. “Mission: Impossible III” defined what the franchise was in addition to being a stellar entry in its own right.
In Ethan’s third “Mission”, he has left field operations and become an instructor for new agents. He has also met Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), a woman that he is now engaged to and the wedding is just around the corner. During a party celebrating their impending marriage, Ethan is contacted and is instructed that one of his first pupils, Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), has been captured and IMF wants her back due to the information she has on Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a black market dealer that is seeking the Rabbit’s Foot, an unknown weapon with potentially unspeakable destructive capabilities.
Despite rescuing Lindsey, she is soon killed when a small explosive detonates in her head. Ethan decides to pick up where Lindsey left off and attempts to capture Owen with his support team. The only question is whether or not Ethan can get past his quest for revenge and if he can keep Julia safe from the secret life that she doesn’t even know about.
The movie’s story cleverly sets up that this is a chase for a highly destructive weapon. In reality, it is about Ethan and his attempts to live a normal life while not being able to escape his life as a spy. This is ultimately what makes the film work along with several cleverly directed action set pieces.
The movie opens with the daring rescue op, but it continues with many more great action sequences afterwards. These include a trip to Shanghai, infiltrating the Vatican, a major breakout plan on a bridge and Ethan’s climactic chase where he tries to track down Owen for a final confrontation. The movie was the successful directing debut for J.J. Abrams, a man who had already established himself by cutting his teeth on shows including “Alias” and “Lost” and he proved he was ready for the big screen with this adventure.
Finally, there are the performances. I was glad to see that there was more emphasis on Ethan’s support team in this film. That’s what sets him apart from his counterparts including James Bond and Jason Bourne as he depends on a reliable crew. In this film, that includes the ever dependable Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and it also introduces us to Benji, played by Simon Pegg who provides some great comedic relief and he would go on to star in “Ghost Protocol” and “Rogue Nation”.
Cruise once again establishes why he is considered one of the greatest action stars. He does most of his own stunts and is also a charismatic leading man. Thankfully, his chemistry with Monaghan is also very real and I believed in their relationship way more than I did with the one he had with Thandie Newton’s Nyah in “M:I2”. This is critical when considering that the movie is ultimately about this relationship by the end of it.
Yes, the third “Mission” is where the direction of the franchise is firmly established. Everything from the story all the way to the stellar action comes together to provide an explosive ride that I can recommend to anyone who is a fan of action spy films.