In an almost perfect blending of the MI film franchise and the soon-to-be-retired-into-syndication Alias television show, the multi-talented J.J. Abrams delivers another manic-paced adrenalin rushing full-tilt workout thriller without a point. Not that it matters.
For fans who are along just for the ride, what they get is a genuine run-along with the Tom Cruise character Ethan Hunt, who, with his new wife Julia (Katie Holmes look-alike Michelle Monaghan), is threatened by the newly minted Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman as the really bad guy, Owen Davian.
When Ethan is lured back into active duty to the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) to rescue Lindsey (Keri Russell, star of Felicity fame, a show created by Abrams), an agent that Ethan still seems to have feelings for from the days he trained her. Davian is at the center of her kidnapping and Ethan tracks him down at a charity fund-raiser at the Vatican. The search for an artifact called the “Rabbit’s Foot” becomes the axis on which the action pivots.
I think it is interesting that so much of the action takes place in mainland China - the big new audience for U.S. films.
Someone told me that the whole attraction of the original television series was how well the IMF team worked together. But in MI III, we get another new team except for Ving Rhames who returns as Luther. Sure, the team works in a highly choreographed fashion as we would expect but neither the team nor its handler (played by the underappreciated Billy Crudup) or superior (played by the ever-better Lawrence Fishburn – if you have a chance, see him in Akeelah and the Bee) never answer the question: why all the fuss? I think that we never find out is part of the film franchise’s charm (and Alias television show which I like much more) and the lead into the sequel if MI III makes it at the box office. MI was about discovering a traitor agent, MI II was about finding and destroying a potentially devastating disease, and MI III is about a Rabbit’s Foot, a canister with secrets, something like the Rambaldi Artifact of Alias.
All the other reviewers and critics are talking about Tom Cruise so I will take a pass.
This may seem like a short review, but in a film (franchise) like Mission: Impossible III, it’s all about style. If the style IS the content, then it’s about entertainment (or recreation, diversion) for its own sake. This opens up a whole arena for conversation about the role of entertainment (as well as recreation and leisure) in modern life.
Mission: Impossible III is a pointless ride to enjoy - for those who can. Meanwhile, we mourn the passing of Alias, my guilty pleasure for these past five years. I kept expecting Sydney Bristow - Jennifer Garner - to appear in MI:III.
What is it about conspiracy theories and hidden messages hidden in old artifacts (and the Vatican) that so engages us? Enter The Da Vinci Code. I am seeing it at the press screening on Wednesday. Watch this space.