Does attending a free advance screening of Mission: Impossible III create an unethical act of support for Tom Cruise? Last week I asked this question, and Thinking Fool replied that it was okay, so long as I promise to slash the actor's tires the next time I find myself in Los Angeles. I choose to accept this mission, with one qualification: I'll only wreak havoc on a convertible, sports car, motorcycle, or other vehicle unlikely to transport baby Suri.
While watching the movie, I couldn't help but think it was a big screen variation on director J.J. Abrams' claim to fame, Alias. If I can watch that for free at home, why would I pay for it in a movie theater? Oh wait... I didn't pay for it. But others will.
As a rookie feature director, Abrams has the goods, ratcheting up the tension from the first scene. (He relies upon his TV technique of starting at a climactic moment, and then going back to tell what happened earlier.) Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is pulled back into action mode to rescue one of his trainees, and by doing so ticks off a seriously bad guy. The missions are intricate as always, and there's less reliance on the super-realistic human masks (one of two main problems I had with Mission: Impossible II). That said, I still think it's employed one too many times.
The movie is infused with a sharp sense of humor, another asset of the Alias connection. Most of it centers around Ethan's spy team, pictured above. Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) gets more to say and do this time, and isn't always stuck behind the computer. (The minimal use of this character was the other main problem of the previous installment.) He's notably critical of Tom's -- uh, Ethan's -- belief that he can settle down happily in their line of work.
The plot's basics aren't bad, but the movie's major flaw is keeping the evil plan vague. There's a scene where an adversary justifies his actions, but I kind of tuned him out. By the end, you still don't know what exactly Ethan was fighting for, but then, neither does he. We're all denied sufficient clearance.
So how does it size up? When it comes to this particular film series, the main question you need to ask is this: whose cool voice issues the impossible mission? In the original, it was Henry Czerny, who played it extremely cool. The second film had Anthony Hopkins, who's generally no acting slouch, and provides an accent, but kinda phoned it in. This one features MasterCard spokesman (and friend of Tom) Billy Crudup, whose presence is entertaining, particularly in one scene where he supplies intel silently by harnessing Ethan's exceptional lip-reading skills.
The unspoken words between two men? Priceless.