' ' Cinema Romantico: Mission: Impossible III

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mission: Impossible III

Let me say right up front that I’m a loyal devotee of the television show “Alias”. I’m not a devotee of many TV shows but “Alias” has always been one of the few that’s done it for me. I mention this because the director of “Mission Impossible III” – J.J. Abrams – is also the creator of “Alias”. This is important because, essentially, the film is just a big screen version of “Alias”. Astute movie viewers will notice the screenplay is credited not only to Mr. Abrams, but to two other writers who have authored numerous “Alias” episodes. And it shows. The movie is filled to the brim with all the traits that are going to be quite familiar to other “Alias” geeks. It’s the sort of movie where the line “It’s a set-up” comes an instant before a car in the background explodes. It’s the sort of movie where seeing a bridge immediately makes you think not of "something which a car may cross" but "action set-piece". It’s the sort of movie where a character can discuss the difficulties of marriage while at the same time having a latex mask of the villainous mastermind pulled on over his head. In short, if you like “Alias” you will probably like this movie more than most people.

As the movie opens, the aforementioned villainous mastermind Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffmann) has a gun pressed to the head of Tom Cruise’s fiancé while Tom Cruise himself is strapped to a chair across the way. Davian wants Cruise to tell him the location of the Rabbit’s Foot – the film’s Macguffin. He will count to “10” and if Cruise doesn't tell him, he's going to shoot the fiance. This is another hallmark of “Alias” – beginning with the end. It’s probably the most effective scene in the entire movie.

A word here about Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He is spectacular and makes me wish more character actors would take on the “bad guy” roles in summer movies. I loved it so much because he plays it in a way I did not expect. I expected him to chew scenery the same as I chew gum a morning after ingesting a few too many of my dearly beloved Sierra Nevada’s. Instead, he is a restrained, kind of monotone evil. He plays it more like a guy who requires a decent cup of coffee in the morning but is never able to get it.

After the attention-grabbing opening, we find ourselves at a party hosted by Cruise (note: his character name is Ethan Hunt but while you watch you're completely aware of the fact that Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise) and his fiance. But, of course, Cruise gets a call and meets up with his "handler" (Billy Crudup). He is advised his protege (Keri Russell) has been kidnapped. And despite having retired from active field duty, he agrees to lead the rescue mission. This sets the outlandish plot in motion.

Unlike most summer blockbusters, "Mission: Impossible III" makes an attempt at actual characterization - primarily in the form of the relationship between Cruise and his fiance. However, it is still a summer blockbuster and thus most of those attempts fail. Whereas on "Alias" Abrams had actual time to devote to making the characters feel authentic, here the primary requirement is to get from action scene to action scene.

The action scenes are, of course, ludicrous. One would expect a rather epic build-up to breaking into the Vatican but no. Tom Cruise says they’re going to do it and suddenly they’re in Rome, he has a bad Italian accent, he scales the wall and poof! He’s in the Vatican. At one point, there is a helicopter chase through a field of energy windmills while Tom Cruise struggles to save Keri Russell who has some type of exploding capsule implanted in her head that is on the verge of detonating and another of our heroes dangles outside out of the helicopter by her fingertips simultaneously. Oh yeah, one helicopter is also firing missiles at the other. I was laughing out loud during this whole sequence. It was kind of a grab-bag of summer movie action. How much can we fit in at once?

The third act is naturally devoted to the requisite “twist”. This “twist” is fairly stupid in as much as it feels like the team of writers reached this point and realized they hadn’t included a “twist” yet. Therefore, it falls pretty flat. But oh well. It’s a summer movie. And as much as I hate most of the brainless action movies in summer, I didn’t hate this one. I kind of enjoyed it. It’s really just an episode of “Alias”, remember?

And as for Billy Crudup, well, all I ask is that you not judge him based on what you see here. After all, even the best actor of his generation can find the need to renovate his kitchen.


Anonymous said...

I saw this movie and thought it sucked. But then, I've never really cared for Alias.
I actually liked the first two. The first one had a bit of intelligence behind it, and John Woo's bombast in the second redeemed the otherwise cheesy storyline. All we're left with in this one is Cruise running around a lot and being charming--and he's good at that--but a story seen a mile away, and lackluster action scenes.
I thought it was like television--keep throwing something at them so they don't leave. Dude, it's the movies, we'll stay.

Rory Larry said...

Since I whole heartedly disagreed with almost everything you said and had previously written my thoughts about on my own pathetic blog, I oddly enough fixated on something that bothered me.

>>he has a bad Italian accent<<

Why do you say it was a bad Italian accent? I too questioned what an Italian would think of Ol Tom's Italian. So I went an asked an Italian, easy to do since we have one in my department. I discussed with her what it would mean to make a statement like that. So often the accent one thinks of is a outrageous stereotype of actual accents. I convinced her to listen to what clips I could find of ol Tom speaking Italian in the movie. Yes I know how ridiculous this all sounds and is.

She, being the expert, said that from what she could tell his pronounciation was pretty good. She did note that at the scene in the Vatican when he says good day to a priest, that you can clearly tell that he is not Italian, by contrast with the Italian native speaker, but she was impressed by Tom's grasp of the language as far as she could tell from a few lines of dialogue.

Maybe we should cut Tom some slack on his Italian. The movie, however, deserves no apologists, it was bad. On a related side note, my japanese collegue says Tom Cruise' Japanese pronounciation is wretched beyond belief. I'm not sure where I'm going but I wasted a good hour having above given conversation and I felt the need to report

Anonymous said...

What's happening? I thought we could all make fun of this crap-tastic movie that I haven't seen. Instead, Nick defends the plot, Rory defends Tom Cruise, and I feel inclined to remember the genius of a certain lyricist when he said, "The check's in the mail. Would I lie to you?" That man? Weird Al Yankovic.

Try the summer squash. It's delicious.