Mission: Improbable (yet succeeds)

It goes without saying that Tom Cruise's recent antics of Scientology hawking, couch jumping, psychiatry attacking and South Park censoring (to name a few) have done close-to-irrepairable damage to his once impeccable image. In the space of a year's time, he's become an intriguingly dichotomous person -- at once the most ridiculed and powerful actor in show business. Even though this negative press has kept people away, whether in protest or just because they got the 'creeps', from Mission: Impossible III.

Despite all this negative publicity surrounding its seemingly unhinged star, the reviews for Mission: Impossible III have on average been not rotten, but often quite disparate. Just perusing over a few you'll have one finding it to be awesome and another it to be dreck. I'll admit I have a prediliction (I did not know you were so kinky!) for reading spoiler-free reviews prior to a film and detailed reviews afterwards. Of course, at the end of the day, overwhelmingly positive reviews won't make me go and negative reviews won't make me stay away. I will see what I want to see.

So, even though there is all this swirl around Tom Cruise, that didn't influence my choice to view the film. What has had more impact is the last one, M:I:ii, which sacrificed a lot of character development and plot for stunt acrobatics (expected of Director John Woo). It worked on a visual level, but otherwise it left me feeling rather disappointed. However, this time around, with J.J. Abrams (of 'Alias' and 'Lost' fame) on board to direct and script the film, I was more than curious to see what would happen. Certainly, I knew he wouldn't hire Tom Crooze.

In any event, somehow I found M:I:iii was playing in a theater right next door to where I work, and it was a slow evening, so I decided to take a gamble and see what it was all about. Here's 10 things I found out:
  1. It is by far the best of the three MI films. I know that this isn't saying a lot comparatively for some. I liked the first, and the second was pretty good. Neither are much more than neat espionage films. M:I:iii just flat out surpasses them. From the opening heart-stopping interrogation scene to the first end credit, the film rolls along at a riveting pace and never looks back. And you don't want it to.
  2. As with all action films, there is a degree of believability that you have to suspend in the action sequences. Once you get past that, the scenes are taut and exciting.
  3. Tom Cruise displays human emotions, draws empathy, somehow forms a character you like (i.e., not just some action guru), and actually mocks himself. Believe it or not someone actually mimics his 'couch jumping' episode in the film.
  4. It contains the most blatant macguffin since Pulp Fiction, and just like in that film, you couldn't care less. It's not important what it does, just that everybody wants it. J.J.'s script actually has fun with this.
  5. I want to marry Michelle Monaghan, too. She is sweet, emotional, and drop-dead gorgeous, without being of supermodel quality.
  6. The IMF team (Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Maggie Q), while clearly the support for Ethan Hunt, aren't relegated to the background and are each given multiple moments to shine.
  7. The dialog is peppered with great one-liners, subtle moments of character vulnerability, and intense exchanges, especially between Hunt and Owen Davian. Speaking of Owen Davian, Philip Seymour Hoffman didn't steal the movie, nor did he rescue it, but goddam can this guy play loathesome menace. Oh wait, that is an academy award on his mantle.
  8. Keri Russell's agent character was believable and incredibly moving. I will credit the writing and pacing as well as the performance. To go into detail would be to spoil.
  9. With J.J. on the job (and this is a Mission: Impossible film), you know that there's going to be plot twists amany. You kind of come to expect that all isn't what it seems, so I can say that I wasn't exactly surprised at the twists, but they were handled effectively. I will admit during once particularly shocking scene I was had, until I figured it out a few seconds later. Enough for me to smile at myself for enjoying what the film intended.
  10. It was worth the $7.50 and will be worth owning on DVD.
So, it's pretty apparently that I have been thoroughly brainwashed by Scientology's subliminal mind-control in this film. All hail Xenu and Tom Cruise!

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