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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mission Impossible III

I love Scientology. Oh, I don’t know anything about the “religion” itself, but I love the drama it seems to generate, especially when you attach the words “Tom” and “Cruise” to it. Apparently so do a lot of other people, and it has had the studio heads at Paramount sweating bullets all this past week because they were wondering if Tom’s hijinks of the last year or so would affect whether people would want to see Mission Impossible III or just keep their Eyes Wide Shut and hope Tom would finally disappear from the cover of every magazine in the world, taking Kate (“Don’t call her Katie anymore!”) Holmes and their baby Suri, thus answering our prayers and those of Nicole Kidman and Mimi Rogers.

I’ll admit it. When I went to the Essex Cinemas to see Mission Impossible III I did so with all sorts of snide comments skipping through my mind, replaying Tommy’s year of living dangerously
~ his jumping on Oprah’s couch, vocally sparring with Matt Lauer about the foolishness of psychiatry, his verbally pistol-whipping America’s Sweetheart Brooke Shields about her taking antidepressants while suffering post-partum depression, his bragging that he can cure alcoholism and heroin addiction with vitamins and exercise, his buying his own ultrasound machine so he and girlfriend Holmes could apparently play Pong with their fetus in utero, and, of course, his slavish devotion to and public pronouncements about his religion, especially as it related to Katie, er, Kate’s pregnancy and silent (shhhh!) delivery. How odd then that a man committed to making sure that his baby would be born in absolute quiet would end up making the loudest movie of the year.

Not that this should come as a surprise. The Mission Impossible franchise has always been
about explosions, whether they be from bombs, bullets, missiles, all modes of transportation crashing, bodies falling through glass, onto pavements, roofs, or one another, and Mission Impossible III does its’ best to supply as much of each as it can in the course of two hours. It even tosses in a bit of romance, though primarily because without love the graphic torture scenes wouldn’t seem like such high stakes.

This Mission, helmed by Director JJ Abrams (tv’s Lost, Alias, and Felicity), does an excellent job in bringing the franchise back to its’ television roots, something that seemed missing in the first two installments. True, these are “Tom Cruise Movies” but the IMF is supposed to be a team effort, and while Tom’s character, Ethan Hunt, had help in Mission Impossible, and Mission Impossible II, the supporting cast seemed more like subordinates than partners. Here, it takes the whole team to bring in the bad guy, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote; The Talented Mr. Ripley), or rather to stop him anyway, from his nefarious plan to obtain the “rabbit’s foot”, a treasure that looks suspiciously like the inner workings of a nuclear warhead. To get the “rabbit’s foot” Davian is more than happy to torture and kill anyone who gets in his way, and dare you guess that includes poor clueless Julia Hunt (Michelle Monaghan, Mr. & Mrs. Smith; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Ethan’s new bride, who thinks her husband works as a paper-pusher at the Department of Transportation. Curiously, Ms. Monaghan bears a striking resemblance to Kat(i)e Holmes and her chemistry with Cruise comes off almost as staged except that Monaghan is a better actress and can actually show some emotions in front of a camera.

As happens in these films, much complicated crisscrossing of international borders transpires that takes the team, including Ving Rhames (Dawn of the Dead; Dark Blue), back for his third outing as Luther Stickel, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, (Match Point; Alexander) as Irish newcomer Declan, and Maggie Q (Around the World in 80 Days; Taped) as the exotic Chinese agent Zhen first to Germany to rescue captured agent Lindsey Ferris (Keri Russell, The Upside of Anger, tv’s Felicity), then to the Vatican to follow-up on who had captured Ferris, and then on to the US to investigate some sneaky business within the IMF itself that may or may not go as far as Director Brassel (Laurence Fishburne, Akeelah and the Bee; The Matrix trilogy) himself. In the midst of all of this Ethan and Company must also continue in their search for the missing “rabbit’s foot” and the ever evil Davian, eventually leading the audience to a spectacular thirty minute climax in Shanghai, China, with Tom putting Spiderman to shame as he swings from skyscraper to skyscraper before coming face-to-face with Davian, who is waiting with a loaded gun poised at Julia’s head.

I don’t think it will be much of a spoiler to reveal one bit of the ending, but if you don’t want to know, then this is the time to stop reading. Now.

For the rest of you, it should comes as no great shock to realize that, of course, Ethan saves Julia from the bad guys (yes, there’s more than one. Isn’t it always the way? Damned moles). As they walk hand-in-hand across a picturesque bridge in beautiful old Shanghai Ethan tries to explain himself in the last seconds of the movie. “I’m not really with the DOT. I’m an operative, with a secret agency.” Julia laughs “Get out!” she scoffs as the credits roll, just cutting her off from the real end of the movie we *know* should have been there.

“Can I join?” Julia should have asked.

Ethan, eyes twinkling, smiles his million dollar smile. “Well sure, but first you’ll have to take a personality test.”

I kid because I care, Tom. I would never tell anyone not to see Mission Impossible III, now at the Essex Cinemas. Frankly, I liked it better than the previous two, and I doubt Tom’s got a thing to worry about with audiences. They may think his landing gear doesn’t come all the way down, but they love these stories with the big explosions in them. As long as he keeps putting bombs in his pictures then he doesn’t have to worry about having bombs as his pictures.

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