Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mission: Impossible III

Hunt be Nimble, Hunt be Quick!

The burning question in everyone's mind will be, does this third Mission live up to its hype, justify its mass publicity, and above all, surpass the first two movies? In my opinion, M:I:III makes it an explosive start to the summer lineup, lives up to the hype it built, but though it took on a more personal look into the life of Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, I still felt, and no offense to JJ Abrams, that while it balanced action with personal drama effectively, somehow it lacked that X-factor oomph after all the smoke has cleared, to truly make it one heck of a classic action thriller.

Sure, elements of M:I are there, the mysterious calls, high octane action and technology driven gadgets which self-destruct in 5 seconds, save for the missing traditional opening sequence where images and agents photos are juxtaposed as Lalo Schifrin's theme comes blaring. But that nit pick aside, and don't get me wrong, I did enjoy JJ Abrams contribution to the franchise on the whole.

The gem in this movie is not that large explosion on the bridge where everything blows, or those action scenes in Shanghai. Rather, it's the first few minutes. It's truly intense, and I'd say it's one of the better suspenseful openings of films this year, which sucks you in right into the heat of things, and slowly demands an emotional response from you, which is quite rare in a genre movie like this. It provided Cruise a platform to showcase his acting range of fear, moments of calm, intense rage, desperation, all rolled into one, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, just absolute chilling. If you think that the teaser trailer piece by him is good, wait till you take a look over here, right at the start.

Ethan Matthew Hunt the man is explored in depth, and faces domestic issues that most uniformed men do - the dreadful fear of a loved one put in harm's way. It never is easy to suppress those romantic and primal emotions, and it makes matters worse when you're an agent sworn to secrecy. Hunt in this movie explores this side of his humanity, as he gets embroiled in yet another impossible mission. And I thought given Cruise's recent relationship and marriage to Katie Holmes, it might have helped him to bring across those emotions fairly easily.

This time round, JJ Abrams made better use of the Team. Comprised of old hand Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen (Maggie Q), we see the classic IMF teamwork in action as they go from mission to mission, properly utilizing their skill sets. Well, that is until somewhere along the line where you start to realize that Stickell's the joker with the punchlines, Declan's a generic agent, and Zhen is a looker. Well, at least there's a team!

The main villain, Owen Davian (Hoffman), turned out to have very limited screen time, but the Academy Award winning actor managed to make the most out of it. Although his Davian character is one of the more ambiguous villains of late, with agendas not fully spelt out, he gives you the feeling that he's one whom you will do your utmost not to mess with. Either finish him off and do it twice for good measure, or suffer the consequences this cool killer dishes out.

There are some nice "first times" in this movie, like watching how the agents banter amongst themselves while executing their plans to a T, how a latex mask is created in real time, and the showing of the interiors of the highly secretive IMF office, but there are some rehashes from the first two movies, and even references from Cruise's earlier movies like Top Gun (motorcycle alongside runway anyone?). Shades of plot repetition like a mole in the organization (I think every secret organization will surely have one), leaping from buildings (I think this is a Hunt specialty) and techniques like falling and breaking fall with the use of cables just inches off the ground, are tongue-in-cheek like references.

If you're a nitpicker, there are also quite a number of obvious security-related flaws in the plot (hey, you're IMF!) - use of codenames is a must, as is the procedure for transporting highly dangerous criminals. It's probably broken a number of standard protocols, but hey, it's a summer movie, so please don't look too much into it (that's a reminder to self). On a fun side, it did have a poke at the US foreign policy, but that's only a poke, before tossing that idea aside from boring audiences who are in for some cool set action pieces.

The much beloved theme surprising becomes a little low key in the score, so don't hold your breath as you wait for it to come on. And if you have a question as to why DHL has so much clout in the marketing efforts, the movie will provide you a satisfactory reason.

All in all, M:I:III provided a fair share of action and quiet moments, personal vendetta versus grande plots and schemes. Will I root for another M:I sequel? Sure, why not, as this installment proved that there is still some mileage in the franchise, after the disastrous M:I:II. It's a good start to the summer.

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