May 11, 2006

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Mission Impossible 3 (PG-13)
J.J. Abrams brings much needed life and spark to the series in the whiz-bang Mission: Impossible III, Tom Cruise's third outing as agent Ethan Hunt.

What is the Abrams difference? Dialogue with a little more snap. Stunts made to outshine the stunts available weekly on 24 and Abrams' own Alias. A storyline that keeps us interested in the action nearly to the end despite that it is very similar to both earlier Mission: Impossible plot pieces and other thriller-type movies.

Also — SPOILER ALERT — I like to think that it is his personal gift to his longtime fans that Keri "Felicity" Russell goes to that big impossible mission in the sky early on in the movie.

Lindsay Ferris (Russell) holds a special place in Ethan Hunt's (Cruise) heart, for he is no longer an active Impossible Mission Force agent but a teacher of the IMFies of tomorrow and Lindsay is his very first one to go on active duty. As the movie begins, Ethan and his fiancĂ©e Julia (Michelle Monaghan), who believes Ethan has a boring desk job involving traffic patterns, are having an engagement party when Ethan is summoned by a mysterious call to go to a secret meeting point. There, another IMF guy, John (Billy Crudup), tells him that Lindsay has been captured and asks him to go on a mission to save her. Though out of the field for a while, Ethan decides to suit up for the rescue mission along with Luther (Ving Rhames), the requisite sexy-girl agent and a generic muscley guy. They travel to Berlin where an assortment of nifty gadgets and nice shootin' get Lindsay safely on the escape helicopter where — SPOILER ALERT — she finds out that she has a small bomb in her head and it explodes and we are spared any more attempts by Russell to act.

Then the real fun begins with a peeved Ethan searching for Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the evil evil arms trader extraordinaire who is responsible for Lindsay's death. Owen proves the very best kind of villain as he has no conscience but does have both a love of and talent for revenge. Thus begins a series of chases — all punctuated by screen-filling explosions and improbable survival — culminating in an extended action sequence involving breaking-and-entering, dodging Chinese officials, a few fake-out deaths and some fancy shooting, all in lovely Shanghai.

Mission: Impossible posters always emphasize the cartoon-level action (the outrunning of fire or missiles or the immediate recovery from being tossed about a bridge by the force of an explosion) and the shiny orange fire of stuff blowing up. But it's really this third movie that seems to have the most fun with these Impossible staples. The plot and its requisite twists are perfectly serviceable, the characters are as developed as they need to be and the writing is just enough above average for you to realize that you are actually listening to what the characters are saying. Sure, Abrams steals the geeky tech guy (played here by Simon Pegg) directly from Alias and Hoffman celebrates his Oscar win by chomping every last piece of the scenery. But Mission: Impossible III is good enough and does exactly what it should — provide loud, explodey fun. B


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