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“There is a point where bold becomes stupid.” Ving Rhames’s character Luthor speaks these words and couldn’t be more right. Just by looking at the evolution of the Mission Impossible series, one can see a bold example of cerebral storytelling shot by virtuoso Brian De Palma and a cold, mechanical showing, of a really stupid haircut, filmed by John Woo, who still hasn’t matched the brilliance of his final Hong Kong piece Hard Boiled stateside. Mission Impossible III definitely could have fallen in either camp—my thoughts leaned towards stupid—however, thanks, I’m sure in no small part to J.J. Abrams, we are given an enjoyable piece of popcorn action infused with just the right amount of heart.

Unlike the first film incarnation, which had multiple characters backseat-bound to the intricate story, and the second, a vanity project with everything on the periphery of Tom Cruise as an expendable device, we are now given a look into what makes the characters who they are and allow us to have an emotional tie to them, while still being treated with some high-powered eye-candy. There is a definite comparison to Abrams’s TV show “Lost” as the story is shot with a few flashbacks to help show the audience exposition. We aren’t treated like babies and fed with an update on where the characters have been at the beginning. Instead we are thrown right into the struggle before being jarred into the past to see how we arrived at that point. Abrams seems a master at character development in as few words as possible. He needs only one sentence to explain the past life of Michelle Monaghan’s Jules at an early engagement party scene. We don’t even need to be told what she does for a living because Ethan will visit her at the hospital. Is she a doctor or nurse? It doesn’t matter, she helps people and that itself adds to her character.

Superb acting is shown along with the elaborate, non-stop action. Besides Cruise, who does all he is asked, everyone is given a secondary role that they run with. No one seems on the fringe and all are integral to the plot. Monaghan does a good job of being the love interest who is not frail and defenseless—known by the basejumping she was doing when she met Hunt, this fearlessness helps the audience accept what her character is asked to do towards the end—and builds upon her resume after a nice turn in last year’s grossly overlooked Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang; Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q, and Rhames play the action heroes to perfection, exuding kidlike glee upon accomplishing an impossible task; Billy Crupup gives a nice understated performance as Ethan’s contact at the agency; and Laurence Fishburne infuses some welcome straightfaced sarcasm. Not surprisingly, Philip Seymour Hoffman is also fantastic as the villain, adding credibility to a film that needed it after the debacle that was MI:II. The best, however, is scenestealing Simon Pegg, who is so funny he reminded me of how much I loved Shaun of the Dead and am anticipating the forthcoming Hot Fuzz.

Overall, Mission Impossible III delivers on the action as promised, but also shows heart. Everything is done for love and that really does help us follow the journey and feel for these people as they try to juggle saving the world along with saving their home.

Mission Impossible III 7/10
As comparison: MI:I 7/10, MI:II 3/10

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[1] A scene from Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible III, starring Tom Cruise
and Michelle Monaghan