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With: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Simon Pegg
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, J.J. Abrams
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of frenetic violence & menace, disturbing images & some sensuality
Running Time: 126
Date: 04/24/2006
IMDB

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Mission' in Action

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The summer officially begins with its first "explosion" movie, Mission: Impossible III.

With the first two entries, in 1996 and 2000, original directors Brian De Palma and John Woo established the Mission: Impossible guidelines as smooth, slick, kinetic and balletic. Now that rule of thumb has morphed into "bigger-faster-louder."

Who better then, to direct this new movie than J.J. Abrams ("Alias," "Lost"), an A-list television maker who grinds out water cooler hits like they were ice cubes? Abrams has adopted a television style consisting of all peaks and no valleys, thereby giving viewers no time to rest. That may work for a 50-minute TV drama (especially one punctuated by commercials) but not so much for a 126-minute movie.

So Mission: Impossible III is a mixed bag. Abrams gets in at least three seat-clenching moments of pure excitement, like a stunning Vatican break-in. However, when it comes to the really, really big sequences, such as blowing up a bridge, he loses his grip. Likewise, it seems, for certain conversational sequences; he goes with a super-duper close-up -- all pores and nostrils -- combined with the dreaded hand-held shaky cam.

As the film begins, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is in semi-retirement. He poses as a Department of Transportation man and secretly works training new agents. He's also engaged to the adorable Julia (Michelle Monaghan). But when his most promising trainee (Keri Russell) goes missing, he must go back into action, with his old pal Luther (Ving Rhames), as well as agents Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen (Maggie Q).

The evil mastermind is Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Our heroes snatch him from a fancy-dress party to prevent him from selling a MacGuffin called the "Rabbit's Foot," (something toxic and dangerous). But he gets away and vows revenge on Ethan's family.

Recent Oscar-winner Hoffman has perhaps his dullest role here. He plays it mean and cold (especially when he maliciously grabs a drink from a waiter's tray), but his Davian is not an infectious villain, nor even a human one.

In fact, none of this impressive cast is given much to do, character-wise. (Jumping out of helicopters is another matter.) Only Laurence Fishburne, playing IMF top brass John Brassel, gets to chew on any crunchy dialogue, like "don't interrupt me when I'm asking rhetorical questions."

As for the rest of the screenplay, it's less convoluted than the last two times, but now it's easier to find the holes. Each viewer will have his or her own pet plot point that just didn't work. But for 126-minutes, most viewers should be happily distracted, riding from high point to high point till the credits roll.

This review will self-destruct in five seconds. Thank you!

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