Directed by: J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias, Felicity)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Maggie Q, Keri Russell
It's been ten years since Tom Cruise graced the screen with the reimagining of sorts of the Mission:Impossible TV show (thus beginning a tirade of mostly tragically bad TV-to-movie translations) and reigned supreme in box office gold. Then came the more action-themed sequel which seemed to be more of a catering job to the directing style of action auteur John Woo.
Now, a decade later, has the franchise been reinvigorated or has it been flattened like most other movie franchises?
Not surprisingly to me, knowing the thought, care, and meticulousness of Mr. Cruise's career choices, the franchise is now beaming with new life thanks to the third entry in this "American James Bond" series of films.
I say "not surprisingly" because whether you are a Tom Cruise fan or Tom Cruise hater, there's no denying that the guy has chosen some of the best roles/films/creative teams in his long-standing career, creating a body of work that represents a staple in both American pop culture and some outstanding entries in the world of film.
Now, yes, I am a Tom Cruise fan. I don't care if he's crazy, if he jumps on Oprah's couch, calls Matt Lauer "glib," or buys a baby scanner to check out his kid. It's none of my business what Mr. Cruise does with his life. If the media wants to latch onto his antics and blow them into epic proportions and take money from the drones that have no life but that of living through US Weekly or IN Touch, then that's on them.
I pay $10 bucks to see Mr. Cruise onscreen, not in his personal life. So what if he believes aliens are his God(s)? I don't give a shit. Now, if he molested children or had massive plastic surgery to become a black man or did something truly OUT THERE, then yeah, maybe I'd have trouble watching the guy onscreen, but seriously...he jumped on Oprah's couch...Oh my! What a crackhead! I've seen guys do way more crazy shit when under the influence of new pussy...We all lose our fucking minds when we're in love.
The reason I'm going into my "defense of Tom Cruise" rant is because I've heard so many people reluctant to see the movie because he jumped on a couch. And yet they flock to see Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, two people that are way more weird to me than any Tom Cruise tale of craziness. I just don't understand it.
Quick story: I'm at Barnes and Noble and I'm buying the new copy of Empire magazine, which is a British movie magazine, which coincidentally, has Tom Cruise on the cover for MI:3. The checkout girl asks me if I like Tom Cruise. I say, Yeah, I like his movies, he always does good ones. She's like, shocked.
She asks me "don't you think he's crazy?" and I say, "maybe, but I don't care. I just want to see his movies." Again, she's shocked. She tells me she's definately not going to see the movie because of Tom and his craziness. Now, I'm shocked. She's gonna bypass this movie because she THINKS he's crazy?
I tell her that J.J. Abrams is writing/directing it and go further to explain that he created Lost and Alias, two critically acclaimed shows with huge fan bases. She says, "Oh, hmmm....well, maybe it might be good..." Yeah, damn straight. My wife stood idly by and later told me she thought the girl was flirting with me, but I don't buy it. Plus, being ignorant is not the way into my pants. You have to have a crisp ten dollar bill and a box of doughnuts for that.
Short history: Originally, MI:3 was to be directed by David Fincher(Fight Club), but because the shooting and release schedule were so tight he felt it would be rushed and would rather do it right or not at all. Fair enough. Then Joe Carnahan (Narc) came onboard and later left due to creative differences, which seemed largely in part to his script, which apparently was extremely dark and not in the vein of the franchise.
Why the history lesson? Again, in defense of the project and to get the facts straight to those that don't care to research the filmmaking process and instead listen to bullshit rumors from magazines with no clout that distribute heresay like condoms at an abortion clinic.
All right. We're clear on my feelings on the whole "Tom is Crazy" shit and the general timeline of the franchise. Good. On to the movie.
There are many ways to describe this film. I'll only go into two. ONE) It's a unique blend of the first and second films with a touch of energy that is lacking in both TWO) The perfect summer action movie.
Listen, you probably won't see a better action film this summer. Yeah, Superman will probably be the tits, but it's not really an action movie. X-Men 3? Seriously, I'm very worried for that one, because being able to see the shit before you smell it still lets you know that it's shit. I mean, you want guns, gadgets and kick ass stunts, MI:3 is your absolute best bet and it will deliver in spades.
We pick up with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) who is now a trainer at IMF (Impossible Mission Force) and is no longer a field agent. He is engaged and living a fairly simple life, even though his job is still secret to anyone not in his line of work, including his new fiance (Monaghan).
When one of the agents that Hunt trained is captured, he's enlisted by the new IMF point man (Crudup) to go in to get her. Hunt agrees and goes to rescue the agent (Russell) and thus kicks off the movie's energy and draws us in and never lets us go.
Naturally, many, many things go wrong and Hunt finds himself on the lamb again, working "black" as they call it and enlisting the help of loyal teammates. Kidnappings, double crosses, cool gadgets, and a kick ass cast round out the speeding bullet that is this film.
A lot of people have raved about the film's chief villain played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and I agree to an extent. Although he's a vile and relentless villain he doesn't get enough screen time to put him on the all-time best bad guy list. He's good, but not that good.
Ving Rhames is fine as the only returning character from the franchise, Luther Stickel, the computer hacker, and the remaining supporting IMF team, comprised of Maggie Q, Jonathan Rhys-Myers, and Billy Crudup are a colorful and fun bunch. We don't learn too much about them and that's fine. Their actions and playfulness make for good screen time.
And then there's Mr. Cruise. Look, love him or not, the guy can act and he brings an emotional intensity to the role of Ethan Hunt that was nearly vacant in the prior outings. This story is truly about Hunt, both professionally and personally, and the stakes are beyond high for him here. Cruise pulls it off, as usual, and with an even greater feel for the role. He is the American James Bond. He may not be Jack Bauer level bad ass, but it would be one helluva fight.
Special attention must go to J.J. Abrams. He has crafted an action/spy thriller that plays on the Mission: Impossible mythos in pure modern day perfection. Abrams's work on Alias and Lost has proven that he has the chops to deliver thrills with a deep core and he once again demonstrates that here. The plot may be simple, but the characters and their interaction is the strong suit here. They always say to play to your strenghts and Abrams does just that here.
The action sequences are numerous and most definately live up to the impossible part of the film's title. Sure, most of it wouldn't, couldn't, or shouldn't happen. But, the movie is called mission: impossible, not mission: probably not possible.
There were many times where my eyebrows raised and I felt a slight tug in my pants as the action sequences got going. I started to get the old feelings back...back when Hollywood made good action movies...movies with lots of intensity and action and more than anything, CHARACTERS. Not vacant muscle-bound stoic morons with one-liners, but multi-dimensional heroes that fuck up and do their best to pull out of their peril on top. This is the kind of action movie I'd like to see more of.
Another great thing of note: The rating. It's PG-13 and I honestly have no complaint. I'm an R-rated movie kind of guy. Usually, an R-rating guarantees that you get the material straight as oppossed to censored, but I never once felt that what I was getting was watered down by the MPAA. I felt that they delivered exactly what they wanted us to see and I was very happy with what I saw.
In the end, I seriously doubt I'll see a better movie this summer and in all honesty, I'm surprised that I feel that way. I am stoked for a few summer entries on the way, but now it's got competition. Serious competition.
So, if you're shying away from this one because Tom Cruise jumped on a couch on daytime TV or because he wants his wife to be called "Kate" instead of "Katie" well, you're missing out on a great film. I don't want to hear any bitching and moaning about how there are no good summer movies from you, especially if you're avoiding them because of a movie star's personal life...if that were always the case, then you'd be doing a lot of reading, because, guess what, just like the average joes of the world, celebrities are just as fucked up as the rest of us.
Stop your judgmental, ignorant whining about celebrities and their personal lives and go see the movie for a damn good summer ride. Or go sacrifice yourself and pretend that seeing Lindsay Lohan in "Just My Luck" is a better choice...because she is SO much more normal than Tom Cruise.
Movie Grade: A+