Dir: JJ Abrams. US. 2005. 125mins.
The Mission:Impossible franchise comes full circle and returns to its TV origins withthe frenetic third film directed by small-screen icon JJ Abrams,whose series like Lost and Alias have resuscitated longform drama on the US networks. Like a souped-up $150m episode of Alias, the film is fast, furious and engaging - and incidentallybereft of the cinematic grandeur which Brian DePalmaand John Woo brought to its predecessors. Even the introduction of a wife forTom Cruise's secret agent character Ethan Hunt and the emotional elements whichthat entail are given a superficially slick TV treatment.
Then again, the gap betweenUS TV and Hollywood movies is fast diminishing, and the same audiences who tuneinto Lost and CSI are hungry for a new Mission:Impossible adventure.
Younger audiences especiallywill lap up the fast cutting and fast pace of this sequel, which allows littletime for longueurs as if it were afraid to standstill for a second and lose the attention of the demanding internet-attunedminds of PDA-clutching, popcorn-munching teenagers.
As the first bona fideblockbuster of the summer, Mission:Impossible III is bound to postgigantic figures when it hits worldwide screens at the same time on May 5 anddominate the global box office for a clear fortnight before The Da Vinci Codeand X-Men 3 hit the market. Thepublicity generated by Tom Cruise, consciously and otherwise, is already atfever pitch and the film should rival the US openings of the first two filmswhich amounted to $56.8m in May 1996 and $70.8m in May 2000 respectively forfinal totals of $181m and $215.4m.
International grosses willbe similarly huge, especially since Cruise's overseas box office status hasrisen even higher than his domestic through films like War Of The Worlds, The Last Samurai and MinorityReport. Mission: Impossible tooka gigantic $284m in 1996, while its first sequel took $323m in 2000. Chancesare that the third instalment in the franchise will go even higher - nearer the$345m grossed by Samurai or the $361mtaken by War Of TheWorlds.
In M:i:III (the official moniker ofthe film, although the title itself only has one colon), rather than start witha setpiece like Woo did, Abramsadopts a technique from Alias inwhich he opens with a tense cliffhanger and thenflashes back to the start of the story.
A villain named Owen Davian (Hoffman) is interrogating a tied-up Ethan Hunt(Cruise) to find out the whereabouts of something called the "Rabbit's Foot". Davian has a gun to the head of a woman called Julia(Monaghan) - clearly someone dear to Mr Hunt - and is giving Hunt only 10seconds to give him the information or else she will be killed.
Just as he reaches zero andwe hear a gun exploding, the scene ends and the credits roll. The film thenflashes back to a house party in Virginia where Hunt is celebrating hisengagement to Julia. He is genuinely considering leaving the government agencyImpossible Mission Force (IMF) and settling down to a normal life.
A call from his agency bossMusgrave (Crudup) shatters the idyll. Musgraveinforms him that an old protege of Hunt's, a young agent called Lindsey(Russell) has been kidnapped in Germany by psychopathic weapons trader Davian and is being held in a disused factory outsideBerlin.
Hunt quickly assembles hiscrew - tech expert Luther Strickell (Rhames), transportation expert Declan (Rhys-Meyers) and thebeautiful Zhen (Maggie Q) - and flies to Germany. They rescue Lindsey, but justas they are escaping, a bomb implanted in her brain explodes and she dies.
The team is berated by IMFboss John Brassel (Fishburne)for failing in its mission, but Hunt is bent on revenge against Davian and, he hatches a plot after he finds out fromcomputer specialist Benji (Pegg)that data retrieved from two hard drives found at the Berlin factory places Davian at a reception at the Vatican.
Hunt launches an unauthorised mission to Rometo kidnap Davian, whch issuccessful, but once back in the US, he realized that there is a mole in IMFwho is allied with Davian and who helps him escape.Suddenly Julia, whom Hunt has married in the meantime, is kidnapped by Davian and Hunt is told that she will die unless he stealsthe mysterious "Rabbit's Foot" from a location in Shanghai.
Despite spirited turns fromHoffman and Monaghan, M:i:III is, of course, all about Cruise who israrely off screen as Ethan Hunt. The star can certainly carry the weight of theaction on his pumped-up shoulders, and some of the setpieceswith his team, especially the kidnapping of Davian inRome, are thrilling.
The romance with Monaghan isless persuasive, especially since the central notion - that IMF agents can'thave partners because they will always be in jeopardy - is a tired one that hasbeen used in everything from 007 to TrueLies.
Abrams has trouble setting the scene in other sequences.The Shanghai section in which Cruise hurls himself around the city's gleamingskyscrapers could have been shot in Burbank for any of the flavour of the placethat Abrams captures. Then there's the attack on thebridge, when Davian is freed from IMF custody, whichis shot and cut so frantically that audiences will find it hard to absorb.While Abrams effectively mirrors the confusion of thescene on the ground in his hectic camera movements, he misses out on a primeopportunity to fashion the kind of breathtaking Cameron-esquespectacle that the big screen was made for.
Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci& JJ Abrams, based on the TV series created byBruce Geller
Mary Jo Markey
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jonathan Rhys Meyers