I’m not a dedicated Trekkie or Star Wars fan and I hadn’t actually seen anything directed by J J Abrams but, on the strength of Mission: Impossible III I can see why he has been sought out by one franchise after another to step in and revive its fortunes.
MI:3 opens mid action with a desperate captive Cruise bargaining with Philip Seymour Hoffman over a woman’s life, a clever way of shifting the suspense away from the most predictable element of the plot. (Ok, it’s completely predictable – though technically I suppose a spoiler – that once again IMF will have a mole, and it’s clear almost from the moment he appears that this is what he will be; but at least since he’s not the main antagonist it means that this time this rather disaster-prone agency isn’t purely clearing up mess that it has created itself.)
Devil-may-care Ethan Hunt from II is gone, but he’s not right back to edgy Ethan from I. He’s Happy Ethan, with a steady (training) job and a nice house and about to get married to a lovely nurse (Michelle Monaghan) until duty wreaks is destructive effect on his domestic bliss (so it’s O.H.M.S.S or possibly Licence to Kill, especially with – spoilers for both films – the breaking out of a prisoner on a bridge).
Once again Ving Rhames is the only acknowledgement of the preceding films – there’s a new boss in Laurence Fishburne, prowling the corridors of a shiny new HQ. Simon Pegg and Keri Russell also add to the quality with excellent albeit brief appearances. Hoffman is, naturally, terrific.
The film goes some way to reconnecting with its roots. Not only do we have a functional MFI, sorry IMF team conducting operations here, but they’ve been written as distinct characters and the performances (Rhames plus Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyer) capture a chemistry that actually make you want to watch more of them. I hope they will be returning.
The dialogue is no longer leaden and disposable; it is agile, it has wit. The film is extremely well structured, too. After disturbing opening there’s a brief period of domesticity, but then we’re quickly away to kidnap someone from inside the Vatican (easily the most fun assignment yet). Although this one ticks along for just over 2 hours, like its predecessor, it keeps up the pace right through to the Shanghai showdown which mixes things up enough to take Cruise out of the action, briefly, while the damsel in distress takes over the business of rescuing herself.
Nice to have a Mission Impossible film that doesn’t self-destruct in 5 seconds. For once there’s no question as to whether I choose to accept my next Mission Impossible…