|Mission: Impossible 3 (2006)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Ryhs Meyers, Maggie Q, Keri Russell
Director: J.J. Abrams
As the third installment in the big screen adaptation of the classic TV series, “Mission: Impossible 3” had plenty of room to fail. And if the expected pressure to be bigger and better than its predecessors wasn’t enough, production on the film also ran into plenty of problems along the way, including numerous directors leaving the project (both David Fincher and Joe Carnahan were previously attached) and several actors (like Carrie-Anne Moss, Scarlett Johansson and Ricky Gervais) either being recast or having their roles cut from the script. The movie was delayed an entire year while star/producer Tom Cruise filmed “War of the Worlds” for Steven Spielberg, and when he returned, a new director had been secured: J.J. Abrams, creator of the spy drama “Alias.” Amazingly, the final product couldn’t have turned out any better, thanks in most part to Abrams’ ability to keep the action fast and furious, and the tension high without surrendering the integrity of the original series.
Presumably taking place several years after the events of the second film, “M: I-3” opens with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his newlywed wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), being held captive by Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a black market super creep who deals weapons to terrorists and finds pleasure in implanting time-release detonators (basically tiny bombs) in his victims’ heads. The film takes a few steps back from here to tell the story of how Hunt arrived in this situation, beginning with IMF operations manager John Musgrave (Billy Crudup) convincing Hunt to saddle up (despite being retired from field work) for a search-and-rescue mission involving one of his trainees, Lindsay Ferris (Keri Russell). Things don’t go quite as planned, however, and after a failed attempt at capturing Davian, Julia is kidnapped and held ransom while Ethan is sent on a mission to steal a top secret piece of technology.
This time around, Ethan’s got a little help, including series regular Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and two new recruits played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q. The film is still first and foremost Cruise’s vehicle, though, and despite Abrams’ persistence in bringing the series back to basics with the reimplementation of a team (something the second film got away from), there’s still plenty of solo play for Cruise to fuel his ego with, not to mention several gratuitous close-ups of the actor. And while Cruise definitely thrives in his role as Ethan Hunt, the real star of the movie is Hoffman, whose Bondesque villain gets all of the juicy lines and the crowd-pleasing honor of landing a few blows on Paramount’s poster boy. Unfortunately, Hoffman sees only a limited amount of screen time, because the script is loaded with an abundance of new characters that are all deserving of larger roles; namely Abrams’ TV darling Keri Russell, Laurence Fishburne (playing IMF’s head honcho) and Simon Pegg (filling in for the aforementioned Gervais as an IMF tech expert).
There’s no denying that J.J. Abrams was tailor-made for the job of reviving the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, what with his past experience turning Jennifer Garner into TV’s favorite super spy, and if it’s any consolation to fans of the soon-to-be-cancelled ABC series, the director’s big screen debut feels exactly like “Alias: The Movie.” Along with giving us a peek into the private life of a government agent, the film also features a torture scene that easily could have been ripped from the series. Still not convinced? How about the cameo appearance by Abrams regular Greg Grunberg? There’s no question that this is Abrams’ show, and while the train does begin to come off the track in the end, he's done an admirable job in creating not only the best installment of the series, but the first real blockbuster of the summer.
It’s always encouraging to see a self-proclaimed Special Edition actually live up to its name, and the two-disc DVD release of “M:I-3” does just that. Featuring over two hours of behind-the-scenes bonus material, the DVD also includes an entertaining audio commentary with Tom Cruise and director J.J. Abrams. Just by listening to their conversation you can tell that they formed a great working relationship, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the two men make another film together some time in the future.
The first disc also includes five deleted scenes (mostly just throwaway filler), a making-of featurette (“The Making of the Mission”) and Cruise’s acceptance of the 2005 Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award (“Excellence of Film”), but a majority of the extras reside on disc two. This is where all the goodies are located, including production featurettes on action choreography (“Mission Action”), storyboarding (“Visualizing the Mission”), and music (“Scoring the Mission”). Also included is a featurette profiling all of the film’s characters (“Inside the IMF”), a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the mask replicator (“Mission: Metamorphosis”), a “Moviefone: Unscripted” session between Cruise and Abrams, and more.