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"Mission: Impossible III"

Directed by J.J. Abrams.
Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams.  VAGUELY based on the television show "Mission: Impossible." 
Starring Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  4/27/06


I got a freebie to catch "Mission: Impossible III" tonight at a full-house multiplex downtown...let's take a look at the tale of the tape:

Good:  Written and directed by the team that gave us the ABC show "Alias", "M:I-III" is in good hands as a return to the team of spies route that this franchise is supposedly founded upon.  As such, the team of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and new agents Declan (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, most recently of "Match Point") and Zhen (Maggie Q) make for a good time in this newest sequel, because they actually operate as if their lives depend on each other.  After killing off the team in the opening sequence of the first movie in '95, Hunt has worked solo and it has been fucking ridiculous.  The TV show never attempted to have the lead agent work like James Bond, so at least they are trying to get back to the root of this thing.

Bad:  The theme song written by Kanye West that plays during the end credits.  Seriously, you need to stick around and listen to this song before leaving the theater; it's maybe the only major misstep of West's recent three-year run at the top of the game.  Wow, that was dogshit.  I think it was called "Impossible", and it was trash.

Good:  Getting a true character actor to play the bad guy.  Sure, in some ways this kind of work is like a day off for recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, but as arms dealer Owen Davian, Hoffman is comical because he seems like he is channeling don't-give-a-shit nonchalance into his low-key bad guy.

Bad:  The romantic subplot featuring Hunt and his fiancée, Julia (Michelle Monaghan, from last year's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang").  Sorry, but after having his last girlfriend get in trouble and captured by the bad guy in "M:I-2", I can't BELIEVE Cruise signed off on a script that features literally the exact same subplot in this sequel.  Why do we feel the need to follow Agent Hunt's personal life?  I don't give a shit!  We don't watch these movies for character development...we watch them to see good guys take down bad guys in bigger-than-life situations.  I don't care what kind of rings they want for their fucking wedding!!!!!!!!!!

Good:  The luck of the director's draw by having J.J. Abrams (not only "Alias", but now "Lost") fall into the production's lap.  The first director that was officially on-board with this project was David Fincher ("Se7en", "Fight Club"); this would have been very cool to see what Fincher would have done with this material, but ultimately this is summer movie fare.  Then, Joe Carnahan (the gritty cop drama "Narc") was on-board; that would have made the film darker and probably more violent, and while I was intrigued with that too, it wouldn't have worked in the long run.  In the end, having Abrams doing a big-budget "Alias" with better actors and real location sets in Italy, China and Germany makes this a cinch for him.  If you've even seen two episodes of "Alias" and then you watch "M:I-III", you'll almost feel like they are ripping "Alias" off.

Bad:  Bad Script Move, Deux--having ANOTHER IMF agent go bad for the good guys.  Again, this is the third film in the franchise, but why Abrams and his other writers decided to once again have things go bad at the hands of someone internally at the spy agency is beyond me.  Aren't there enough real bad guys in the world to not keep assuming that someone on the inside must be guilty of something?

Good:  Quality performers all around.  In bit parts, we get Keri Russell, from "Felicity"; Laurence Fishburne as the new director at IMF; Simon Pegg from "Shaun of the Dead" playing the Marshall part from "Alias" with more laughs and more gusto; and Billy Crudup, whose best work probably came in "Almost Famous."  I guess getting all of these players is what happens when Tom Cruise calls you with a big budget and a globetrotting production.

Bad:  Probably a little too much action.  If these spies went in and didn't fire a single gun, I still think I would enjoy the movie; if they went the route of a film like "Sneakers", I think that people would still be happy if the story was interesting.  But, as it is, it's hard to come down from the ridiculous gunplay from "M:I-2", so Hunt & Co. end up killing a lot of bad guys to get their job done.  Are these guys Navy SEALs or buttoned-up CIA-ish agents?  Even the Fishburne character asks at one point, "There were twelve hostiles in there, and you couldn't capture anybody??"  So much for taking the quiet approach!

Overall, I liked "M:I-III" because of the acting, a stronger script and a return to teamwork.  (I'll admit--Maggie Q is a big factor here; STUNNING.)  Given how packed our freebie was tonight, there's a good chance that "M:I-III" makes about $300 billion in its first week of release.  Maverick does it again...

Rating:  $9.50 Show


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09