If Mission Impossible was a focused spy thriller and Mission Impossible 2 was a mind-less, popcorn action movie then Mission Impossible 3 sits comfortably in the middle. It takes the more spy focused, thriller style from the first movie and mixes it well with some big action sequences that make much more sense to the story and also deliver something bigger than we have seen before. That isn’t the only reason this movie is so successful though!
Mission Impossible 3 begins as it means to go on – adult and brutal. It has a very serious tone and sets out to dismiss any comparisons to the much more light-hearted second chapter in the series. We get Tom Cruise begging for a loved one’s life as Philip Seymour Hoffman stands menacingly over her. The exchange is a fantastic one and is the best opening to the spy series so far.
In fact, Philip Seymour Hoffman is a big reason why Mission Impossible 3 is so effective. He is a different kind of villain to what the IMF team have come across so far. He is cold, heartless and physically vulnerable. He is also so menacing that you are generally fearing for what he will do. The first “proper” exchange between Tom Cruise and Hoffman is great, as the two ignore the others threats and make threats of their own. It is here that Hoffman demonstrates why he is so sorely missed as an actor and also his ability to lift a franchise.
Mission Impossible 3 is lifted but it isn’t just by the much better villain. Hoffman’s villain is hardly in the movie really and as with the second film, this is the “Tom Cruise” show. In the third instalment he has so much more to do and has to show a much more vulnerable side that is more in line with the “real” character from the first film and far removed from the “superhero” he played in the second. Usually adding elements like a wife and making a mission personal is a sign of a franchise losing it’s creativity but here it works and brings the story back in line with what made the original work so well.
That isn’t to say it is a complicated, twist filled story with many turns and double-crosses, it just makes more sense and doesn’t have huge set-pieces that don’t work for the narrative and were just thrown for the sake of it. The set-pieces here, and there are two major ones to speak of, work for the story. The bridge sequence which sees Hunt and his team under extreme attack is as real as it gets. Cruise is thrown about by explosions rather than just jumping through the fiery debris. It’s a welcome return to a more realistic tone for the series.
The second set-piece is the customary high-flying stunt. This one is quite tame compared to what we have seen before and struggles to reach the heights of the cliff-top dangle from the second or even the Langley Hack from the first. Especially because what you’d imagine would be a cool action sequence is “skipped over” and the audience gets the perspective of the rest of the team, waiting outside.
The rest of the team is the other slightly weak point in the movie. Ving Rhames’ returns as is as funny and a positive addition as ever but the inclusion of Jonathan Rhys Myers and Maggie Q as the support are quite dull and faceless. It is something when Simon Pegg’s analyst, based purely on the end of the phone or in front of a computer screen, can almost steal the film.
The finale gets slightly cheesy too and the return to the opening scene and then some of the events that follow feel like a cop-out compared to how realistic things had been throughout. It feels like with all the huge build to the final act of the movie, things are wrapped up a little too easily and far too conveniently, which is a shame considering the positive effort that went before it.
Overall, Mission Impossible 3 is an effective mix of action and thriller. It isn’t so mindless that it loses the creative edge that made the first film so successful but it also keeps the franchise exciting with some very cool sequences and creative ideas. Hoffman is great as a villain and forces Cruise to up his game as well. The ending feels slightly too lazy but ultimately this is a electric-shock to the franchise that it sorely needed to revive it.
Rating – 4
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