Friday, May 05, 2006

Mission: Impossible III - Movie Review

Mission: Impossible III 2006

In 1966, at the height of the Cold War fever for international espionage and gadget toting spy heroes, Bruce Geller concocted an idea for a television drama that would showcase an eclectic bunch of spies chosen to defend capitalist gains throughout the modern world in defense of greedy, godless communists who were hellbent on destroying the world. Their toys were high tech, their techniques were decidedly old school, often involving the sexual allure of their leading ladies and the requisite brawn of their hunky supporting players. It was a goldmine for ratings and awards alike and lasted until 1973. It even made a brief last ditch effort at a revival in 1988.

Years later, the mighty midget of movies, Tom Cruise coddled together his own top secret team of moviemakers, famed screenwriter Robert Towne and director Brian de Palma to reinvent the aged TV series into a film franchise that would begin to rake in the billions worldwide and extent his evil grip on the moviegoing public.

It worked. The first “Mission: Impossible” film was enough of an homage to the television series with its international cast scurrying about exotic locals, all framed through the sexy and explosive lens of De Palma to garner tons at the box-office and successfully launch the next action adventure franchise. His second attempt, cleverly titled “Mission: Impossible II” was helmed by the maestro of dove flying poetry cum asskicking – John Woo and scored another hit. And now we are looking down the gun barrel at the third installment which happens to coincide with the general feeling amongst the moviegoing public at large that Tommy Boy has lost his freaking mind.

In a year where he thumped his chest and wrestled TV Diva / High Priestess of Schlock, Oprah Winfrey to the ground in order to declare his love for his newfound fiancée, actress Katie Holmes: Tom has managed to confront slightly retarded daytime TV interviewers with his inestimable knowledge about psychiatry, drug dependency, child rearing and free weights training stemming from his undying devotion to the cult that worships flying saucers. In between he did manage to appear in a solid sci-fi epic helmed by the King of Popcorn himself, Steven Spielberg. And goody for the both of them. Coming on the heels of Katie’s hysterical pregnancy / white slavery ring abduction, he is braving the acting front again to reveal exactly how much muscle tissue he has left now that he is facing male menopause.

Mission: Impossible III” is directed by the mini me of espionage flicks, televisions own J.J. Abrams who has created such hits “Felicity”, “Alias and “Lost”. All three set in fantastical worlds of deviousness, lies and betrayal. From Freshman dorms to international terrorists to sci-fi fantasy – Mr. Abrams has scored massive hits critically and financially amongst the Boob Tube hierarchy.

Budgeted at an estimated $150,000,000, we had expected a combination of “Ben-Hur”, “Dr. No” and “The French Connection” all wrapped up into a nice evenings entertainment. What we got was slightly less entertaining than an evening spent playing “Donkey Kong” with Paul Lynde.

The domestic opening weekend gross was a measly $47 million. Barely enough to keep Mr. Cruise in imported Italian lifts for the remainder of the year. And while many smaller films would kill to receive that kind of opening weekend, the naysayers among Hollywood are already screaming “B-O-M-B!” If truth be told, with the International gross exceeding $70 million, the film will surely be on its way to turn a profit, if not exactly set the screen on fire and issue demands for another tired sequel. Unfortunately, no amount of shilling the backwaters of third world nations will be able to lift this film from it's interminable boredom and overwrought action sequences that leave one yawning instead of applauding.

Where did it go wrong? From the start, we were concerned that J.J. Abrams might not have the big movie talent that would require to orchestrate the highwire balancing act of drama, melodrama, espionage, explosive set pieces and intricate plotting that leaves you scratching your head in befuddlement over the double, triple and quadruple backstabbings that are now de rigeur for the thriller genre.

Tom Cruise has been a star since he pranced around in his civvies twenty three years ago. In between he has managed to score three Oscar nominations for films that are already being forgotten, married and divorced women whose careers have overshadowed his artistically and finally has begun to fray the nerves of his beloved fanbase with his fanatical rantings that are better suited to a homeless man reeking of urine and feces who traps you on the number “4” train to Union Square. Express, thank God!

Here we find his super-agent Ethan Hunt, semi-retired and in love with a lithesome young brunette whose family embraces the mysterious newcomer and asks no question of his less than convincing cover story. “I work as a traffic monitor . . . ignore the muscles of steel and the scars and my vast knowledge of handweapons honey, care for some more dip? I got the recipe from Rachael Ray.” Before he can sputter “Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.” They do. For you see at deadly peril, is his beloved protégée - an agent named Lindsey Ferris played with surprising aplomb and spot on flair by our very own “Felicity” – Miss Keri Russell. (Oh, Felicity – you should have gone with Ben!)

We must admit we were pleasantly surprised with Keri’s brilliant and brief turn. Her Dawn Topper® Doll stature is not exactly the kind one would imagine for an international espionage agent – but in the best scene of the movie, where a tattered and torn Agent Ferris is being carried out of the stereotypical abandoned warehouse by our alleged hero – her adrenaline induced hutzpah and ability to handle a gun conjured up the derring do this sadly overblown film was lacking.

Somebody needs to remake “Honey West”, featuring the delightful Miss Russell right now!

Seduced into the savior role by his former chief, John Musgrave played here by a somnambulistic Billy CrudupEthan Hunt returns to high flying derring-do with his own team of specialists headed by that mountain of gruff, Ving Rhames as Luther Strickell, supported by that seductive little minx Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the streetsmart and saucy Declan and some sexy Asian chick named Zhen portrayed by Maggie Q.

The rescue does not go well, but it does launch the major plotline of how it went wrong and who exactly knew about this?

The alleged mastermind behind the deadly kidnapping of agent Ferris is one Owen Davian. Rhymes with Damian. And as portrayed by the freshly Oscar winning dumpling of talent, Philip Seymour Hoffman, he comes off more like a grumpy sous chef who is really pissed that somebody interrupted his dinner plans. We swear, despite the vast acting talent residing within his barrel chest, Phil is not exactly the most menacing of creatures to be able to pull of the international villain routine that was once the domain of Donald Pleasance, Michael Lonsdale and Louis Jourdan. Perhaps a French accent would have helped. But with his frumpy demeanor, gargantuan gorilla head wobbling ever so precariously upon his hobbit like body, the only threat we would have considered plausible is if he had threatened to eat Tom Cruise instead of hunt down his wife and kill her.

And since the wife is played with dishpan doldrum sincerity by the latest Hollywood “It Girl” – Michelle Monaghan, who was so tremendously bland in last years “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” – we were left to wonder: “So what if she dies?” Old Tom could just as easily pay for another young bride. Either Michelle was not sufficiently charming to send us into spasms of fear for her mortality or Tom Cruise is incapable at projecting true affection and concern. For a woman. Moving on.

The plot becomes complicated, if not downright messy with the mysterious microchip left behind by Agent Ferris implicating several higher ups at the spy factory. Does Tom believe her? Is the dreaded “Rabbits Foot” a weapon truly capable of destroying mankind as we know it? Is it just some ridiculously named “MacGuffin” that will turn out to be little less than nothing in this already convoluted storyline? Or are we just making room and excuses to throw Tom Cruise off tall buildings, watch him dodge about a million bullets without so much as a paper cut, and making room for his now ubiquitous “run-his-ass-off-thru-crowded-streets-ramrod-straight-resembling-a-lizard-in-heat” moment that we are all positive will happen with any Tom Cruise movie.

By the time the film has wrapped itself up into such a complicated mess that even a prolonged explanation by the true villain at large fails to make heads or tails of the plot – we simply do not care who has been killed. And if we had to tell you that our boy Tommy manages to escape the billion attempts on his life, well then we would think you were a complete novice to films that fails to understand the financial need for a “Mission: Impossible IV”. Hey, even studio heads need to launder some money now and then to balance their checkbooks. Sadly that scenario would make a more interesting movie than this hyperactive exercise in blowing up automobiles in exotic places turns out to be.

We hope the only reason Tom Cruise chose to make this film was an opportunity to check out Rome, Shanghai and Berlin in person. We hear the nightlife is simply fabulous! Until your next mission – Bless you all!

This blog will self destruct in five seconds.

Directed by J.J. Abrams
Inspired by the television show by Bruce Geller
Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Ving Rhames as Luther Strickell
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Declan
Maggie Q as Zhen
Keri Russell as Lindsey Ferris
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian
Laurence Fishburne as John Brassel
Billy Crudup as John Musgrave
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn
Michelle Monaghan as Julia
Greg Grunberg as Kevin

Original Music by Michael Giacchino
Theme by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography by Daniel Mindel
Film Editing by Maryann Brandon & Mary Jo Markey
Costume Design by Colleen Atwood
Production Design by Scott Chambliss
Art Direction by Dennis Bradford, Daniel T. Dorrance, Gary Freeman, Sean Haworth, Kevin Kavanaugh, Gary Kosko, Doug J. Meerdink, Domenic Silvestri and Yu Bai Yang
Set Decoration by Karen Manthey


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