Mission Impossible III - * * *
"Mission Impossible III" is an intense action/thriller that is probably the best of the three movies. The opening alone will make you wonder if you're in the right theater. It seems much more intense and violent than any "Mission" movie you've seen before.
The story this time centers around an arms-dealer, played brilliantly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is trying to get his hands on a weapon that could end the world as we know it. Of course, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is there to stop him. The twist this time is that Hunt is trying to leave all that spy stuff behind and live a normal life. We all know that people like Ethan Hunt, James Bond, and Jack Bauer don't live normal lives--even if they want to.
So there is a deeper theme in this movie about identities. Nothing in the "Mission" universe is quite what it seems. Hunt's wife doesn't know about his real job. Hunt doesn't know who is double-crossing him. And right when we think we've figured things out, the plot goes in a different direction.
One device that makes for great visual sequences, chase scenes, and special effects is also one of the movie's greatest flaws. I'd like to call it the "just-in-time plot device." Others would call it "contrived." This device makes it easy for characters to get things when they need them without any real foreshadowing (essential for suspending disbelief). For example:
- Hunt is looking out the window in Shanghai and he needs to do some quick measurements of the buildings. It just so happens there's a grease pencil there that he can use to trace the buildings on the window.
- When the bad guy is being transported to some other location, it just so happens it's on one of those highways that traverses the ocean. What a perfect place for an attack by air! And it looks great, too. This same location was used in "True Lies," but I don't remember thinking, "why are they driving over that long bridge?"
There are many, many other examples that smack of lazy screenwriting--but if you can suspend that part of your brain and just go with the flow, this is actually a fun summer action movie.