There are JJ Abrams fans and there are Abrams haters, but I land solidly in the former. Just look at the momentum he brought to MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III in 2006. After a solid but overly-plotted debut film and an overwrought, over stylized John Woo take for MI2, Abrams brought action, humor and immense energy to the third film in the series.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is in love and engaged to Julia (the terrific Michelle Monaghan from “Gone Baby Gone”) having moved on to training agents.
When one of his best, Lindsey (Keri Russell from Abrams “Alias”) is captured and tortured, Hunt and his team go into fast action to rescue her.
And it’s a great team that came together here and has rolled through all the sequels since. Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (hilarious Simon Pegg) are helped by Zhen (Maggie Q from “Designated Survivor”) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) in a daring rescue.
Billy Crudup (Watchmen) and Laurence Fishburne are both great as senior agents at the IMF that have very different methods of supporting Ethan and his team.
They’re immediately pulled into the world of global arms dealer Owen Davian, played with sadistic menace by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman is excellent, raising the entire film into another realm with a terrifying performance. Cruise matches him, finally becoming a complete Ethan Hunt well beyond the shell we met in the previous two films.
Abrams drives the entire film forward at a relentless pace, only slowing down long enough for Ethan and Julia’s everyday life, which makes the stakes all the greater later in the film. Abrams also establishes those stakes immediately by opening the film with a tense sequence from the conclusion, with Davian counting down from ten to one before he kills Julia.
By the time that countdown wraps and the screen explodes into the Mission Impossible theme re-imagined for full orchestra by Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Lost, Abrams “Star Trek”) I was hooked and knew I was in for a great action film.
The helicopter rescue of Lindsey is excellent, a bridge set drone attack on a caravan holding the captured Davian is fantastic and Cruise & Hoffman’s vicious fight that ends the film is the most brutal since Robert Shaw and Sean Connery beat the hell out of each other in that train car in “From Russia With Love”. Cruise does all his own stunts from start to finish.
At $150 million budget, this was (at the time) the most expensive film ever mounted by a first time director. For me, Abrams nailed it and his big screen career since has thrived.
Setting the tone for the sequels that followed it, which continue getting better and better with each installment, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III is excellent and gets an A, should it decide to accept it…..