10 Years: “Mission: Impossible III”

Action films have a tough enough job of standing out on their own, but when it’s a new entry in an existing and exciting franchise, the stakes are that much higher. Too often when you think a film can’t let you down, it does. It’s one reason why sequels usually don’t excite people. Action films, by design, require a bit more care and concern than your typical entry in a long running series. If there isn’t any, the franchise may wither and die, but never truly know it’s happening.

The Paramount Pictures film “Mission: Impossible III”, is still an incredible action packed film that’s even more special because of its director and his vision.

This action film stars Tom Cruise (upcoming “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”, “Doubt”), Ving Rhames (upcoming “Bastards”, “Operator”), Billy Crudup (“Spotlight”, “The Stanford Prison Experiment”), Michelle Monaghan (upcoming film & episodes “Patriots Day”, “The Path”), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (upcoming “Roots (2016)”, “Stonewall”), Keri Russell (upcoming episodes and film “The Americans”, “Free State of Jones”), Maggie Q (upcoming projects “Queen of Canton”, “Designated Survivor”), Simon Pegg (upcoming films “Star Trek Beyond”, “Ice Age: Collision Course”), Eddie Marsan (“Galavant”, “River”), and Laurence Fishburne (upcoming projects “Roots (2016)”, “Passengers”).

The film is directed by J.J. Abrams (“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”) and written by Alex Kurtzman (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “Sleepy Hollow (TV series)”), Roberto Orci (upcoming “Star Trek Beyond”, “Matador”), and Abrams (“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”, “Super 8”). It is based on the television series by Bruce Geller.

The film originally debuted on May 5, 2006.

Apparently this month, not to mention this year will be seeing me talking a lot about Abrams. It’s not like I haven’t spent a lot of time doing so already, but what the hell, it’s fun. This is what happens when you’re someone who’ll consume just about anything he’s had a hand in creating and getting to a screen, big or small. In this case, I get the added benefit of realizing that it’s been 10 years since his directorial debut, and in that time all Abrams has done is outdo himself time and again. He’s seriously a genius and many, many more films and tv shows will come out with his name on them, as he’s that good. He’s a director and producer we need to keep around for as long as possible. In some ways, I’m reminded of this with this film. I knew I’d always liked it, but I guess I’ve forgotten how much fun it is. Mind you, when you look at the sequels that came after this, it doesn’t seem to hold up so well. But does it really matter? Not at all. It’s a great film in this long running film franchise that doesn’t appear that it will be ending any time soon.

An action film needs, well, action. In this case a lot of high energy action sequences are needed. It’s mostly because it’s what’s become expected of this film franchise. Fortunately, Abrams had spent the last five years working in this exact environment. The only difference, he now has the budget and capabilities of delivering explosive and intense sequences. In some ways, which will probably become a common theme here, I’d forgotten what the action was and felt like. So much of the action, for me, was just fresh and exciting. The actors all had the opportunities to get in there and play, which is how the sequences looked so good, and made it all even more believable. I thoroughly enjoyed every single action sequence there was, and I marveled at the creativity and execution put into each of them. So much work went in and it paid off.

I don’t know if I have a favorite, but purely because of one person in the sequence, I love it even more. Russell, up to then, would not be most people’s first guess as someone who would be capable of doing action, but she pulls it off well. Once her character’s rescued, and they all still have to get out alive, she jumps into gear and holds her own against Cruise and the bad guys. If I didn’t love the work she’s currently doing, I certainly would be glad she’s in this and that I got to see her in action. Another kick ass female character overseen by Abrams. One thing that sucks about these films, is that it’s about Cruise’s character, and he gets the most to do of any of the actors. In this case, I’m saddened as Q, whom I watched in “Nikita” and loved, is capable of so much. She did her own stunts in that show and was amazing at it, plus the following year (2007 to be specific) she’s kicking more ass, but as a villain. Either way, I wish she had more opportunities to showcase her fighting capabilities.

But, at the end of the day, or end of the film, even without Q getting more opportunities or any of the others really, they definitely contributed to some sleek and intense fun. As this was one of the reasons why is saw this originally, I’m glad it still holds up all these years later.

Adding to the action, and making the viewing experience a bit more beautiful and interesting, are the locations. Some, may have been built, but they certainly allowed for a specific look to come through and enhance a given scene. This film shot in China, Germany, and Italy, among other places, and regardless of how the producers had to dress them up, you could still enjoy them. They automatically put you there, and didn’t look fake, like the smaller budgeted locations seen in “Alias”.With regards to action, before I forget and move on, it allowed for the various action sequences to be all the more dynamic. Whether the scene took place indoors, or outside, there was always something that could make it more than average. One such instance, which I love as it also captures the locations beauty, is at the end when Cruise is climbing down the roofs in China. It’s well executed, you can see Cruise doing it and, well, it showcases the location. What more could you ask for?

One thing I hadn’t noticed, or simply didn’t pay too much attention to at the time, or since, until this point, was the cinematography and editing. It was absolutely stunning! Not only did the camera capture all the beautiful locations, or the expansive sets used in less than exciting locals, it caught it so that you could really be immersed in the world and events taking place. Everything was so big and you never forgot that. Well, I did, but it’s been several years since I last saw this film. I found that, even with the slower, calmer scenes, there was a constant movement going on. Nothing ever slowed. It was go, go, go! This camera work made the action scenes better, and more intense as you yourself had to look everywhere to take it all in and hope there wasn’t danger nearby. And the editing kept this momentum going. The editors, both of whom were recently nominated for Academy Awards, clearly understood how best to keep the audience glued to the action. Some action films rely on a lot of quick cuts, which ultimately just confuse the hell out of you, but not here. They kept it going, and as a result, you could experience a lot more. I’m certainly becoming a fan of these two editors, which is weird as I don’t usually pay attention to who is in charge of editing. Well, unless it’s the Oscars, then I might, but that’s usually it.

None of this would matter without characters. I love them! There’s so much to love about them, even the villain played by Hoffman has some interesting characteristics. Hoffman’s character is kind of eccentric and he’s also cruel. You see quickly just how cruel, and it makes him a great villain, but also makes Hoffman an excellent choice of actor for this role. Even Fishburne has some eccentricities, that make him more than just the director of IMF.

Cruise, Monaghan, Q, Meyers, and Rhames are the heroes of this film, and it doesn’t take much to like them. However, what makes them all stand out more, even if it’s only for a little bit, is there’s some human emotion and character insight given to them. It’s been ages since I saw the first two films, so I can’t say how much human drama there is. This film certainly tries, and it makes all the difference. Because of the way the film was written, events were in motion and we clearly saw that Cruise and Monaghan had a life for some time. This is then further showcased later on, and helps make it come off in an organic way. Even when learning about Q’s character, it’s just so natural. I learn about these people, and see how they can so easily work as a team. I can’t say it’s the best way to incorporate emotional material in an action film, but I think it’s one of the better examples of how to make characters in an action film more dynamic, almost relatable.

As this is something that Abrams had a hand in, and seeing who the composer is, I can’t pass up the opportunity to talk about Michael Giacchino (upcoming “Star Trek Beyond”, “Zootopia”). This man seemingly can do no wrong. From the standpoint of score and remembering that this is a “Mission: Impossible” film, this score delivers. It’s exciting in all the right places and has emotional moments that tug at you like it should. I certainly got more into all of the action because of this score and I noted some things I may have forgotten. I recognized various themes and musical cues that also appear in the sequel, which Giacchino also scored, so that makes sense. The only thing I wish, as I do with a lot of action films, is that you could hear all of the score. Why have it playing if you can’t hear it because of all the explosions, crashes, or grunts from character during various action sequences? I’ll never understand this.

And I can’t forget the cameos. Oh how the cameos and Easter eggs abound! Really can’t forget them. It is an Abrams film after all. While there was only one cameo I caught, it’s still exciting to recognize this actor. Greg Grunberg (“Life in Pieces”, “The Mysteries of Laura”), who seems to make appearances in a lot of Abrams work, turns up for a few moments. It’s like his “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” cameo, where if you blink, you’ll miss him. Some Easter eggs, which I’d mostly forgotten about, were exciting to count. I got at least two Easter eggs. Slusho and a reference to an Abrams family member, Kelvin. There may have been others, but I can’t recall. When it comes to Abrams I just love to keep an eye and an ear out for what little call backs he may include. Definitely a perk when you’re the director and producer.

Something else that’s also typical Abrams, is his portrayal of what spy’s do. Now, whether or not it’s even remotely accurate, doesn’t actually matter. It looks cool! It really is sleek and fun, which makes this film all the more worth seeing. Again, I think Abrams’ time with “Alias”, along with a lot of the other people involved, has payed off. In some ways I felt like I was watching a bigger episode of the classic show, but without Sydney Bristow. It certainly could’ve been the same world. Another thing that’s just like Abrams, are the twists and turns we get. That in general seems to be a part of the franchise, but in this case, it’s all Abrams. His ability to handle secrecy has always been something I admire. Watching this film again has certainly reminded me of that.

Long running franchises can suffer from being just that, long running. After awhile, and a lot of hands, the quality of the film’s may begin to sink. Sometimes it’s noticeable and a franchise is put to rest, although not for long, especially these days. Other times, due to audience demand, the franchise continues on, but without ever getting better. The unlucky film series in fact gets worse with each successive film. In the past decade there’s been two sequels, each that excelled and gave audiences what they really wanted, but this one isn’t bad because of that. It just ranks a bit lower when comparing it to all the other films. That’s the thing with sequels. A lot of times they suck, and can’t even come close to capturing what made the first work so well. Other times, they go far above our wildest imaginations, showing that for once, having multiple sequels is worth it.

The exciting and stylish trailer:


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