I prefer television to film. There, I said it. That probably isn’t something I should admit to at the start of a film review but after seeing a string of disastrous films last year (and with the trend continuing well into the middle of this year) I’ve sought, and found, refuge at home. In front of the small screen.
I’ve always loved film, placing it at the pinnacle of various forms of media, but I now find myself judging movies based on the weekly episodes of 24, Desperate Housewives and Lost that I consume ravenously every week, Monday through Friday. The tight 45 minute structure that these shows have to adhere to and the cliff-hanger structure that they often employ makes for far more well crafted and absorbing entertainment. And, over the past year the standard has grown exponentially. Lost is the leader in this television revolution and I won’t hesitate to predict that television will be judged according to the standards that it has, and continues to, set.
When I heard that J.J. Abrams (Co-creator of Lost and creator of other shows such as Felicity and Alias) would be migrating to the big screen to direct Mission: Impossible III , I was sceptical.
While the Mission Impossible franchise is an enjoyable series it doesn’t come close to franchises such as Indiana Jones. Its central protagonist (Ethan Hunt) is a Bond retread who hasn’t – in his last two outings – brought anything new or substantial to cinema. The first mission was structured as a thriller with a high dose of action at the end and although the twist was mighty confusing (and demanded re-watching) it worked. The second film discarded the thriller aspect completely and went for a balls-to-the-wall action approach. Good marketing and promotion, however, could not hide the fact that the film was a steaming pile of dog poo.
With Mission: Impossible III J.J. Abrams brings his television expertise to the big screen and any fears that I may have had quickly dissipated in the first half of the film. This time, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is looking to settle down. He has withdrawn from active duty and is now training new agents at I. M. F. (can you believe that this stands for Impossible Mission Force?) while he and his fiancÃ© (Michelle Monaghan) prepare to get married. Ethan is the most relaxed and happy we have ever seen him. Unfortunately, when his boss (Billy Crudup) informs him that one of the agents (Keri Russell) he trained has been captured Ethan is forced back into the field and at the same time places his unknowing fiancÃ© into a potentially life threatening situation.
It’s not a perfect film, but Mission: Impossible III is the best in the trilogy; a tightly constructed action-thriller that goes back to basics with character development and gadgetry. Ethan is no longer a flat two-dimensional super agent; Abrams and his fellow Alias scribes have given him a soul along with a beautiful fiancÃ©. He is now human and when he gets thrown into impossible (excuse the pun) situations we feel for him more because we have been allowed to connect on a level we all know and understand. Cruise (his real world antics aside) is a great performer and the script allows him to show this and to develop his character tremendously throughout the film.
What I liked:
With the re-introduction of the spy element; masks, disguises and fantastic gadgets as well as other assorted spy goodies litter the film but these never become unbelievable. There’s a real world physicality to them that I enjoyed. Ethan is a more believable spy this time round.
The action is fantastic. Abrams constructs set pieces that weave in and out of slower, character driven moments and it’s this mix of drama, thriller and action that makes this film stand above its predecessors.
Fans of Lost, Alias and Felicity will be able to identify with certain aspects (style, music) and actors from those shows within Mission Impossible: IIIand this definitely adds another (albeit tongue in cheek) dimension to the film.
What I didn’t like:
The reason Mission: Impossible III isn’t perfect is because it gets incredibly messy towards the end of the film and, as a result, the tight structure begins to disintegrate as it heads for something of an anti-climax. Which is a pity.
The chief villain, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, has been written as a pseudo-baddie of sorts. He’s a villain but isn’t given hardly enough screen time. I was disappointed when he made his gruesome exit.
These are minor grievances but they do prevent Mission: Impossible III from being a truly great film. J.J. Abrams has done a good job with this instalment of the franchise and has shown that his skills in television development certainly are an asset when it comes to feature films. I can only hope that the re-development of the Star Trek franchise, which he is rumoured to be involved with, will further reveal his skills as a director/writer of feature films.