Back in the era of 2006, a year where The Da Vinci Code ruled the box office and a flood of computer animated comedies entered the marketplace, a little director named J.J. Abrams entered the cinematic landscape with a dream; to direct films of high quality. The man who would revive Star Trek and create Super 8, one of the best films of 2011, started that prestigious career handling the third cinematic Ethan Hunt (still played by Tom Cruise) adventure, appropriately titled Mission: Impossible III.
From the get-go, the movie grabs the audiences interest with a gripping interrogation scene involving a menacing as hell Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Watching Ethan try to save his wife from being killed by this madman is startling to see, mainly because it introduces a theme that runs prominently during the entire film, which is that Ethan will be challenged, to put it gently, during this particular adventure. Abrams wants to pretty much toss his protagonist through the wringer, and by showing him overcoming this momentous obstacles (both physical and emotional), demonstrating why Hunt is such a legendary fellow in the realm of IMF.
Straight after that opening scene, we flashback to days earlier, showing Ethan adjusting to a more mundane suburban life with his girlfriend Julia (Michelle Monaghan). It’s fun to watch the guy who broke into the CIA headquarters host a casual dinner party and run over to 7/11 for ice, especially since it lends a distinctive personality to a character who would had been a bit lacking in the depth department until now. Lending him a life outside of his spy shenanigans really does wonders for strengthening Ethan Hunt as a leading man. though as his various escapades in the story demonstrate, his skills as a spy are still more than intact. But those skills might not be enough to take out the villainous figure Owen Davian.
This antagonist is played by accomplished actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Davian with a casual attitude that a clear juxtaposition against the sort of chaos the character causes. Even when being dangled out of a plane, he isn’t gonna crack and Hoffman makes that assured personality feel incredibly authentic. Similarly, Tom Cruise actually does a pretty great job making Ethan Hunts vulnerable moments effective, and he’s similarly successful when it comes to having chemistry with his on-screen wife.
Of course, there’s also plenty of stunts and mayhem for Cruise to get involved in, and Abrams brings these sequences to life in a vivid manner. While some shaky-cam in the opening sequence made me worried that would be an enduring presence in the feature, it, thankfully, only pops up briefly once or twice during the rest of the movie. Instead, set pieces (such as one where Hunt has to jump from one tall building to another) are filmed in a clear manner that help make them all the more engrossing. It helps of course that there’s some interesting character work being done with Hunt in this movie that manages to make this Mission: Impossible entry not just a successful endeavor, but one that raises the bar for the entire franchise.