Mission Impossible III

Tom Cruise has been so annoying lately that it is hard to separate the media personality from the artist. Which is a shame because he is a considerably talented actor. In the case of Mission Impossible III he serves as producer and star. He’s taken an interesting approach to the MI series. For one thing they are never forced. Instead of rushing out the sequels, he waits for the right circumstances–a good script, an intriguing director and up and coming co-stars. And he tries to make each one stylistically different by hiring strong directors who impose their own aesthetic on the franchise. In this case it’s J.J. Abrams, the TV creator behind Alias and Lost. When you consider that this is his first directorial effort, you’re really impressed.

Cruise’s results with the franchise are always exciting but about as memorable as a bucket of popcorn you ate five years ago. They just don’t stay with you. The long time lags are part of it. Fortunately you don’t really need to have seen or remembered I and II to enjoy III. If you did, you’d be in trouble. I wasn’t even tempted to rent the earlier two to get refreshed. As I recall, there was a lot of really great stunts, which is, if anything is, the hallmark of the series.

MIII is more of the same. Oh, there’s some stuff in there about what the job does to relationships, but in the end it doesn’t amount to much. They didn’t have the courage to really explore that theme. You’ll know what I mean when you see the movie.

In case such things are important to you here’s the plot: Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is retired from the field. Now he trains agents. He doesn’t seem to miss the action and is looking forward to a quiet life with his fiance. Then, of course, a case comes up that draws him back in. One of his students, Lindsey Ferris (Keri Russell) has been kidnapped.

The rescue goes badly and she dies. The blown operation angers international arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Then the intrigue, the double crossing, and the jaw dropping stunts begin. I’m not a hundred percent certain it all makes sense.

But Tom Cruise is very good at hanging out of cars, jumping out of windows, and he’s one of those guys who just looks good while firing automatic weaponry. Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his villain so odious that you’re cheering when he finally gets his. The performance is only an inch deep but it is riveting.

I guess in the end Tom Cruise is such a good actor, he can make you forget what a flake he is in real life.

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