You know why this gets a PG-13? Yeah, yeah. Action smacktion. All action movies are PG-13. You know why, for real, this movie gets and deserves the PG-13? I'm actually going to SPOIL something in the MPAA section: Keri Russell's death is the coolest and grossest death and it is so ridiculously mundane. It is so gross. Yeah, there's some swearing and torture. That's something you should consider. But Keri Russell's death is the absolute most perfect death I've ever seen and I'm having a little bit of a gag response just thinking about it. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
This is the movie that made me realize that the entire Mission: Impossible franchise had legs. Okay, it isn't the most amazing movie in the world. But it also might be the most watchable movie in the franchise. I kind of enjoy watching this one more than the first one, which I acknowledge is a better movie. I don't know what it is. But I suppose this stream of consciousness review might get the juices flowing to help me explain to myself why I like it. I know. It's partially because something just resonates with me when it doesn't with other people. There are lots of movies like that. But there seems like there is a solid foundation with this movie and I absolutely dig that.
I think it is very cool to hate on J.J. Abrams. Okay, it's not cool with me. He has made quite a bit of entertainment that I've enjoyed. Yeah, he over lens-flares. He doesn't really do it in Mission: Impossible 3. But he does do that. Star Trek is just a mess of lens flares. I still like that movie for the most part, but it is a ridiculous film. J.J. Abrams really hits a lot of the same buttons that M. Night Shyamalan hits. They are both really good with, but overdependent on, the misdirect. Mission: Impossible works best when it is all about the misdirect. I think that this is the big difference between James Bond and Ethan Hunt. Bond is all about action and cool and skill. Ethan Hunt seems to have a lot of the same skills, but he prefers to have an ornate plan that leaves the audience out of the loop until the last second. I love the trickery of the whole thing. Mission: Impossible II doesn't exactly do it in spades. The few times that the second movie really does it, it involves facemasks. But Mission: Impossible III is a return to form when it comes to actual trickery. There's some honest-to-goodness storytelling going on. Now, Abrams has been known for not really giving answers which often feels like a cop out. I have been the first to attack him when his questions don't really have answers. SPOILER: The big question in this movie is never answered. Abrams has this Macguffin in this movie. I've seen this trick pulled a few times in film and normally, I hate this as an answer. The Macguffin in Mission: Impossible III is known as "The Rabbit's Foot." Everyone is trying to get their hands on this device, but Ethan Hunt and his team don't know what it does. I absolutely hate this normally, but it works in this one and I think it is for a reason. First of all, Benji, played by Simon Pegg (whose appearance in this franchise is the best thing to happen to it) has this long diatribe with his theory about "The Rabbit's Foot". It is so gloriously meta that it shows that Abrams never intended to give you an answer. I'm less okay with an entire movie being about solving something that doesn't have solution. Abrams teases early on in the movie that there might not be an answer and that makes a lot of the difference. Secondly, it provides a marvelous sense of misdirect. That's what Mission: Impossible is all about. Ethan Hunt goes on this...well, impossible mission to secure the Rabbit's Foot and it isn't even the right thing. C'mon. That's great. He stole the wrong thing because he doesn't really know what he's looking for. That's pretty unique. I haven't seen that twist before.
But Abrams also has a thing about characterization. The first movie by De Palma does a foundational run at characterization. Really, he's the hero archetype. He has a respect for life. He's good at solving puzzles. He is good at hanging from ceilings. That's about as far as the character is developed. That's fine. That is all that the first movie really needs. I mean, if you really analyzed every choice, you could probably glean a few more traits, but that's really all there is to work with. Mission: Impossible II kind of backpedals a lot of those choices. Ethan Hunt doesn't make a lick of sense compared to his choices in the first movie. He's what the plot and tone need him to be, so I consider it a bit of a fluke in the series. It seems like none of the other movies even reference the second film, so it is up to Abrams in the third film to really flesh him out. And Abrams does the thing he's good at. He likes weaving the mundane into the fantastic. I like writers who do that. Think about Star Trek. Kirk listens to classic rock and Beastie Boys. There's Budweiser (I'm back and forth on that one). He eats an apple while doing the Kobiyashi Maru. These are such human moments. Fringe has a mad scientist mess up everyone's name. He likes taking care of a pet cow. It's these details that give a character his or her humanity. Mission: Impossible III also does this. Ethan is engaged not to a spy, but to a nurse. He has a boring home life that he absolutely loves. People find him attractive but dull. He tells dumb jokes and I love that about him. He's not Ethan Hunt, IMF Agent all of the time. This gives Ethan something to really fight for. SPOILER: When Michelle Monaghan gets kidnapped (which I'm not a fan of the damsel in distress element again), it gives him a real moral crisis that the other movies haven't really given him. He is endangering his wife. SPOILER FOR LATER MOVIES: Given the fact that I've now seen the entire franchise recently, I'm a little bummed that Luther's warning played out in this one. But it is a real problem for Ethan. People keep making Ethan angry, but these are professional slights. When Kittridge goes after Ethan, it is a misunderstanding. When Nyah is poisoned, he is angry because he likes her. In this one, it is partially his fault that stuff happens to Julia. He was warned by both friend and foe that this was going to happen and he ignored that. It becomes this theme that runs throughout the series to the most recent one.
Can I tell you how much I miss Philip Seymour Hoffman? Like, there's a handful of actors that are extremely perfect in everything. I thought that Hopkins was one of those. I suppose that he kind of is. But Philip Seymour Hoffman is there to play and I love that. He probably knows that he doesn't have to be doing the third Mission: Impossible movie, especially after how ridiculous the second one was. But he always commits. I don't think I've seen him phone it in. I know that he was in that one movie that I didn't like him in. (He played basketball and it was a comedy. Along Came Polly? That sounds about right.) But he never does a bad job. He works really hard and he makes an absolutely perfect villain. It's weird to see him kick the living daylights out of Tom Cruise at times, but he's absolutely terrifying. The opening to this movie is my favorite out of the entire franchise. I love how Abrams drops you right into the middle of action. And Hoffman is the reason that it works. He's instantly scary. Yeah, it is very confusing with what is going on, but it doesn't really matter. You know that he's very scary, despite the fact that nothing makes sense. I'm sorry to word it this way, but he knows he's kind of a dumpy guy. He's made a career off of the fact that he's a dumpy guy. But he's still very scary and I love it. It has to be investment. I mentioned Hopkins in this and I still really like Hopkins. But I feel that Hopkins has been turning in the same performance time after time. He's starting to get typecast and maybe that's not his fault. But Philip Seymour Hopkins is all over the board with characters that are unlikable. (I have to place that caveat on the whole thing. He's often not likable.) But the villany is great in this one. On top of that, I've seen this movie a few times. The twist still gets me. (I don't watch the movie that often guys. I just happen to like it.) Having that character work for Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman, for those who are bad at context clues) is a pretty solid choice.
Yeah, a lot of people will find Mission: Impossible III forgetable. I mean, I forgot who the traitor was and I like the movie. But it is one of the biggest steps in the right direction for the franchise. If I had to sit down and rewatch one right now, it would probably be this one. Just putting that out there.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.