When I was in high school, my dad and I used to go to the movies every weekend. It was a great bonding experience. Then I went to college, my sis got a dog, and even when I would come home for a visit, Pops would be off hiking with Lor and the dog. After that, we only went to movies when there was something Mom really wanted to see.
About six weeks after my mom passed, Pops asked if I would like to go to the movies some time. And this Sunday, that's just what we did - off to the Suffern Lafayette theater to see Mission Impossible III.
Well, all I can say is that Tom Cruise might be one of my least favorite people ever, but he's a decent actor and he makes a good action flick. I don't mean that Tommy Boy could pull a Heath Ledger and star in Brokeback Mountain, but he does make you forget that in real life he sucks, and that's pretty decent acting (I still have a hard time watching Russell Crowe in stuff because he's a such a real-life douche).
I currently hold all action flicks to the Batman Begins and Bourne Identity standard, and MI:3 did not match those two films. Still, it was strong. So first the good.
MI:3 was directed by J.J. Abrams, the brainiac behind Lost and Alias. Alias has a lot in common with the Mission Impossible franchise. I am a pretty big Alias fan, and as such, have a lot of love for Abrams. He loves women and he makes them kick some serious ass, and that is true about this installment of MI. The previous two films have tended towards weak, victimy women who get killed off, or need to be saved by Tom Cruise. Even the "weak" woman in this movie kicks some ass and saves the man for a change.
But I get ahead of myself. The thumbnail sketch without giving away too much. Tom's character, Ethan, is sort-of retired from IMF in that he just trains recruits now. He's engaged to a very nice lady who has no idea what he does for a living (played by Michelle Monaghan, who looks a little like Katie Holmes which grossed me out a bit, except that I thought she did a really nice job, especially at the climax). One day he gets a call that one of his recruits, whom he had recommended for field duty, has been kidnapped by the man she was surveiling. The recruit? Keri Russell (J.J. Abrams created Felicity). The bad guy? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Naturally, he has to go rescue her and then unravel the mystery. Then we've got Laurence Fishburn (looking pudgy, as my pops pointed out), Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Billy Crudup (another real-life jerk who happens to be a good actor) and the ludicrously beautiful Maggie Q.
I know what you're thinking - Felicity in an action movie? For real.
Anyway, being a J.J. fan, there were certain... parallels I noticed in this film to Alias, which is the closest comparison one could make. J.J. loves to add gravitas to characters by explaining motivations. For the first time in the franchise, we get to see that Ethan really wants to live a normal life, but gets roped back in because he feels reponsible for his trainees. Blah blah blah. I could have done without that stuff. In Alias (for non watchers - main character is Sydney, a CIA agent, who is the result of a marriage between a CIA agent (dad) and a KGB agent (mom) - her mother is now a mercenary and eeeeevil... or is she?) a lot of time is spent on dysfunctional family dynamics and pathos - which is part of what makes it great. It's tough to pull that off in a movie though, and let's face it - the backstory here (Ethan just wants a normal life, but he feels loyalty to his team and his trainee) is just not that interesting.
But other parallels work to great effect. J.J. creates and directs wonderful villains - Hoffman was not remotely funny in this movie - he's just mean (kind of reminded me of Ricky Gervais's turn as a bad guy on Alias). The Times described Hoffman best: "With a sneer in his voice and a lazy slouch that telegraphs world-weariness of the most misanthropic kind, he creates an ice-blooded creature who seems as if he would like nothing better than to destroy the earth, and with as much human suffering as possible."
And Abrams really knows how to direct an action sequence - whereas Batman Begins tended to film too closely, thereby making it difficult to see what was going on, and Bourne Identity's shaky camera got tiresome, MI:3 does a pretty solid job of showing off its choreography.
Pops found the film rather convoluted and called me up with various questions after the fact. I thought it was clear enough, and I definitely enjoyed it. Big screen necessary? Probably not. I didn't lie in bed last night pondering details and the truth is that the characters just aren't interesting enough to hold one's attention after the move is over. But it was good escapist fun.