(out of 5)
In 1996, megastar Tom Cruise worked overtime for his audiences, providing us with the slam bang action of Mission: Impossible and giving us a glimpse into his tender soul with his Oscar-nominated (and, no sarcasm here, genuinely impressive) turn in Jerry Maguire. How considerate of him, after eleven years of insane inflation in ticket prices, to combine the experiences of both films by reviving his spy film franchise and giving it a sweet and sticky romantic subplot. In the third Ethan Hunt adventure, our hero has now turned to a quieter life, training agents instead of playing the field (ha ha) in order that he can enjoy a domestic (if deceptive) life with his beautiful, nine year-old fiancee (Michelle Monaghan). But as every Godfather knows, just when you get out they pull you back in; Cruise makes one quick jump into the combat arena to save a former pupil of his, the routine investigation of which becomes a mega-case when he has an evil arms dealer (Philip Seymour Hoffman, overacting to an annoying degree, even for a villain role) make him a personal target. No expense is spared in explosions, special effects or nifty plot tricks, but this pretentious (and sometimes wonderful) film really only works when it’s going crazy trying to outdo action movies; every time the lovers make gooey glances at each other or Cruise shows his deep soul by welling up while telling his team of buffed-up sci-fi geeks how he needs their help to get his girl back, it’s impossible not to giggle. Cruise is obviously still having a good time with the character, but the overactive eyes and constant drop-jaw smirk that made him so charismatic ten years ago just seems like desperation now that he’s in his forties; it’s not that we don’t want him to be an action hero, we just want him stop telling us how much we like him. Pairing the usually sexless movie star up with not one but two extremely young female leads doesn’t help make him look any less like he’s whipping a dead mule either, though at least this time Ethan Hunt decided that shaggy bangs were not helpful for spy work, and he does more than just advertise sunglasses like he did in Part II. The supporting cast is, for the first time in the series, really given a lot of great stuff to do, which is sometimes a problem since, as determined as Cruise is to reign supreme forever, it’s hard not to wish the movie were more about Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q‘s devilishly fun supporting heroes. It’s not as boring as John Woo’s previous instalment, but it doesn’t have the stylish panache of Brian de Palma’s original; J.J. Abrams, while obviously a genius at making popcorn entertainment that truly distracts you from real life, is no light handed storyteller. Ethan Hunt thinks his work is the reason the world goes round, while Bond would probably laugh into his martini if he heard someone insist that he was doing anything more than creating excuses to play live video games and fuck slutty women.
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Cinematography by Daniel Mindel
Music by Michael Giacchino
Production Design by Scott Chambliss
Costume Design by Colleen Atwood