267 – Mission: Impossible III

I like to think I can separate an actor’s public rantings from his or her onscreen work. I’d like to think that, but I’m not that much of a professional. The truth is, when an actor becomes overexposed or otherwise annoying, it registers in the back of my mind. So the next time I see them in a movie, that dormant part of my brain thinks, “This person’s irritating!”

And so it is with Tom Cruise. Poor Tom! He’s in the papers more for his shenanigans than for his oeuvre. Couch hoppin’, medication dissin’, baby makin’, and brainwashin’, that’s our Tom. Kind of puts a few dents in his long-cultivated image of Tom Cruise, Actor Man. So, unfortunately, I sat down to watch M:I-3 already prejudiced against Mr. Cruise.

But regardless of how you may feel about Tom Cruise, Actor Man, the movie itself just isn’t all that good. It’s bombastic, trying desperately to distract you with noise, noise, and more noise, so much of it you’ll feel numb afterwards. The Mission: Impossible movies are swirls of gunfire, explosions, and grit, but without much in the way of substance – or plausibility.

In this installment, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has left IMF for a new career as a trainer, and he’s fallen for a pretty nurse named Julia (Michelle Monaghan). He’s done, he’s out, he’s moving on – except, oops, they’ve brought him back in. Seems an agent’s been captured, and for some unknown reason only Ethan and his old team can retrieve her. This is just the first improbability to hit the plot.

Hunt’s nemesis this time around is black-market dealer Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), who’s after something called the Rabbit’s Foot, and Hunt has to stop him. Has to, you see, because Davian’s got his new bride, and he’s not messing around, understand?

A running theme in recent Cruise films has been that his characters always get set up by someone. Mission: Impossible. Minority Report. Vanilla Sky. This one, too, sadly, but it’s not really a surprise. The man is just a bit too trusting.

There are some whaddya-kidding-me moments, such as when one character, having seconds earlier been taught how to fire a gun, shoots a few guys dead without so much as wasting a shot. You know, believable stuff like that. But mostly the action comes at you so quickly that you don’t have time to ponder the holes in the plot. Ah, but just when you’re figuring it’s a lot of sound and fury, there will be a scene that completely stops that ill-gotten momentum in its tracks, as shots linger on expressionless faces for no apparent reason other than to give us a chance to grab some snacks.

With the third director in the series, it seems the M:I movies try a little too hard to top each other (not to mention their contemporaries) in terms of visual effects. Cruise is still a good action hero and leading man, and he can certainly carry a picture even if his star has dimmed somewhat. Frankly, he’s a little more believable in these thrill rides than he is in the “small” movies, like Collateral or Vanilla Sky; when the plot gets center stage, he simply doesn’t have the range.

M:I-3 isn’t a total waste of time, but it’s no longer fresh and exciting; it has its own minilegacy that it must live up to. Judged thusly, it’s probably a good thing (for it) that the movie debuted in theaters before the new X Men movie.

Mission: Impossible III: **1/2


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