Mission: Impossible III

I like this “Mission Impossible” series. The first one, by Brian DePalma, is the best, a real tight and stylish twisty thriller with amazingly tense suspense scenes and cinematic tricks and surprises. And the occasional show offy special effects action scene. The perfect combination of Brian DePalma and summer event movie.

The second one, by John Woo, is a horrible piece of shit that finally made America realize what they had done to John Woo. But if you don’t hold it to the standards of “being a good movie” it’s pretty fucking funny. The amazing motorcycle chest bump scene comes to mind. In the John Woo filmography I consider this in the same dumb-action category as HARD TARGET and BLACKJACK.

Mission: Impossible IIIAnd it was cool that they seemed to be going for an auteur approach like the ALIEN series before the fucking Predators decided to come in and ruin everything. Each installment has a new approach and feel from a different talented director. Even if hiring John Woo turned out to be a big bust they were gonna go for another beloved director with a solid vision, Mr. Dave Fincher of ALIEN 3 and FIGHT CLUB 1 fame. He worked on it for a long time and then left to pursue his other hobby of developing movies that never get made.

Then they tried some other plans and it’s been kind of laying around somewhere and now it finally makes it to the theaters with the directing and co-writing prowess of none other than J.J. FUCKING ABRAMS.

Which is some guy from TV, apparently. If you look him up he doesn’t exactly have a John Woo or Brian DePalma type track record. He never directed for real movies before and he’s written alot of worthless horrible garbage including but not limited to ARMAGEDDON, GONE FISHIN’ starring Joe Pesci and Danny Glover, some Jim Belushi movie, and worst of all, ARMAGEDDON.

But it was the TV that got him the job because he created that show called Alias that I never watched but got sick of hearing about long ago, as well as another show called Lost that I also never watched but also got sick of hearing about long ago. For some reason I got a subscription to Entertainment Weekly and I have noticed a pattern that if fucking Lost isn’t on the cover then it’s gonna be fuckin American Idol. Okay, I get it. You guys are 22 and get a good salary for writing little wiseass blurbs so all you do is watch TV all day.

But I am willing to give J.J. Abrams a chance for ONE and only one reason. That reason is NOT that he created Felicity and gave its star Keri Russell an important role in this movie as well as a cameo for supporting player Greg Grunberg who played Felicity’s crazy friend Sean, the inventor of Smoothaise. That is the kind of thing that might be exciting for someone who watched Felicity but as I’ve explained several times over the years I really barely even heard of that show, don’t know much about it. No, the one reason I’m willing to give him a chance is because I’m a nice guy.

(begin actual review here)

Right from the bell you can see that this Abrams is trying some new tricks for the series, not just copying the other two as you might expect some TV chump to do. To show you what the stakes are, the movie starts at the most “oh shit, he’s totally fucked” moment in the story, where you really can’t imagine how Tom Cruise’s character Ethan Hunte is going to get out of this mess. The villain played by Academy Award Winner P.S. Hoffman has both Ethan and his wife kidnapped and extensively strapped to chairs, and he’s about to execute the wife if Ethan doesn’t give him what he wants. And Ethan doesn’t seem to have any way of giving him what he wants. And also Ethan apparently has “an explosive charge” in his head. An unneccessary touch but one I can get behind.

Then, of course, it skips back to show us how he got painted into this corner, and also why it matters. We see him at his engagement party with friends and family, and see how much he loves this girl played by Michelle Monaghan (a Liv Tyler elfen supermodel type). Apparently he’s semi-retired, he doesn’t go on Impossible Missions anymore, he just does Impossible Training. And keeps that stuff completely secret even from his special lady friend.

But then Billy Crudup (in a rare non-’70s-greaseball role) convinces him to go on just this one last Impossible Mission because his best student, Agent Felicity, has been captured. There’s a funny joke where he shows up at the airport on a motorcycle wearing the same kind of corny leather and sunglasses getup from part 2. In that movie it was supposed to make him awesome, in this one it’s just what he wears when commuting.

For the mission he works with a team that includes Ving Rhames as Luther (computer expert from the other two), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (the prick from MATCH POINT) and some lady. This is one thing I really liked about the movie, all of the missions involve teamwork, and his team sticks with him the whole time. I mean they definitely have teams in the other two but since Tom Cruise is the star and producer the story always ends up being about him and especially in part 2 it became The Tom Cruise Show. Tom Cruise with his sunglasses climbing a cliff and swinging on a rope and riding a motorcycle. That’s fine but the tv show was all about a team of specialists working together to trick some motherfucker. These aren’t the greatest tricks ever but I’m glad they’re at least leaning a little more on that concept for part 3.

Anyway when they rescue Agent Felicity of course they find out about bad things and there’s hints of other bad things and eventually they’re going after this weapons dealer played by P.S. Hoffman, who is after something called “The Rabbit’s Foot” which we remember as what he asked Ethan for in the opening scene that happens later. So that’s a little of the old DePalma spirit there, letting us know what’s gonna happen but then we have to wait for it in sloooooooow fucking mooooootion. Even when he’s making a plan for how to steal the Rabbit’s Foot we know that whatever he’s gonna steal does not seem to satisfy P.S. Hoffman by the time he gets it to him. People are always so proud if they get ahead of a movie, so this one just gives part of it to you in the opening scene. There you go, assholes. A scene from later on in the movie. Take it.

But slow motion is not the best way to describe the movie as a whole because if anything it’s too fast paced. The story is always turning in different directions and leading to big faceoffs and action moments. You probaly saw that great shot in the trailer where a missile goes off and Ethan bounces off the side of a car. That’s from a pretty awesome paramilitary attack on a bridge. There’s definitely some big stuff in here that Abrams never could’ve done in his TV shows. Especially Felicity because that kind of thing just doesn’t happen to a young girl coming of age in college. I guess Roger Ebert said it’s one of those movies where the action is so constant that it gets boring, but I didn’t feel that way at all. My only problem was that I had to piss and I had trouble finding a quiet dialogue scene to leave during. So take that into consideration of you are one of these people who drinks liquids.

Anyway let’s get to the point. Abrams did a good job. He is not on the level of DePalma in any way, but he sort of has the same basic philosophy: squeeze as much excitement and tension as possible out of traditional suspense thriller techniques, then at the same time pull some clever little twists and tricks playing off of people’s expectations for this type of suspense thriller. For example, you don’t see the villain on screen as much as you see most action movie villains. For a major break in that they lead up to for a long time, the camera stays outside of the building and waits for Ethan to come back out instead of showing you what happens inside. The Rabbit’s Foot is a McMuffin or a Pulp Fiction Briefcase, you never find out what it is. This way we get to avoid yet another big speech about all the horrible destruction that it would cause if the bad guys won, even though you know they won’t. Do we really need a guy making a dramatic speech in front of a big screen with a computer simulation? Most directors of this type of movie say yes, Abrams says no. (The closest thing to a speech like that is Simon Pegg from SHAUN OF THE DEAD explaining what he hopes it’s not, based on no evidence, sort of played for laughs.)

Already I’ve seen people online complaining that you don’t find out what The Rabbit Foot is and you don’t see how Ethan steals it. As if it was some kind of mistake. They just ran out of budget and couldn’t film the scene. Or they forgot to film it. I just can’t relate to these people who get upset and confused every time a movie tries some small thing to be a tiny bit different. Their movie watching licenses should probaly be suspended.

Okay if it’s such a problem here you go. Imagine this little speech is in the movie, it will straighten things out.

What the hell are we dealing with here? This isn’t an actual rabbit is it?

I’m afraid it’s not an actual rabbit’s foot, and it sure as hell doesn’t bring good luck. The Rabbit’s Foot is a biological weapon, the baddest of the bad. You want to know how bad this thing is? So bad nobody will take credit for it. IMF, CIA, NSA, KGB, WWE… the deepest, darkest, black bag, black ops, off the record undercover top secret spooks in the world won’t even put their names on this. Because some day they’ll have to face God.

What does it do?

I’ll tell you what it does. It makes your worst nightmares look like a day at the circus, or a dog show. The Easter bunny brings you eggs, this one brings you torment and horror. It wipes out the planet in less time than it takes to zip up your pants. Or unzip. Either one. Even diluted times a thousand, one drop of this stuff could turn an entire ocean into acid. On land, one thimbleful, or an amount the size of a baby kangaroo, could wipe out an area twice the size of Antarctica.

But Antarctica is the largest continent, there isn’t an area twice the size of Antarctica.

And there especially won’t be if Davion gets the Rabbit’s Foot. Millions will die. Their lungs will melt inside their chests and start dripping out their assholes. They’ll start puking up shit that looks like marshmallow creme. Their skin will fall off their bodies in one piece and their muscles will start to shrivel and when they look in the mirror and see skeletons they’ll still be alive and screaming for 5-10 more minutes.

Birds and deer will go crazy and start attacking cars. Swarms of ants will be attracted to anything metal. Bees will gather at the northernmost point of every city and start stinging each other. World leaders will rip off each other’s clothes and start fucking in the streets. A nightmare that will make World War 2 look like a particulary tame bat mitzvah or maybe a church picnic of some kind, on a really nice day with good sandwiches and everything. Something like that. What I’m saying is this thing is bad.

Thank you. Now that I understand specifically what it does instead of leaving it up to my imagination, this situation is much more dramatic in my opinion.

Ethan, wait. There’s one more thing.


Good luck. You’re gonna need it.


Also I’ve always loved you, but we can talk about that later I guess.

Later dude.

See, insert this scene into the movie and maybe you guys can enjoy it a little more, but personally I don’t think it’s necessary to know what it does. Because you got a good idea it’s gonna kill people. It’s not gonna provide anti-aging, full-spectrum sun protection while conditioning your skin with rich emollients.

P.S. Hoffman is a great villain. He’s obviously one of our best actors (we own actors so they are “ours”) and I have no doubt that he could be a good scenery chewing overacting super villain in an UNDER SIEGE 3 or something like that. But what he does is more novel, he’s actually pretty scary. He could be like a notorious terrorist leader or something, it doesn’t really matter if he can do karate or knows how to use a gun, the important thing is his position in the organization. He’s secure in the knowledge that he’s one of the most powerful and dangerous people in the world. Even when he’s captured he just looks at Ethan with utter contempt and disgust, like he’s a little kid in Insane Clown Posse makeup who he caught writing “fart” on the side of his car. Completely immobile, he still threatens Ethan and his family and makes it not seem hollow. He could squash him like a bug but he’d rather pull his legs and wings off. Then drag him to his own family reunion and cut his dick off in front of all his great aunts and second cousins.

Laurence Fishburne is also pretty intimidating in a supporting role as one of the bosses at IMF. Michelle Monaghan doesn’t have a whole lot to do but she makes lovey dovey eyes at Tom Cruise that are incredibly convincing, and that goes a long way to making the stakes more personal. All the supporting cast is at least pretty good.

And Tom Cruise is fine in his usual Tom Cruise way. Now, you might have heard one or two things on TV lately about how Tom Cruise is part of some weird scientist club and he kidnapped a teenage girl from TV and started jumping on the couch, waving a sonar machine around, or whatever. If you are interested in that kind of craziness you gotta drop it in order to watch this movie, because this is not a freak show. It’s a mission impossible picture. I would love it if he just went fuckin Dr. Moreau nuts, but this is not that guy, this is just old Movie Hero Tom Cruise.

For direction, I would give Abrams a B or B-, but with a 1 for effort and full marks for attendance. I’m not surprised he’s a TV director because he’s got alot of this disorienting shaky cam and at times (not all times) the action scenes are hard to follow in that way that many modern action movies are hard to follow. For example there’s a frenzied scene in a helicopter where I can understand a little disorientation but I at least oughta be able to figure out which character it is who almost fell out. For the most part though the action is pretty exciting. He does better than alot of veteran big screen filmatists do these days, including one of the guys who made Tom Cruise such a big star (yes Tony Scott I’m looking your way motherfucker.)

If I have one major complaint for Mr. Abrams it’s dude, why you gotta torture Agent Felicity like that? What did she ever do to you? Obviously this does not affect a guy like me who has not watched Felicity or even heard of it but I’m sure alot of people who did watch that show will be pretty upset when you put her in the movie and then fuckin kill the shit out of her before she gets the chance to even really walk. When they first show her she’s tied to a chair so sick she looks like a zombie. She gets an adrenaline shot that allows her to catch a gun and bust off a bunch of shots with a badass look on her face. A great moment. But soon after she gets dizzy and dies and we even see her dead body laying there with the eyes all rotted and rolling back into her head. Couldn’t she have gone on an Impossible Mission first? A couple flashback shots of her spinning a stick don’t count.

I mean I know the show got less popular after she cut her hair but that’s AMERICA’S fucking problem, not Felicity’s. At the time, slavery seemed okay to alot of white people, but we see things differently now. The same will happen with Felicity’s hair cut. So don’t take it out on her.

Also, looking back on the whole story after you get to the end, I’m not sure if it makes any god damn sense. I’m not sure when certain affiliations were made or why certain people would allow certain things to happen if they were in on it with the bad guys. Then again these Impossible Mission people are really into complicated plans so maybe it makes sense and it’s just over my head. You can’t comprehend what the Impossible Mission Force is thinking if you’re in a Possible Mission Force type of mindframe.

Other than that though this is an accomplished Hollywood summer event type picture. Maybe not a transcendent one like DePalma’s but at least a real well made and fun one, which is probaly more than anybody should expect from a part 3. Especially when the part 2 wasn’t too hot.

NOTE: The end credits have a really horrible song by Kanye West where he keeps rappin and singin about “impossible” stuff. He was still right about George Bush, though. Anyway if you can make it through that song he also has a pretty cool remix of the classic Lalo (ABOMINABLE) Schifrin theme song.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 6th, 2006 at 1:19 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

49 Responses to “Mission: Impossible III”

  1. Just saw this movie on DVD after buying it purely on impulse, and I’m genuinely surprised at your review, and some others I’ve read. Here’s a few reasons why I dislike it, and REALLY dislike some of the praise it’s had:

    1) J J Abrams can’t direct action. At no point during the Vatican scenes, the helicopter chase, etc, did I have a clue what was going on. There’s no sense that any of the places Cruise visits is a real place, no sense of where the characters or objects are in relation to one another. An example: I bought this film on DVD, which was a mistake, and played the scene where the enemy helicopter crashes when hit by the windmill blade. I still can’t understand, from looking at the film, how that could happen. Why is that helicopter so low in the first place? It doesn’t need to be, and it doesn’t even appear to be right before it crashes. It looks WRONG. Unfortunately there’s dozens upon dozens of moments like this.
    2) Phillip Seymour Hoffman is by far the best thing in the film, and he’s got a total screen time of about ten minutes.
    3) By far the best scene in the movie is Cruise’s interrogation, so they put it in right at the beginning. Leading to a total let-down in terms of tension (there is absolutely no reason to go for the old trick of “Here’s where we are, now look at how we got here” Pulp Fiction-esque time manipulation unless you’re sure that “how we got here” isn’t a huge letdown. In this film it is.)
    4) It’s obvious who the mole is before you even know that there’s even going to BE a mole. (Obvious because this film contains enough idiotic spy cliches that it’s a fair bet they wouldn’t let that one pass.) If you exclude fake-suspect Morpheus, there’s really only one possibility. They try to excuse his constant appearances by giving him an obviously faked divided loyalties story about his dedication to his job and Morpheus, and his friendship with Ethan. This is tiresome, slows the film down, and doesn’t make his identity any less obvious.
    5) The soundtrack of the film gets on my nerves. It’s horribly cheap and corny-sounding. With the exception of the soundtrack to the unveiling of the mole, which is great and dramatic, but unfortunately that whole scene is a total letdown anyway because the mole’s identity and motivation has been obvious from twenty minutes into the film.
    6) Both the main villains’ deaths are anticlimactic and perfunctory. There’s no justice in their ends, no poetry. They die randomly because common morality dictates they have to. They’re not outsmarted, they don’t fall because their characters’ moral or mental weakness dictates that they should. One of their deaths is practically accidental. If there was a point made to this (as with, for example, Michael Caine’s death in “Get Carter”), then it might work. Here it just looks lazy.
    7) None of the team that Ethan works with has any noticeable character – even Ving Rhames is a stereotypical Wise Black Best Friend in this one, although I guess it’s to the film’s credit that they don’t kill him off. The girl – I can’t remember her name, but she was in “Die Hard 4” and she has even less to do in this than she had as Timothy Olyphant’s henchman in that one. I can’t even remember the third guy or who plays him. We have no reason to care about any of them, and none of them are ever in any danger, nor is there any suggestion that they might be the mole. The original “Mission Impossible” film, which I think is great, is the only one of the three films where I think there’s any genuine element of “team”.

    It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not one that I can summon any enthusiasm whatsoever for either. The only good thing about it is Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the opening interrogation scene. The rest… there’s just no point to it that I can see. I don’t know why people keep giving this kind of thing a pass, but it genuinely irritates me that this film has had such good reviews. Aren’t there enough mediocre movies in the world without lauding ones like this from the rooftops?

  2. 6 on your list is the big one for me, Paul. I really was quite enjoying the film – then Cruise has the bomb up his nose (or whatever) and PSH is a-gloating and I was like “Right JJ, you’ve set up all the elements, let’s see you bring it home. This is the bit where McClane reaches behind his back to pull out a scotch-taped pistol – where Clint reveals the improvised body armour to Franco Nero – Where Bruce Lee kicks Han onto his own spear – time for some clever, unexpected badassery!”

    And what happens? Tom does some weak KFM ripped from the DVD extras of Batman Begins and elbows Capote a few times before rolling out into the street so that a serendipitous taxi can run him over. Boo.

    And then the horrible ending. Yay, they’re going to have a relationship!

    I do, however, think it’s more the substandard level of most recent action cinema that causes films like this to get a pass, than a failure of critique. Unfortunately.

  3. Well, I’ve only seen it the one time so I don’t remember all the specifics. As far as the action, it is the modern BOURNE/TAKEN/STAR TREK style, which is not my bag, but I don’t remember being confused like in any of those, and I do remember that plane attack on the bridge being cool. Some of the things you mention are the things that I liked, for example, as I think I detailed in the review I think the fact that P.S. Hoffman is not onscreen as much as a traditional villain is exactly why he is a good one. So I strongly disagree with that criticism, to put him onscreen more would take away some of what was original and clever about the movie.

    But I don’t know who exactly is praising it from the rooftops. if I remember right this had a pretty lukewarm response. So most of the people praising it are just saying that it’s underrated and, like Telf said, better than so much of the other crap out there.

    I do agree that part 1 is the best of the three.

  4. Hmm. I really liked this one, and I’d put it as my favourite of the three. It’s interesting you mention not liking the action Paul, because I really enjoyed it in this and think JJ’s pretty good at doing it. It’s a bit ‘shaky-cam’ but you can generally know what’s happening.

    As for predicatbility, well yeah. But the first two had just as predicatable storylines. But yeah the weakest part of the film is the script, not all of it but parts of it I think. I disagree about the team members, I felt this movie had the best use of a team, as oppossed to people to make Tom Cruise look good. The had personalities apart from looking tragically while they get killed or gaze lovingly into Tom’s eyes

  5. Maybe, but the clever thing about the team in the first one was that the film started in a way which made you expect a team adventure a la the TV series, which De Palma then subverts, in classic De Palma fashion. It also had a lot of style, suspense and visual panache, three things sorely lacking from this so-so TV-ish effort. J J Abrams is one of the most overrated directors out there today IMO. I thought “Star Trek” was OK but nowhere near deserving of the praise it got.

  6. I think the first MISSION IMPOSSIBLE is probably the strongest, on account of such strong elements as wiping out the team in the first fifteen minutes and that fantastic vault sequence. I remember being irritated by the silliness of the last bit on the train (which was used heavily in the trailers) but on seeing it again a few years ago, it didn’t bother me as much.

    I only saw MI3 for the first time earlier this year and I thought it was pretty solid. I liked more of the nuts and bolts of the spycraft business, but there could have been more of that. Hoffman was a good villain, even if the twists were pretty obvious from early on. I thought it was a nice touch having the main McGuffin heist taking place entirely off-screen too.

    But after MI2, it was Shakespeare.

    I’d be curious to see another one – I think Abrams is staying on as co-writer and producer, but they’ll get a new director. It would be nice to see them going back to the pure suspense stuff that Brian De Palma did. Something else I liked about the first one was how cold a lot of it was; not just in how the supporting characters (and love interest) were killed off, but the murkiness of the loyalties and allegiances.

  7. I think that Abrams is still one of the better Shakey Cam users. He isn’t using it effective (As in: “Wow, this visual style is really engaging!” But on the other hand, I think nobody ever did that.) but I think his action scenes, here and in “Star Trek” were always pretty easy to follow.
    And I also gotta admit, that it was the first M: I movie, that convinced me from the begiining to the end. I think the biggest strength of Abram’s take on this series, is that he just tried to tell an entertaining secret agent story. There is no forced cleverness like in part 1, or the urge to surpass every former actionscene with the next one, although the audience already stopped caring 45 minutes into the movie. Just a story about a secret agent, who tries to stop the bad guy. Sometimes on his own, sometimes with the help of some friends, sometimes with a clever plan, sometimes just with a gun.

    @PacmanFever: To be fair, Abrams didn’t get his geek-god status for his skills as director. ;)

  8. I like every movie in the series for different reasons (the second one because it’s so ridiculous, the first because of the trademark De Palma touches), but I think this is my favorite of the three because it actually engages me emotionally. I’m not saying I fell in love with these characters or anything, but they have just enough TV-style character beats to keep me invested in them. I think it’s a good mix of big-budget action, sly humor, and pop drama. Not a masterpiece, but I find myself wanting to watch it more often than I thought I would. It’s just an enjoyable movie to spend time with.

  9. Oh I definitely agree that MI:2 was the worst of the three by miles (it’s rather sad that Dougray Scott went from a fantastically psychotic performance in “Twin Town” to this) but I still enjoyed it more than MI:3. Sometimes a bad movie with midair chest bumps can be more enjoyable than a mediocre one that really has nothing in it worth watching, which is the impression I got with this one.

  10. Oh and I have to answer Vern’s point about Phillip Seymour Hoffman not appearing much being a good thing – Vern, I’d agree, IF – and only if – there was anything else to look forward in the film. Unfortunately, there isn’t. I agree with a couple of criticisms made of the first film here (in particular I didn’t like the train climax) but what I did like was Tom Cruise’s performance as Ethan Hunt.

    From the start, Ethan is constantly surveying his surroundings. He’s aware of everything, and we know it and see it. Tom Cruise uses his eyes in a way that I’ve rarely seen in a movie. He sees the waiter, the spy on the stairs, the people in the cafe; he notices that the knife that Jean Reno dropps in the computer room is identical to the one that was used to stab Kristin Scott Thompson; he’s constantly looking everywhere. While his face is often stoic, he’s constantly observant, and he always has a plan. We literally see what he sees and, because of it, we think what he’s thinking (or what we ASSUME he’s thinking – for example, when we see the knife drop it’s an “Oh Fuck!” moment, but when he does, he’s coming to the snap realization that the man beside him murdered one of his colleagues. We see this happen, but because of the way the scene is set up we misinterprit it. It’s a great piece of direction.) Until the very end, he’s stealthy rather than in-your-face. He beats his enemies with his brain, and thanks to Cruise’s performance, we see how he does it. I LOVE THAT.

    In Mission Impossible 3, Ethan’s been reduced to “Angry man whose wife / daughter / girl he’s supposed to be guarding has been kidnapped” #10428. When his wife IS kidnapped, his first act is to deliver the superweapon-macguffin straight into the hands of his enemies. But that’s ok because “he’s put a tracer on it”. WOW, THERE’S NO WAY THEY WOULD EVER ANTICIPATE THIS HAPPENING!!! He never has a plan, never has a backup, never has an escape route. And when they do try to have him follow a “plan”, it’s ridiculously elaborate and unconvincing. In the Vatican scene, he has to scale a huge wall and attach sticky photos to CCTV cameras, yet the rest of his team just walk in as tourists. There’s never any reason given for why he shouldn’t just do the same thing, nor is there any reason why he can’t just come in through the same way as he escapes. It’s just dumb.

    Please note that none of the above would bother me if there was anything else good about the film… but again, sorry, nope. I can take the Joker’s ridiculous schemes in “The Dark Knight” because at the end of the day I think it’s a fantastic film, and the Joker has a certain supernatural mystique about him that helps to convince me that if anyone can pull this off, he can. With Ethan Hunt… again… nope.

  11. Ethan wasn’t doing all that wall-climbing/priceless-mural-destroying to sneak into the Vatican; he was doing it to sneak into the bathroom. He needed to get into it through the vent so Hoffman’s henchman would think it was empty. I kind of like that all of Ethan’s schemes are so complicated, yet what they’re trying to accomplish is usually pretty simple.

  12. Yes the first MISSION is the best of the series. I’ve never completely gotten my head around the story and what exactly happened fully, but fuck it I don’t need to with DePalma being a kid in a candy store with his pseudo-NORTH BY NORTHWEST sandbox.

    Also, I like how the hero leader from the TV show was turned into the villain. Yeah fuck you continuity.

    I guess #3 was the most faithful to the show in the whole team concept, but so what if its at best decent if not a must-see viewing?

  13. Just rewatched this, and I do really enjoy the film still. I’d only seen it once before, but after the glory of Edge of Tomorrow, I’ve been on a new Cruise kick, and looking into/revisiting his other stuff. And I know the action is too shaky at times and the storyline fairly predictable, but what I enjoy most about it is that, in this one, the stakes feel more intimate and, therefore, I felt more invested by the climax.

    I bought the love story between Ethan and Julia, so that when she’s taken, I’m just as strongly wanting to see her saved as Hunt is to actually rescue her, and that scene where its up to her to bring him back after he disables the charge is a really well-played moment of genuine devotion between them. Almost like a modern twist on the True Love’s Kiss saving the princess.

    And also: had actually forgotten how incredible our dear PSH is in this. Dude was fucking terrifying with just a monotone voice and some memorably Lecter-esque villain lines. The only thing keeping Ghost Protocol from being a truly perfect flick is its lack of a villain as good as Owen Davian.

    Overall, very good thriller. This is the most heartfelt of the MIs, and I admire it for that.

  14. Yeah, and I like Monaghan’s brief appearance at the end of PROTOCOL. It’s kinda sweet that Hunt has someone he cares deeply about, even though he has to almost be a stalker to keep an eye on her. Continuity of characters isn’t a feature of the MI films. I think Ving Rhames has been about the only returning regular.

  15. Well, Simon Pegg was in 3 AND 4.

  16. Re-watched this one to get ready for the new one, and it’s still an enjoyable, underrated gem. Some fresh notes:

    1) Aaron Paul is in this? As a remarkably Jesse Pinkman-esque stoner who accidentally gives the bad guys Julia’s location?? (Which they probably didn’t need b/c of the mole, but whatever)

    2) Eddie Marsan is also in this as PSH’s right hand man. I had no idea PSH even had a right hand man and it’s especially weird b/c he escapes the opening action sequence, shows up later with a broken nose, and then disappears again. I guess he’s still out there up to no good.

    3) The big complaint at the time was about JJ Abrams tight framing and how the whole thing looks like a “TV Movie”/episode of Alias, but watching it now, it actually looks just like every other JJ Abrams movie. And yes, I mean the lens flares, but it also looks really slick and Spielberg-ian. The actions sequences themselves are workmanlike (the editing/staging lacks snap), but there’s some truly beautiful, dare I say iconic individual shots Abrams should get credit for (Cruise and Russell shooting people together, Maggie Q jumping out of the car on the bridge to shoot at the chopper, the trailer shot of Cruise bouncing off the car, the AMAZING long take of Cruise running though Shanghai….)

    4) There IS a slight TV/episodic feel to it, but removed from the expectations of a summer movie theatre, I kinda like it. The biggest action sequence is at the beginning and the climax is absolutely tiny in scope (two people punching each other in a dingy room, with the “ticking clock” attached to someone’s brain, not a virus or nuclear warhead) Storywise, it’s basically “that time Ethan and his team had to deal with a particularly evil asshole”, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Of course, he has to go rogue from IMF yet again and gets married 1/3 of the way through, for those who need their movies packed with game-changing incident.

    5) Props for being the only movie in recent memory where the villain gets captured halfway through AND IT WASN’T ON PURPOSE/A CONVOLUTED LONG-CON. Extra shocking since this is an Orci/Kurtzman script, and is easily their most coherent (I actually understood everything when it was over!)

    6) Kanye West’s theme song is ridiculous but his aforementioned MI Theme Remix is not only good, but sounds exactly like something off of 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This movie really is ahead of it’s time!

  17. For better or worse it is the only M:I that felt like a TV episode. For worse IMO.

    This movie is boring as shit and I still have a very difficult time making it through it. The new one is pretty awesome though. Go see it guys. Seriously.

  18. RE: Aaron Paul. When I rewatched it one or two years ago, there was a fun game of “Hey, since I watched it the last time, many of those bit players appeared in TV shows that I watch!” (The movie also features Sasha Alexander from NCIS, in one scene PSYCH’s Timothy Omundson is standing in the background and then there is of course Greg Grunberg. Maybe I forgot a few.)

    Also about the VILLAIN DOESN’T GET CAPTURED ON PURPOSE thing: Khaaaaaaaan in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS got captured for real too. The nerds keep overlooking that in their blind rage and also because he improvises his way out of captivity, but he obviously didn’t expect the way Admiral Robocop wanted to get rid of him and his friends. So when he realized what’s going on, he dropped his original plan (whatever that was) and surrendered. (Sure, you could say now “I surrender and then see what happens next” IS some kind of getting-captured-as-part-of-the-plan thing, but honestly, it’s no different then Hoffman’s “When I get captured, my private army will safe me anyway” plan B.

  19. Broddie- I agree with you on part 3 and I hope I will agree with you on the new one.

  20. The Original Paul

    August 1st, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Well, I wrote up #5 in the forums. The good news: it’s better than MI:3 (although not many things aren’t). It has some standout moments, at least at the start. There’s a ten-minute or so sequence at an opera house near the start of the movie that was almost everything I wanted from my MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies.

    The bad news: those good things aside, the movie really falls apart later on. It is predictable and dull. There’s one moment early on that really “got” me, but again, this is in the first half-hour or so of the movie. It really felt to me as though MI:5 blew its wad at the start and had nothing to keep the momentum up with. It’s old and tired, as is everyone in it (the youngest speaking part goes – I think – to the girl in the bookstore, who makes more of an impression in two minutes than the lead female does in the entire time. the female lead is a huge “scrappy” in fact. The performance is fine, her introduction is great, but everything after that is just predictable and annoying.) This is a movie about middle-aged and elderly people playing spies, and it feels like it a lot of the time, especially from the halfway point onwards.

    Look, I love the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie. You guys know this. Basically the four sequels, all of them, are to the original what DIE HARD 4 is to the original DIE HARD, in my opinion. They aren’t terrible (well, #3 may be, but I’d more describe that as relentlessly and crushingly mediocre) but their main character is completely different, the focus is completely different, and they miss the point of what made the original so good so completely, they’re not in the same ballpark. Or the same league. They don’t even seem to realise there’s a game being played here. Come to think of it, I think that comparison is being unkind to DIE HARD 4. At least that movie seemed to have some idea of what a film set in the DIE HARD universe ought to be, even if it missed out on a helluva lot of the details. None of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequels have any clue.

    I’d rate MI:5 as slightly below MI:4, which means it’s the second best of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequels. MI:4’s great strength was Renner’s character, and there’s no equivalent to him in MI:5. It’s way better than MI:3, and it is at least smarter than MI:2 although probably less entertaining because of it. As a fan of the original I can’t recommend it, but it’s a serviceable thriller if you don’t mind the “is she – isn’t she” thing they do with the lead female for pretty much the entire film. If on the other hand that kind of thing annoys you as much as it does me, stay away from MI:5.

  21. Hey now, New Lady is only 31. I don’t think that’s quite middle-aged yet.

    (But I also thought she was a great presence (despite looking weirdly like my ex) so what do I know?)

  22. CJ- I was rewatching STARSHIP TROOPERS recently, and Omundson pops up randomly as a three eyed psychic in one of the commercials played throughout.

  23. The Original Paul

    August 1st, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Ironcup – I don’t want to insult her performance. That was fine. I thought she looked at least five to ten years older than 31 in this film (might be the only case of Hollywood deliberately making someone look older than they are?) I guess it fitted the theme of having her be jaded from spending so much time undercover, but still… look at this and compare it to EDGE OF TOMORROW. (That might be an unfair comparison given that Emily Blunt is probably my favorite actor, male or female, working today; but still, MI:5 does not come off well by that comparison.)

    Even then, as I said, I don’t want to insult the actress playing the lead. My problem absolutely wasn’t with the actress, it was with the character. The “is-she isn’t-she” thing is just soo annoying and predictable, and I never ever thought for a second that she “wasn’t”. What they did with Renner’s character might almost have been worse, but at least that only lasted for two scenes. You have to put up with Isla doing a “Catwoman-in-THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” for the entire film, and at least Anne Hathaway was given enough room to give Catwoman some personality.

  24. The Original Paul

    August 1st, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    My full review is here:

    With full spoiler tags.

    Actually I have one reason to watch MI:5 – you get to see Tom Cruise dive headfirst into a giant concrete anus. I guarantee there wasn’t a single person in any cinema showing this film, anywhere, who didn’t snigger a little while watching that scene.

  25. The Original Paul

    August 1st, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    What the heck happened to that link?

    Ok, real one:

  26. The Original Paul

    August 1st, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    …I don’t even know what is going on. Anyway, I’m pretty sure if you click on the giant thing above, it will take you to my spoiler-free MI:5 review.

  27. Dikembe Mutombo

    August 2nd, 2015 at 8:22 am

    I’d rate MI:5 as slightly below MI:4, which means it’s the second best of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequels. MI:4’s great strength was Renner’s character, and there’s no equivalent to him in MI:5.

    Huh?? What??? Oh yeah the timeless and classic character known as (checks imdb) Brandt was what whomped ass about MI4 and not the insanely cool action and snappy filmmaking…

    All I’m gonna say right now is MI5 is one of my favorite action movies in years, my fav since Jack Reacher or Raid 2 probably. Can’t wait to read Vern’s take. I’m definitely going to see it multiple times in the theater.

  28. The Original Paul

    August 2nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Dikembe – bear in mind that I hold the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise to higher standards that, so far, only the first film has been able to hit. And that film is one of my all-time favorite films. Basically all of the sequels are to the original what TERMINATOR: GENISYS was to THE TERMINATOR. There are certain things that I want from a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film. And none of the sequels have delivered those things. If you’re not going in with the same hopes then I can understand the film working for you, although – and I can’t stress this enough – I cannot see how anybody could not find what passes for the lead female’s “arc” as annoying as hell. This constant irritating “Is she or isn’t she?” thing that, come on, nobody whose ever seen a film before would be confused about whether or not she “is”. Basically her character just sucks the movie down the entire way through with a stupid-as-hell fake “mystery” that nobody could either 1) care about, or 2) have any doubts about what the resolution will be. No good. No good at all.

    If it wasn’t for that character, I probably would’ve liked MI:5 as an action movie – it has enough strengths, especially in the first forty minutes or so, to pass muster there – although it still didn’t have the makings of a good MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie.

    MI:3 is still shit though.

  29. The Original Paul

    August 2nd, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    And the action was passable. Nothing of note there apart from the opera sequence, which largely worked because of the brilliant juxtaposition of the operatic score itself and what was going on behind the scenes. For that one five- to ten-minute sequence MI:5 actually felt like a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film. That was pretty fucking awesome. Apart from that, the only thing I can remember making an impact was the latter part of the motorbike chase (the city bits are kinda chaotic, but the weaving-in-and-out-of-traffic-on-hilly-roads was pretty good.) Like most of the film it didn’t feel like anything I hadn’t seen before, but it was well put-together and directed.

  30. Plots in spy movies I rarely give a shit about, especially the M:I movies. They are fun popcorn entertainment, but little else. They are good at what they do, giving you a few brief hours of solid Hollywood entertainment. But I still like the tv-series better (the 80´s installment,mind you)

  31. The Original Paul

    August 3rd, 2015 at 3:50 am

    Shoot – see, I’m the exact opposite. Someone of the same mind as you, if they can get over how annoying the female lead is, would probably enjoy the movie. But I wouldn’t. To me, the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie was so far and above “solid Hollywood entertainment” that any future film in the franchise that doesn’t at least reach for those heights is bound to disappoint.

    So MI:5 has a couple of good action scenes. So fucking what? This is not what I’m looking for from an MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie. If I want a “solid” action movie, I know where I can get them. Why are the M:I sequels competing on this level, where they’ll be up against about ten thousand other films, instead of doing what only the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film has managed to do?

  32. I’m really getting old because I came here to say everything I apparently already said up there in 2015. This is a fun, underrated film, that despite its workmanlike reputation, does contain the strongest 45 minutes or so in a Mission Impossible film. (Everything from the amazing Vatican sequence through the airplane scene to the bridge attack is absolutely perfect). Unfortunately the pace kinda slows down and the last third of the movie is a little bit of a drag, but this is still a really strong entry and contains Cruise’s series-best performance.

  33. Vern, I couldn’t take Dead Reckoning seriously because every time someone started speechifying about the antagonist I flashed back to your Rabbit’s Foot dialogue and laughed my ass off, half the movie sounds exactly like that. MI:III is still the most underrated one.

  34. This comment made me go back and read it and I laughed out loud at melted lungs dripping out your asshole.

    And yeah they keep upping the melodramatic dialogue. If you thought “living manifestation of destiny” was a lot, they top it in this one.

  35. What is it with the recent M:I III backlash anyway? It’s one of the best of the series. Has the most memorable villain, felt more like an actual adaptation of the show with its newly introduced focus on heists and fool-the-bad-guys as a team, delivers some cool action scenes and doesn’t feel as overstuffed as the McQuarrie ones. Yet in recent years I see people rating it way too low or putting it near the bottom of M:I movie rankings.

  36. I would rank it last. There may have been a time when I would have said it was better than MI:II, but I certainly never thought it was particularly good, and I remember being frankly baffled there were people still insisting it’s the best of the series by the time ROGUE NATION came out.

    I can see the argument that it’s the FAST & FURIOUS of the series, the one that set the table for every one that followed and doesn’t get enough credit, but ultimately from a 2023 vantage point to me it just seems like a film that is less distinctive than either of the first two films, and does nothing that isn’t done better by later films.


    No, wait, I’m not sorry! I was a trailblazer! A pioneer! Give me a medal!

  37. Yeah I still feel like III has the best villain, best opening (instantly gripping), even best ending (unusually heartfelt, no teasers, would have been suitable for franchise finale). It kinda squanders its cool cast and the action scenes are nowhere near as well done and elaborate as the others’ but the bridge sequence is still one of my favorites, really love the tension and the score there. And I appreciate how the film doesn’t waste a second, glossing over stuff we can already infer, like the Rabbit’s Foot or parts of the Shanghai shenanigans, though I understand why people might find the approach irksome (even the title sequence is super truncated). Dead Reckoning got way too repetitive for me, every dialogue and even action scene seemed to hit the same points again and again.

    Also Vern’s point about the ALIEN approach keeping the earlier installments refreshingly idiosyncratic is spot on – the McQuarrie movies give me Harry Potter vibes where the last few ones are technically very competent but kinda start to blur together for me.

  38. Is there an MI:III backlash? Since when? Far as I know, to this day, MI:2 remains the Franchise’s Whipping Boy.

    I liked MI:III although it doesn’t trump the McQuarrie Years for me. My only quibble with 3 is that, even by his standards, Hunt gets a little too emo in this one. Like, I get it you are madly in love with this woman, but to snap when Davian threatens her on the plane and dangle him outside shows a surprising lack of maturity for a seasoned agent. Am sure this isn’t the first time a captured Bad Guy threatened to Deep Six everyone you love, surely? Apart from that, 3 is cool in my book

  39. It seemed like a bigger deal at the time. Now, as Pac-Man points out, it plays more like a rough sketch of what the series would become. It feels smaller, chintzier, and less distinct than any of the others that came before or after. But overall it’s still better than II or IV. Yes, I still think GHOST PROTOCOL sucks. I will die on that hill.

  40. Philip Seymour Hoffman! A national treasure, gone far too soon. Love him and love him in this film. Still the best MI villain by a wide margin.

  41. People might be a bit harsh on MI3, but I also think the reassessment that puts it towards the bottom of the list is correct. It does some things well, but the idea of giving Ethan Hunt a wife just so that she can get captured in the third act is kind of dumb, and it misunderstands the series. What’s more, they also give him a protege who dies in the first part of the film. It’s a bit overkill. Abrams clearly wants to make Hunt a more fully fleshed out character and make it so that “this time it’s personal,” but like usual, he overplays his hand. A dead protege or a capture wife. Pick one, Abrams.

    Clearly Ghost Protocol with the Burj Khalifa antics is what cements what this series is in the public consciousness. But I also think there’s a good case to be made that the first film is still the best. When DePalma is in crowd pleaser mode, he really tears things up.

  42. Without taking away anything from the criticisms of MI3 (they’re all valid !!), no other MI film has PSH as the villain. The most jaw-dropping stunt holds no candle to him saying “And I’m gonna hurt her.” It’s not the best (FALLOUT!) or worst (MI2!) of the series. It exists in its own rarefied space. It’s the most PSH. Also the most JJ Abrams, but PSH greatness is the sun to the JJ badness moon. It’s not contest.

  43. Majestyk – after years of disliking Ghost Protocol, I finally learned to give up and enjoy it, despite its many many flaws. I think the key was that buried under its sloppy script, there’s actually a kinda sweet squint-or-you’ll-miss-it meta theme about the characters losing their mojo and gaining it back. It’s kinda like Tom Cruise’s Rocky Balboa.

    Whereas III was Cruise’s mission statement proclaiming “I love Michelle Monaghan(Katie Holmes) so much that all I care about is her, and I’m going to do really dumb hotheaded shit that MI:1 Ethan would never do, but I don’t care”, IV’s mission statement seems to be “Ok that fairy tale ending I thought I earned didn’t work out – but I think I still have something to contribute”. Both Patton and Renner’s subplots are about them being depressed and unsure of themselves, and Ethan gifts them both their confidence back at the end. (I like that Ethan himself never seems unsure of how awesome he is, though). I suspect Pegg also had some cut Al Powell-like subplot about him being unsure if he could mentally handle killing a bad guy, since him blowing away the henchman in the finale feels like it’s paying off a storyline that wasn’t actually there.

    I like that IV is the only MI film where all their gadgets are distractions or broken pieces of shit, and Ethan explicitly points out at the end that it’s the people, not the technology who made everything work (again this point is expressed much cleaner in better scripts like Top Gun: Maverick, but there’s seeds of it here). The fact that IV is the first one in the series to turn it into a practical Jackie Chan-like stunt spectacular really does make it feel like a reboot of sorts, and I’m glad the themes in the movie (sort of) go along with that.

  44. Everything everybody says about GHOST PROTOCOL is true, especially about how it fully cements what the series should be going forward, but there’s one little problem: I don’t believe anything that happens in the entire movie. I realize this is a series with the word “impossible” in the title, but the job of the filmmakers is to make me believe that the impossible is possible. GP never does that. Every time it starts getting good, it throws in some barely considered bullshit that takes me right out of the story. It feels like what it is: A movie for adults cooked up by a director who’s accustomed to making movies for children. That’s about the level of plausibility we’re dealing with here. If they swapped in Frankie Muniz for Cruise it could be AGENT CODY BANKS III: DESTINATION DUBAI.

  45. I liked GHOST PROTOCOL but let me tell you that Indian Audiences steeped in Bollywood Movies had a special reason to despise it: The criminal waste of Iconic Bollywood Star Anil Kapoor. Kapoor was huge in the 80s right up to the mid-90s. A combo of tough guy and romantic lead, hugely popular and still liked even after transitioning to mature roles. A lot of my friends and family in India went to see GHOST just to check out Kapoor only to see him play this skeezy buffoonish Millionaire who got slapped and then chocked out by Paula Patton. GHOST PROTOCOL punked Anil Kapoor.

  46. That is by a considerable margin the worst sequence in the franchise. I was still hoping the movie would pay off up until that point, and then all of a sudden it was like Bugs Bunny had tunneled into ARABIAN NIGHTS or some shit. Embarrassing.

  47. I’m just up to Ghost Protocol on my rewatch now. I’ll say that 2 and 3 are both mid, but they have some solid strengths to recommend them. 2 may have had John Woo subsumed to some degree in the sausage-making, but it’s definitely a John Woo movie in a way that, say, an MCU movie never would be. Yeah, there’s probably some director’s cut that’s actually a great movie, but who watches Jaws and goes “if only the mechanical shark had worked”?

    And 3, for all that Abrams can’t hold De Palma’s jock and plays really cheap with the reveal (Laurence Fishburne suddenly gives a whole new performance once he’s no longer under suspicion as the mole; he’s Ethan’s best bud!), the storytelling is actually pretty economical. These days, we would’ve seen the break-in, we would’ve gotten more PSH, it would’ve ballooned the movie up to two hours and thirty, and no one would like it any better. So I think it gave the later movies the lean “we gotta go here and do this thing, RIGHT NOW!” propulsiveness we love about them without getting bogged down in how much Ethan loves Thandiwe Newton or whatever.

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