Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/18/06
Director: J. J. Abrams
Stunt Director: Vic Armstrong
Cast: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Simon Pegg, Keri Russell, Michiko Nishiwaki (stunts)

IMF agent Ethan Hunt (over-exposed Tom Cruise) has retired from the field and is settling down to get married to a pretty girl named Julia (Michelle Monaghan). But we all know that his life of domestic bliss won't last long. An agent that Hunt trained (adorable Keri Russell) has gone missing, and Ethan is asked to rescue her from the clutches of a sadistic arms dealer named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Things go from bad to worse, and Ethan finds himself on the run from his own people while Davian kidnaps Julia for revenge. Will Ethan be able to save his wife, save himself, and settle down to live a normal happy life?

It seems that Tom Cruise's true mission is to salvage his career from celebrity suicide. With all of his recent publicity stunts, it's hard to take him seriously anymore, even though he does a fine job in the film. In fact, all of the actors do a very good job, despite their limited screen time and the ludicrous plot. Unfortunately, it's clearly a vanity project for Cruise, and he dominates almost every scene. I was excited to see Maggie Q's name show up during the opening credits, especially after seeing her kick major ass in "Naked Weapon" (2002), but does she have any fight scenes? No. All she does is strut around and look pretty. What a serious waste of talent. I was also excited to see Keri Russell, as I had read that she had spent several weeks learning Filipino stick fighting for the film. Does she have any fight scenes? No. Just a brief and poorly edited ten second training session with Tom Cruise in a flashback scene. In fact, she hardly has any screen time at all, and one has to wonder why she's even in the film. How utterly disappointing.

While the action scenes aren't particularly interesting, the pacing and sense of urgency makes them very exciting to watch. Ethan spends at least half of the film chasing or being chased, and there's a tangible sense of danger and desperation. Unfortunately, a lot of the enjoyment is ruined by overly spastic camera work and choppy editing. Nearly every shot is handheld, and the camera is violently shaking throughout the entire movie - even during casual conversations. What the hell, is the cameraman having a seizure?!? Use a freakin' tripod or a boom, people. THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE FOR. Watching the film can be a serious chore if you're prone to nausea or motion sickness. Even with the stomach churning cinematography and the worn out "Mission: Impossible" formula, it's still an exciting and entertaining ride.