Film Reviews


By • May 5th, 2006 •

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By far and away the best of the MI movies to date, the first having the gall to make the character Jim Phelps from the original TV series into the villain (what were they thinking, and what quicker way to alienate an established fan base?) and the second abandoning the old MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE team formula completely, making it a one-man show and just cashing in on Cruise and the title.

Here the formula is re-established. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is now the IMF team leader, having been coaxed back into the field from the training of potential new IMF agents. A team is assembled, with photos and bios a little more hi-tech from the 60s presentation perhaps, and each rightly having their own distinct personality and expertise. Not only that, they are given three (appropriately) Impossible Missions to perform, namely rescuing a fellow agent (and one of Hunt’s students) from captivity in Berlin; kidnapping the world’s no. 1 villain and arms-dealer (Hoffman) from inside the supposedly impregnable, security-wise, Vatican City itself, and also, as a bonus, leaving the world, and more importantly his buyers, to believe he’s dead, then a daring raid atop the nighttime skyscrapers of Shanghai to steal the mysterious and much sought after weapon ‘The Rabbit’s Foot’, the nature of which is never disclosed, and therefore which, like NORTH BY NORTHWEST and many other Hitchcock movies, becomes the ‘MacGuffin’ of the movie. Hoffman’s character sums this up best with the line “What I’m selling and who I’m selling it to are the least of your problems”.
Added to all this is the fact that that Hunt is now romantically involved and his spouse consequently becomes the target of Hoffman’s villain’s revenge, and also adds a much needed humanity to Cruise’s character.

The wit and wiles of TV’s IMF squad are admittedly replaced here by ridiculous yet riveting stunts, but when these are beautifully realised and executed under the direction of veteran 2nd Unit director and stuntman/co-ordinator Vic (Bond) Armstrong, you can’t go far wrong, especially with a budget that Eon would cry for.

British actor Simon Pegg (SHAUN OF THE DEAD – see my review in the archives) makes a welcome appearance as a ‘Q’ like computer boffin at IMF HQ, and eventual reluctant inside man to rogue agent Hunt. As I know of Simon’s love of cult 60s TV this must have been a dream of a job. He’s also appeared in the new BBC DR. WHO series and narrates their accompanying ‘Behind the Scenes’ documentaries. Good man Simon.

Recent multi-award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman’s (CAPOTE) villain is wonderfully underplayed and just plain arrogant and mean. He’s great in this, and I couldn’t help but feel there was a little, perhaps deliberate, touch of the Bond/Le Schiffre frisson (in the notorious wicker chair sequence in the original CASINO ROYALE novel) in the attention grabbing teaser which may foreshadow that forthcoming movie. The final and inevitable punch-up between him and Cruise is particularly, and necessarily, brutal and satisfying. The rest of the cast also pull off some top notch performances, considering the material.

On top of all that there’s more of Lalo Schifrin’s glorious original MISSION music, notably the militaristic ‘THE PLOT’, which underscores the team’s preliminary preparations, as it should. Okay, the identity of the inevitable double-agent/sneak within the IMF organisation is a bit telegraphed, but that’s okay. At least it gives you the satisfaction of thinking you’ve sorted one of the plot points out ahead of everyone else.

Considering that the spy TV series of the 60s were spawned by the Bond movies, this one has surpassed its progenitor. This is Ludlum meets Fleming, i.e.: Bourne meets Bond, and both of those franchises are going to have to go some to beat this.

This one also puts the floundering Cruise firmly, and literally, back in the picture.

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams
Alex Kurtzman
Roberto Orci
Based on the TV series created by Bruce Geller

Tom Cruise …. Ethan Hunt
Ving Rhames …. Luther Strickell
Keri Russell …. Lindsey
Philip Seymour Hoffman …. Owen Davian
Bahar Soomekh …. Ms. Kari
Laurence Fishburne …. John Brassel
Jonathan Rhys Meyers …. Declan
Billy Crudup …. John Musgrave
Simon Pegg …. Benji Dunn

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