Classic Intel: Mission: Impossible III - Online Review

'whisper it: there is more here of value than in Ghost Protocol, than in any other film except the franchise opener, actually'

As the release of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation approaches, and Tom Cruise doing silly stunts hits the headlines again, it feels like an appropriate time to revisit Mission: Impossible III, or 'That Time J.J. Abrams Saved The Franchise'.

With the newer, shinier, numerical-less Ghost Protocol apparently quite favoured by many (or at least, IMDb voters), the third outing for the franchise feels as though it is in danger of being forgotten. Whisper it though: there is more here of value than in Ghost Protocol, than in any other film except the franchise opener, actually. Abrams single-handedly wrestles a series John Woo had nearly blown into oblivion back into relevance and does it with a plot that barely functions and never explains itself. If he can produce this level of expertise with Star Wars: Episode VII, instead of his hit and miss Star Trek execution, then there will be nothing to worry about there.

After the bananas gadgetry and face-swapping of the Woo film (which is, let's face it folks, certifiably terrible), Abrams essentially returns the series to basics. A MacGuffin - the rabbit's foot, the purpose of which is brilliantly never actually revealed - is on the loose and in the hands of terrorist Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who lifts his material in a way only he could). Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team must sort the whole mess out, including a personal vendetta introduced during an opening between Davian and IMF agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell).

Abrams' genius (and that of co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) in the first instance is to make the personal important and the plot anonymous, rather than the other way round. He knows that we don't ultimately care about the rabbit's foot, whatever it may be, but, three films in and in the capable hands of Cruise, we do care about the Ethan character and, by extension, Farris and Hunt's new wife-to-be Julia (Michelle Monaghan). Conversations between Hunt and series' stalwart Luther (Ving Rhames) about whether IMF agents can have personal lives aren't here by accident and they lift this above the stupid spying of the second film. The level of nonchalance towards the plot does reach dangerous levels (the ultimate villain has absolutely no concrete motivations whatsoever) but it almost doesn't matter: this is a Drama about where Ethan's life has got to: explosions and spying, now optional.

There are strange moments and decision here too. The opening party is horrendously cheesy and new agents Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers don't have much staying power (and were consequently and correctly dropped for Ghost Protocol). But, let's not forget, this was Abrams' first feature as director and during the almost-perfectly pitched two hours, he shows he has more grasp for this sort of thing than experienced veteran Woo ever had. Essentially now a figurehead of three major franchises, at one point or another, Abrams is an easy target to take a swipe at. Don't forget though: he gave us arguably the best Mission: Impossible film, at a time when the series couldn't have been in a worse position.

Mission: Impossible III was playing on Sky Go, Now TV and Sky's other online platforms.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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