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Harry chose to accept MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 & this film definitely does not self-destruct in 5 seconds!

Strange how random the events of the world conspire to create impossible synchronicity.

I was supposed to see MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III on Monday night. However, the lovely lady bringing the print to Austin while flying out of LAX… her plane was diverted back to Los Angeles due to… missing parts. Lovely.

So it was rescheduled for tonight (Tuesday). In the midst of traveling to meet prior to the screening she gets the call… Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have had a bouncing baby girl. Which means that this morning – headlines around the world will be declaring the birth of “Tomkitten,” I believe CNN is calling this baby girl. Sigh.

Personally, I find it an absolutely insane that that’s the story of the day in Entertainment… but then, they haven’t seen MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 yet.

To say that this is the best of the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series is kinda lame praise. I like Brian DePalma’s – but ultimately – today when I rewatched it, about an hour in… I dozed off. The second one, Woo’s one? All style, all flash, but easily one of the shittiest most vapid films made within the history of “hopefully cool films” covered by AICN. Is this third one the best? You better believe it.

No, the real question is: In the realm of pop-spy action spectaculars – is there anything close to being this good?

The answer is “kinda”.

First off – ya kinda gotta just throw out all those brilliant Sean Connery JAMES BOND flicks… Nostalgia, period and young Connery just trumps just about anything the modern world has to offer us.

Just for clarity sake – I kinda don’t count films like 3 DAYS OF THE CONDOR and THE PARALLAX VIEW and THE CONVERSATION and MUNICH in this sort of thing, because those are so ‘reality-based’ in their tone – that they kind of form their own sub-genre of cool.

No – I’m talking about Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan BOND flicks. MR. & MRS. SMITH. I’m talking about films, that until tonight were topped by TRUE LIES by James Cameron.

The best modern pop spy film… movies with gadgets and impossible stunts… James Cameron’s TRUE LIES reigns supreme… or shall I say reigned supreme.

J.J. Abrams… first time feature film director has just launched into the stratosphere of badass holy shit watch him go directors. On top of that… That trailer you’ve seen. That little tingle you get from Phillip Seymour Hoffman when he talks about hunting down and hurting the woman that Ethan Hunt cares about… YOU’VE NO IDEA.

J.J. is a geek director. He’s the sort of guy that if you had to sit down with him for an hour to talk about Mission Impossible… You could spend about 30 minutes talking about favorite iterations of the old TV series, he’d openly talk about liking the first hour of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, how he didn’t care at all about the second one… And how he wanted to do two things with this series. 1) Find out who Ethan Hunt is when he’s not “the Michael Jordan of Spies” and 2) Make it about teamwork and the resources of the IMF.

Seriously – I know that about JJ, cuz I sat down with him for an hour to do an interview with him regarding MI3 for PENTHOUSE. I didn’t really want to get off track in that interview by talking about “the history of cinematic spies” – though I really did want to. And I was handicapped in that interview by having not read the script or having seen the movie.

Now that I’ve seen it – I would completely be paralyzed by geek overload by just how amazing I feel MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 is… and how it’s the best damn retooling of TRUE LIES that will ever be done.

Essentially – that’s the film. Only – it’s not a romantic comedy at its heart. There’s romance, but it’s a light overtone to the entire film. I’ve watched TRUE LIES a lot. And through all of that – the one thing that always kinda bugged me about the film is a lack of a strong villain… and how I wish it had been more intense, played more straight. I love the humor – but humor tends to be a valve to release tension – and had they not played it for laughs… Had scene after scene not been hit with jokes throughout… well, it would have been amazing. It would have been…


Having seen the film… that teaser trailer makes you want to see the scene where Phillip’s Owen Davian captures Ethan Hunt and his “girlfriend” Julia and you kinda want to see the screws get turned on. And that trailer… It tells you it’s going to happen. It tells you that Ethan is gonna get hurt… real bad in this film. And right from the beginning. Pre-credits… that’s what you’re given.

Tom Cruise… trapped in a chair… manacled and pleading for his life and the life of the woman he loves. And there’s Philip… with a gun to her head, asking his questions about a “Rabbit’s foot” that Ethan was supposed to give him… and counting to 10. At 10, the women he loves is going to be shot in the head. Is it a play on the scene in MARATHON MAN? Absolutely. Is it good? Fucking A it’s good, strike that, it’s great.

In fact, the wonderful thing about this film is… You remember GOLDFINGER? Specifically – remember Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe)? Remember how he was always several steps ahead of Sean Connery’s Bond. Remember how he knew he had Bond’s number? How Bond was an annoyance, not a problem? Well Auric was a pussy galore compared to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen Davian. It’s a classic good guy / bad guy match-up. Philip isn’t laughing maniacally. He isn’t making empty threats. He doesn’t give Ethan a goddamn inch the entire fucking film. Ethan is beaten at every fucking turn, every corner, every twist. The fucker thinks he’s good, but Philip is just much much smarter.

In fact, the brief flash of time in this film where Ethan has the upper hand… is only punctuated by exactly how fucking badly Owen fucks him up… almost at a blink. And this fucking Owen Davian… he’s not one of these cats that takes his time in unleashing revenge. He’s all about not just getting free, but instantly making his enemy his bitch.

Seriously. Contrary to the typical post-Oscar fuck-up, Hoffman stands at home plate like the Babe that he is, and points to above the big green wall and knocks his performance clear over that and beyond. No stutter step here. He’s everything he’s supposed to be and more. He’s just sort of a marvel in this film.

That said – This is Ving Rhames’ best outing in an MI flick. He’s got a swagger and a charm that’s just gold here. His Luther genuinely comes across as an old friend this time out. Like a teammate that has gone to hell and back with ya, and is still there busting your chops – but still covering your back, still rooting for ya and still doing everything in his power to keep Ethan around.

However – the real gold of this film is in just the sheer number of great performances and moments that folks like Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Simon Pegg, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q have.

Fishburne has reached a stride in his career. That place where the man could be handed a yellow pages and told to read the lawyer listings and damn if he wouldn’t make it seem like you were listening to options that were a matter of life and death… while at the same time making them seem entertaining. Here… He’s basically the man in charge of the IMF. There’s a part of me that wishes we could see a flashback film to when he was an agent, cuz I guaran-fucking-tee ya, he was THE MAN. There’s a scene where he has Tom’s Ethan and Billy Crudup’s John Musgrave in a room… basically putting the screws to Tom on a particular recent fuck up that Laurence is holding him accountable for… and Billy comes to Tom’s defense… repeatedly – and as a result, Fishburne decides to just repeatedly brow-beat Crudup’s character… and the look on Tom’s face is that of the schoolboy that’s real glad the teacher is lecturing the kid next to him, but still has that pained expression of anticipation of his own ass-whupping. Meanwhile… Fishburne is just wonderful.

As for Billy Crudup – he’s really very good in this. I really do feel he’s an actor that’s just waiting for that one particular part to bust him out in a really big way. In terms of charisma – he holds his own with Tom Cruise – and that isn’t easy, by any means.

Of course – there is one actor in particular in this film that is sheer genius. And that’s SIMON PEGG! His character is named Benji Dunn – and he’s kinda brilliant. Simon is a tech specialist. He isn’t in the movie much, but he’s a scene stealer. The second he appears on screen, all actors around him go invisible. His monologue about the Anti-God is classic stuff. The sort of material that we geeks retain in our bizarre freakish psyches for late night geek babblings regarding the fundamental secret essence of the universe. You know you have those conversations… and Simon is just the sort of man-god that can give you fodder for those occasions. This time, it’s all about the Anti-God. Genius.

Then there’s just the women of this film. Jesus. Keri Russell is yummy. Michelle Monaghan is the one to marry. And Maggie Q? There’s this red dress she wears that is easily drool inducing. What I love is that these are not just eye-candy decorations. Keri’s character is instrumental to Ethan coming back to “the game.” Michelle’s character is what makes the “game” a matter of life and death. And Maggie Q? She’s that unbelievably hot, talented and deadly babe that made the TV series so badass.

The main thing there is – that’s an IMF team. Not just that, but they show you IMF headquarters… a bit of how it all works… How they make those amazing masks and how they’re applied. I can just imagine Greg Nicotero, Rick Baker and Stan Winston sitting around wishing they had this system. It’s one of those impossible things that just… when you finally get to see how it is applied… it’s about a thousand times cooler than it ever was coming off.

Lastly – we come to Tom Cruise.

In recent times it seems everybody everywhere seems to be obsessed with… what I frankly feel… is all the wrong things regarding the “Tom”. Frankly, I don’t care who he’s in a relationship with. The “crazy” stuff from last year… like bouncing on Oprah’s couch… Well, given my current lunacy regarding my own personal life… I get him. The is it real or isn’t it stuff? Hell, I see monkeys speculating on my personal life all the time, but doesn’t make what happens between the two of us any less real and I’m sure it’s the same way with Tom. His religious choices? Who cares?

The real story with Tom Cruise continues to be his habit of hooking up with other top talents in the industry… taking insane “impossible” risks on first time feature film directors and putting them in charge of a dying franchise – on the hopes that they’ll reinvigorate it. And it actually being a home run!

Tom’s picking of J.J. Abrams is one of those divine inspirations that we’re all going to be thanking him for years and years and years for. This is some of the surest handed direction we’ve seen in this type of film ever. I mean, he sure as hell cleaned Woo and DePalma’s clock this first time out.

But the amazing thing is… in spite of the grotesque over-publicity of his personal life… we’re not seeing Tom decay on screen. His game hasn’t wavered an inch. In fact, the maturing of his face… the ever so slight tired corners of his eyes aren’t making him look old, but like he’s lived. And in this film he’s just so good. He comes across as dashing, charming, cavalier, earnest, romantic, competent, deadly and amazing.

When he’s asked how much ammo he has left, and responds with enough. You believe him. And watching him ride that motorcycle, wearing those shades, onto a tarmac for a plane that’s taking off… You know he’s riding to the Danger Zone – and I can’t help, but smile. There was just something about that image that did it for me.

Before I go, I have to revisit James Cameron. Why? Because of any other filmmaker – J.J. seems to have taken his greatest inspiration from Cameron. This movie isn’t bathed in icy blues and rich Hildebrandt golds. Instead – you can see that Abrams loves ABYSS, ALIENS: DIRECTOR’S CUT, TRUE LIES, TITANIC. There’s elements borrowed and turned into something new and exhilarating. Take… the bridge scene from TRUE LIES. Here – it’s given an amazing treatment – in a totally different way.

If you’ve been a fan of ALIAS or LOST and you’re dying to see what J.J. can do with the big toys, you’re going to be blown away. The difference between this film and his television work is just amazing. On TV, J.J. has risen to the top of the game. With this first film, he proudly steps out bringing the right talent from his cathode ray tube days and mixed it with a great deal of wonderful cinematic talents.

My fave crew choice? Michael Giacchino, who did the score for the film. You may remember his brilliant score for THE INCREDIBLES. Here, he gives the scenes emotion, urgency and excitement – just as he did there, but with a more elegant flair.

In all – this film isn’t a parody of a spy film, this movie isn’t goofing around. This is a seriously badass spy flick, and it will have critics around the country crowing about “Third Time’s The Charm!”

I just wish the franchise had been this good from the beginning. My God. Two more this good would just be amazing. As it stands, I just want to see Tom doing fresh material and I want to see the great J.J. science fiction film. It’s in him. I guarantee it. It’ll knock all of our dicks in the dirt, just like this one did to me tonight. I’ve got a good feeling about this summer.

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