Okay, I’ve been stoked for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 for a few reasons, but mostly due to the fact that I love ALIAS, and JJ Abrams is the creative force behind that series. I also loved the cast list, Keri Russell and Billy Crudup in particular. With this cinematic opportunity, I expected JJ to take his Sydney Bristow model of taut and over-the-top storytelling to an expanded, bigger-budget level while still exercising that Abrams trademark: making an epic story personal.
And M:I 3 succeeds, you all.
It’s not a perfect movie—how many of them are?—but this is Wild Flick Fun at its most frantic. I’m chomping at the bit to talk about all the cool details, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. So…here I go.
The basic story takes up with our man Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, dontcha know?—and if you don’t dig him, you’ll forget about it about five minutes into the action). In spite of a massive lack of character development in the previous two M:I movies, we get plenty of it here. M:I 3 ratchets up the personal stakes by, first, showing us that Ethan has found a soulmate to marry—she reminds him of what life was like before he lost all innocence as a world defender. Second, the script puts him in a revenge situation early on—something that’s strong enough to lure him back into the spying field. (We’re told that Ethan has withdrawn from the espionage game in order to train recruits.) From there, it’s a crazy ride with everything you’d expect from a spy flick, plus bonuses. For instance, we get to see how M:I’s iconic masks work. This part is awesome. The action scenes are great, too, and I was actually dying to get out of my seat and pace during most of them. You know what I mean by that: the nerves, the contained energy, the tension of hoping the characters come out of danger safely.
It’s as if JJ has deliberately flown the bird at the ABC executives who reined him in with ALIAS. “Hey, suits,” he’s saying. “Remember when you wouldn’t let Sydney hurt anyone and you only let her use a dart gun and kung-fu kicks?” Well, in M:I 3, all the spies shoot to kill; they know that it’s prudent to knock off your enemy before the enemy can do the same thing to you. And the budget is well-used, especially on location in Shanghai.
Fingers crossed that M:I 3 represents just the first of many really satisfying movies this summer.