Strange things happen when you’re poking around Netflix streaming. Like you rediscover pretty good movies which you forgot about. Recently I found “Mission Impossible 3” on streaming and rewatched it. For some reason MI1 and MI3 are available instantly but MI2 is only on DVD. I’ll have to watch it again but I recall the second entry in the series to be subpar, though this may have been based entirely upon the Limp Bizkit theme song.
After seeing “MI3” again, it resonated with me as the strongest in the series. While “Ghost Protocol” received pretty good reviews, it is still sitting in my Netflix queue, so I cannot pass judgment. “Mission Impossible 3” starts off with a pseudo-retired Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Although he intends to give up his life of espionage, settle down and get married, the audience and the Impossible Mission Force know this will not occur.
“Mission Impossible 3” stands out from its predecessors largely due to the acting, setting, directing, and a sense of genre. MI3 does not attempt to be anything greater than what it is: an action film. Rather, by accepting its fate of featuring outlandish, improbable and sometimes, yes, impossible stunts the movie becomes great. A tongue in cheek approach emerges as the film progresses through both dialogue and acting. Ethan Hunt devises a plan to steal the mythical rabbit’s foot, a generic biological weapon. True to the foundation of the “Mission Impossible” series, Hunt’s proposal involves using himself as a human slingshot and propelled onto a building. From there he slides down the glass roof, shoots the guards while skiing down on his back, pops in the building, grabs the weapon, parachutes out and back in time for tea. While rehearsing the plan, one of his team of rogue IMF employees remarks that the idea seems preposterous. Well, isn’t that the point of the movie?
Through this resignation and admittance of improbability, the film is able to overcome it’s outlandishness. By not taking itself too seriously, it is actually a great film. The highlight of the film is when the IMF crew break in to Vatican City. Hunt rappels up a wall, lays on top in the buildup to a seemingly dramatic moment. As the camera zooms in on his prone figure, he turns his head and says “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…” As if this isn’t surreal enough, a minute later Hunt is seen strolling about the Vatican dressed in priest regalia. The image is especially hilarious and ironic considering Cruise’s status as a scientologist. Through these and other similar moments, the film adopts a rather psychedelic quality, emphasized by exotic set pieces of Vatican City, dilapidated Chinese apartments, and even a field of wind turbines. Towards the beginning of the film, after rescuing an IMF agent being held hostage, Ethan Hunt and team embark on a helicopter chase through a wind turbine farm. The chances of escaping from a similar situation in the real world are, once again, impossible, but that doesn’t matter. Monolithic turbines, graceful in their silent, slow movements act as a foil for the miniscule choppers weaving in between the pillars and firing rockets at one another.
While the set and self-awareness of the film are great, the acting is superb. Tom Cruise, whatever you may think of him, is a seasoned actor. Yet it is arguably the cast around him which propel the film to the forefront of the trilogy. Ving Rhames puts in a performance as a tough talking, advice giving member of Hunt’s IMF squad, Luther Strickell. Acting as head of IMF is Theodore Brassel, played excellently by the ever brooding Laurence Fishburne. And the multi-talented Philip Seymour Hoffman, possibly the most underrated actor of all time, nails the part of the villain, arms dealer Owen Davian. Davian is calm and collected even when shooting people in the head, torturing IMF agents, and being tortured or transported himself.
The film actually opens with Ethan’s fiancé being shot in the head by Davian, and about three quarters of the way through the film the movie picks up from here again. There are a couple big twists which I didn’t see coming the first time I watched MI3, and didn’t remember the second time through. Overall, the film, despite being somewhat formulaic, is definitely worth a watch. “Mission Impossible 3” works as part of a trilogy or as a standalone film. If you’ve got some spare time, you should take another look at MI3. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Sure, it might not be mind blowing or revolutionary like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or “The Big Lebowski,” but it isn’t supposed to be. Why mess with a good, reliable system that you know works when you can just spice it up a bit?