Mission: Impossible III ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

You could call MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III the first "real" MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film. The original was more interested in blowing up/subverting the show's tropes and expectations, and II was just John Woo doing his John Woo thing. III is still far more Ethan-centric than an true team/ensemble film would be, but it has more to do for the supporting cast, and it leans further into the heist/team elements than the previous films did (particularly in the spectacularly satisfying Vatican sequence, where, incidentally, we finally get to see how they make those face-mask things).

Michelle Monahagn is a welcome addition who brings a sincerity and a warmth to her character, and who, yes, while she's damselled, never feels underwritten, helpless, and/or martyred the way Claire and Nyah were. Keri Russell also gets a moment to be a badass, though she's fridged fairly quickly. Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, along with series stalwart Ving Rhames, round out the cast nicely.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is easily the series' most intimidating and terrifying villain to date; even though his motives are a mystery and the "rabbit's foot" he's after is the ultimate McGuffin, Hoffman's chillingly bland performance is truly chilling and makes him an excellent foil for the explosive Cruise. Laurence Fishburne is of course great as this film's IMF bossman, and Simon Pegg joins the series here as the lovable tech Benji, who introduces a nice breath of comic relief into the proceedings. Billy Crudup as the traitor within IMF plays the double-crosser well, though his motives for doing what he did are an embarassing word salad that sounds like its trying to be relevant but just winds up sounding like a joke. Thanks, Kurtzman and Orci!

Despite it's weak plot, the script is structurally sound, and Abrams directs the hell out of it. This is more of a traditional action movie than the previous two; DePalma's film is more of a spy thriller, and Woo is so over-the-top his action feels more like ballet, it's own genre, than something so pedestrian as "action." Abrams' action is more grounded, which doesn't mean "free of lunacy," it just means it feels more down-to-earth and realistic, more weighty, than Woo's unique style. Whichever you prefer is your business; personally, I'm happy to have both flavors on the table. But the opening factory assault and susequent helicopter chase is an all-timer.

It's not as big or flashy as GHOTOCOL or (presumably) FALLOUT, but III is and always will be a personal favorite of mine. If you slept on it, check it out! You won't regret it.