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Mission: Impossible III: 2-Disc Special Collector’s Edition DVD Review

Mission: Impossible III: 2-Disc Special Collector’s Edition

November 13, 2006

Director: J.J. Abrams,
Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Simon Pegg, Eddie Marsan,

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DVD Review

After the stylish, over-the-top melodramatics of John Woo’s entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise, it was time for a new direction. With five seasons of the international superspy television show Alias under his belt, it made sense that J.J. Abrams should direct the next installment. He brings the same sensibility to this movie as he did to his show – how does a covert operative who travels around the globe saving the world from power-hungry madmen also juggle a personal life with loved ones? Abrams also goes back to the first Mission: Impossible film (1996) and once again surrounds Ethan Hunt (Cruise) with a team of operatives to help him out.

Ethan is about to married and is enjoying the relative safety of a desk job when he gets the call from his handler Musgrave (Crudup) that one of his fellow operatives and former student (Russell) has gone missing while tracking ruthless international weapons dealer Owen Davian (Hoffman). Ethan’s mission is to take his team (Rhames, Q and Rhys Meyers) in and rescue the agent who has been kidnapped by Davian. The team is soon hot on the dealer’s trail and trying to recover the enigmatic Rabbit’s Foot, an unidentified doomsday device that could destroy the world.

Right from the get-go, this film has Abrams’ fingerprints all over it: the opening sequence starts in the present with Ethan being tortured by Davian who also has a gun to his wife’s (Monaghan) head. It’s an emotionally intense and disorienting scene (because we don’t know what’s going on) captured with a jittery, hand-held camera. There’s a shocking moment and then a sudden cut to flashback just like the countless times on Abram’s other T.V. show, Lost. Like he did in both Alias and Lost, he also continues to explore how a protagonist’s secret double life puts their loved ones in danger.

Cruise portrays Ethan as a little longer in the tooth and a little less reckless because he actually has something to lose. He seems more vulnerable as a result. His character is no longer a field operative but of course the threat of Davian forces him back into action. Cruise has also improved as an actor since the last Mission: Impossible film and emotes much more convincingly in the scenes where he’s supposed to. Getting an actor the calibre of Philip Seymour Hoffman to play the heavy is a nice bit of casting and this is what made the first film so good (and was one of the second film’s glaring problems). He plays Davian with just the right mix of cocky arrogance and menace, proving to be a bad guy on par with Jon Voight in the first film. Hoffman shows how easily he can get to Ethan’s loved one and has the conviction to kill and torture whomever to get what he wants and this makes a truly dangerous threat.

Whereas Mission: Impossible II (2002) tried and failed to give Ethan some emotional depth by providing a love interest and therefore someone close to him that the bad guy could potentially take away and thereby raising the stakes, there was no chemistry between Tom Cruise and Thandie Newton and this was only exacerbated by a weak screenplay.

Abrams doesn’t make this mistake as he has someone close to Ethan (a former student) die within the first 25 minutes and does it in a way that resonates. How does he come home to his significant other and a “normal” life after going through such an intense life and death experience? It is this kind of question that the other Mission: Impossible films never asked and is what elevates this movie about the usual action film fare.

That is not to say that Mission: Impossible III (2006) doesn’t have the requisite nail-bitingly intense action sequences that fans come to expect from the franchise – they are just done in the style of Alias albeit with a significantly larger budget. This is evident in one set piece which involves a daring attack on a convoy housing a recently captured Davian and involving an attack helicopter that is filled with thrilling near misses and the feeling that Ethan is actually in real danger.

Special Features:

On the first disc is an audio commentary by director J.J. Abrams and actor Tom Cruise. Abrams wanted to defy expectations by starting the movie with a scary, intense scene instead of an action set piece. The director, no stranger to commentaries, does an excellent job of explaining his intentions of a given scene with Cruise recounting filming anecdotes. It’s quite love-fest as they compliment each other frequently. That being said, they do speak intelligently about plot structure and character motivation on this informative track.

“The Making of the Mission” is a making of featurette. Cruise wanted a romantic quality to this film with a love story (obviously, he wasn’t too thrilled with the one in M:I II). He had become a fan of Alias and wanted Abrams to direct. On the filmmaker’s first day of shooting, he found himself in Rome with a large crew in what he describes a “surreal experience.” One quickly gets the idea of the grand scale and the amount of money being spent on this studio blockbuster.

Also included are five deleted scenes featuring more action from the Berlin sequence with both Cruise and Maggie Q getting in more licks on the bad guys. There is also a nice flashback with more screen time between Cruise and Keri Russell that should have been kept in.

Also included on the Mission: Impossible Special Edition is “Excellence in Film: Cruise,” a highlight reel of Cruise’s various film roles first set to Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” a composition that was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Superman” and used in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Oh dear. If that wasn’t bad enough the next bunch of clips are scored to “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones (?!).

The second DVD includes “Inside the IMF” that takes a look at the team that works with Ethan. Abrams says that he wanted each member to be distinctive. All the main cast members talk about their characters and gush about their fellow thespians.

“Mission Action: Inside the Action Unit” examines the stunt work. Cruise did all of his own stunts, which is pretty amazing when you see some of things he had to do in the movie. Some of the stunt crew talk about their work on the film and take us through the key action sequences.

“Visualizing the Mission” examines the importance of pre-visualization – essentially computer-generated storyboards that allowed the filmmakers to figure out how the film will look in terms of camera movements. It allowed Abrams to be bettered prepared on the day of shooting but he also allowed for improvisations that sometimes arose on the day.

“Mission: Metamorphosis” takes a look at the masking machine in the movie. The realistic disguises that Ethan uses have become a staple of the franchise but Abrams wanted to show how the masks were made, the process and so on.

“Scoring the Mission” features Abram’s regular, composer Michael Giacchino scoring this movie and examines his approach to the material and his working relationship with the director.

“Moviefone Unscripted: Tom Cruise/J.J. Abrams.” The two men interview each other with questions from the fans and from each other. They have fun and speak admiringly of each other.

“Launching the Mission” features footage from premieres all over the world as Cruise tirelessly promotes the movie in New York City (in four different locations!), Rome, Paris, London and Japan. Say what you will about the actor but the man certainly knows how to work a crowd.

There is one teaser and three theatrical trailers. Also included are six T.V. spots.

There is a photo gallery featuring promotional and behind-the-scenes pictures.

Finally, there is “Generation: Cruise,” another montage of clips that was also included on the Mission: Impossible Special Edition.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 85%

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