Mission: Impossible 3

Year: 2006
Production Co: Cruise|Wagner
Studio: Paramount
Director: J J Abrahs
Producer: Tom Cruise/Paula Wagner
Writer: Alex Kurtzman/Roberto Orci/Bruce Geller
Cast: Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Keri Russell, Simon Pegg
Who'd have thought in 1996 that an underwhelming spy movie by Brian de Palma would morph into an action franchise, the closest America's come to a James Bond-style series?

The driving creative force behind the Mission: Impossible series - Tom Cruise himself as star and producer - still thinks it's worth pursuing. John Woo's Sydney-set first sequel was skewered by critics, rendering Sydney little more than a pretty postcard and Cruise a scowling, Harley-riding Schwarzenegger type.

And now Ethan Hunt is back in MI:3, six years after the last installment and ten years since it all started.

It has the same paper-thin plot involving a despot and a superweapon, but this time there's been a lot of chatter from the producers and distributors about how MI:3 gives Hunt a whole new element in showing us his home life and impending nuptials to pretty nurse Julia (Monaghan).

Could it be an action movie humanises its hero instead of making him into a one-man army who happens to have a hot girlfriend? In the hands of an actor as accomplished as Cruise it was a possibility... But this is Hollywood and it's US blockbuster season, so Julia's there solely as a plot device so Tom can narrow his eyes and give the audience that 'this time, it's personal' look.

In case you need reminding, this is Tom's playpen at every step. He brings to Hunt every nuance, cliché, action and gesture belonging to every superhuman hero from a thousand movies - everything except a personality, that is.

What director Abrams (of TV's Alias) and Cruise's producer/franchise owner fingerprint does well however is not give you time to consider the movie's shortcomings. Often using a handheld camera and grimy stock that shows every streak of blood and balloon of smashed earth, it's like something you'd expect from Michael Bay. Every sequence features something you just know is going to look cool as it blows up, and Abrams uses what must have been a very generous pyrotechnics budget to oblige.

The action is breakneck and doesn't let up for a minute, and if you love big dumb action movies you'll be like a kid in a lolly shop. We can only presume the Oprah lounge incident was part of the training process for all the running and jumping.

MI:3 is technically brilliant both in the finer points of production design as well as the more noticeable special effects, and in retaining the superspy gadgetry, nick-of-time, clockwork-planning themes it stand above most action movies.

But in the film's final moments, Ethan reveals what he really does for a living to someone close by saying he works for an agency called 'Impossible Missions Force'. She laughs at how ridiculous it sounds and all of a sudden you'll realise the same. MI:3 does everything right, it's just that you've seen it all before.

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