Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan
Have I Seen it Before: Sure. Look, some people are down on Cruise as a person, but for the most part he isn’t interested in making a bad movie, so I’m there when that improbably ageless face is plastered on a movie poster.
Did I Like It: Yes, but at the same time…
I remember thinking after I initially saw this movie in the theater that this is a movie series that has found its perfect calibration. Some have said that the plot of the first Mission: Impossible (1996) was too byzantine (it isn’t, but it may take a viewing or two to fully enjoy), and that Mission: Impossible II (2000) was as insubstantial and dumb as a movie as is likely to ever be made (it is), whereas this one blends the stunt show qualities of the latter with the actual spy fun of the former.
That’s true, but it all feels less somehow after it’s had a decade to simmer in my head. Abrams makes his directorial debut here. There is nary a lens flare to be found, which undercuts a lot of dunderheaded criticism of his cinematic output, even if the lens flares have never bothered me as much as others. He has brought his TV skills to bear here, offering the closest thing to an Alias: The Motion Picture as we are likely to get.
I just wished I liked Alias more. It’s a fine show, but it never lit my imagination on fire, and so it is also with this film. The stunts are here. The intrigue is here. I just wish that the ambition to bring some of the better qualities of the television series to the big screen had stayed. I wish the films were closer to a heist movie, and less an attempt to give the world an American James Bond. I also wish that the IMF team was less an elite team of CIA employees and more of the disparate team of skilled civilian contractors that Phelps and team were. The previous films don’t aim for this, but it struck me more here. What we have here is certainly better than the nadir of the second film, but there is still a lot of material left to be mined. Unfortunately, the success of the this entry and subsequent attempts in a similar mold indicate that that is probably not going to happen any time soon.