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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mission Impossible 3

Appreciating films that have Tom Cruise in it has made me an object of ridicule during the last few years. How could a manly man like I cite Jerry Maguire as one of his all-time favourite romantic comedies (I listed it as one of the must-watch movies for Valentine's Day earlier this year)? How could a rational film student like I call Minority Report one of Spielberg's finest films? How could a person like me always feel excited whenever a Tom Cruise film is about to come out? Be it War of the Worlds (... yes, the ending sucked, but I wrote a fanboyish review right after I saw it last year, before it occurred to me that the film wasn't THAT good after all) or The Last Samurai (... yes, the ending sucked too), I would always be the one rushing to the theaters for their premiere.

And the critically-drubbed Vanilla Sky? Hell, I think that was a great film. I watched that and Moulin Rouge back to back and I definitely liked Vanilla Sky much more (I can never understand why everyone I know love Moulin Rouge that much). Hell, even the upcoming short film I wrote began with a Tom Cruise reference. Maybe the Great Swifty IS a closet Tom Cruise fan! OMFG. What a horrible thought. But hey, films with Tom Cruise in it are generally better than stuff with, I dunno, Orlando Bloom? At least his body of work's more impressive than say, Colin Farrell's? And yeah, I think he's actually more consistent than Brad Pitt too.

Oh, what the hell, why am I focusing so much on a particular actor in my recent film reviews? But come on, Mission Impossible 3 is ALL ABOUT TOM CRUISE! The franchise basically means 'get a director and allow him to stamp his style on the latest film of the franchise while making Tom Cruise look cool!'. That's WHAT Mission Impossible 3 is about, people! If you can't stand Tom Cruise's offscreen persona, and are desperate to bring it up whenever you see him onsreen, you just can't stomach Mission Impossible 3 at all.

Mission Impossible 2 was a horrible film that made me cringe whenever I think about it, so horrible it was that I lost respect for John Woo (it had never been recovered til this very day, but then, Paycheck didn't really help matters much). It was so horrible that I didn't want to see Thandie Newton in another film. So I definitely wasn't looking forward to another Mission Impossible film, neither was I having any high expectations. Yes, putting J. J. Abrams in charge is kinda interesting, but unfortunately, I've only seen a grand total of one Lost episode (the first one), and a couple of Alias episodes (which I do kinda like, yeah), so no, he didn't reassure me that much either.

And then, two people who saw it in the last two days gave me their positive comments. My dad said he liked it, saying that it was a great action thriller, Tom Cruise is at his best, J. J. Abrams had constructed the action setpieces well, Philip Seymour Hoffman adds a lot as a bad guy and et cetera, while my friend Sebastian more or less echoed what my dad said, except he hoped J. J. Abrams wouldn't stick with flashbacks that much. Then I read some reviews on blogs that seemed pretty positive too, so I ended up actually having some kind of expectations for this film when I went to see it with my friend today.

It definitely didn't disappoint!!! (... disappoint me, that is) Yes, after I walked out of the theaters, immediately, I said to my flatmate "Whoa, that was pretty freaking intense". And Mission Impossible 3 IS intense. The action scenes are filled with tension and suspense, watching Ethan Hunt jumping from one Shanghai skyscraper to another, watching helicopters assaulting a bridge with missiles, watching badass Ethan Hunt gunning a helicopter down, watching helicopter chases (and then being destroyed by propellers whoohoo!) Watch... ah, so many explosions! So much fun!

(Have you seen a filmmaker's blog where the filmmaker makes himself look so unashamedly fanboyish when everyone else's analyzing the bodies of work from Tarkovsky, Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman, Godard and Truffaut, their deeply philosophical subtext and the cultural influence they have blah blah? Or analyzing Wong Kar Wai frame by frame and then decontructing them, picking them apart and them interpreting what this poet of loss and heartbreak from Hong Kong had been doing? Ah, I am so utterly middlebrow)

And there are more spy stuff too, along with Hunt-Flying-On-A-Wire and identity-switching masks. Oh, and best of all, this has PLOT TWISTS! Something that had been missing in MI2. Yeap, I like it, how Ethan Hunt is made more human compared to his counterparts in earlier films, this is an Ethan Hunt who is getting married, then gets married, then has to lie about his job as it will place his wife in jeopardy. This is an Ethan Hunt you can feel for and care for hence things become much more suspenseful when you see him in danger. Very unlike MI2, where the guy is such an untouchable action hero that you knew when guns are fired at him, he would just stop the bullets with his mouth, chew them into pieces and spits them back at the baddies. Or is so perfect in martial arts that he can easily punch a hole through someone's chest and rips their hearts out. (that's why MI2's actions scenes bored me to the point of contemplating murder) Yeap, an emotional connection is definitely established between the main character here and the audience.

Academy Award-winning Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an all-out bad guy Owen Davian who is not just some smooth Euro terrorist, but a cruel evil bastard who plants bombs in people's heads and let them explode for fun. He doesn't know kung fu, but he's smart enough to make Ethan Hunt's life a living hell. Won't dwell into it that much. Watch it yourself.

The rest of the cast are great too. Ving Rhames (definitely adds more as a character compared to the past two films), Laurence Fishburne (haven't seen him in anything since Matrix Revolutions, oh wait, there was Mystic River too), Michelle Monaghan (ah, she was in the fantastic Kiss Kiss Bang Bang last year, no wonder she's so familiar!), Keri Russell (pretty!), Billy Crudup (I didn't even know that he was in this film!), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (definitely much manlier here compared to Match Point)...

Oh, and I've been Q'd by Maggie Q. (Note to Maggie: You don't have to appear in those Hong Kong B-movies anymore. Hollywood needs you!) Whoohoo!

This film has its flaws too, for example, Ethan's relationship with Julia makes Ethan look more human, yeah, but we know so little about Julia that the potential of certain scenes that involve her towards the end just didn't fully get to work THAT well. Also, even if I've accepted the fact that this is essentially a Tom Cruise film, I was kinda interested with the other new characters in Hunt's team, Zhen (Maggie Q) and Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), there just weren't that much about them. Hope they won't be removed completely in the fourth Mission Impossible movie.

Ah, this film actually makes me look forward to a Mission Impossible 4! I think it's a good action thriller and it's one hell of a way to start this year's summer (... compared to Kingdom of Heaven last year...).

But for Mission Impossible 4. I want Wong Kar Wai to direct. Or Darren Aronofsky. Wait, maybe Alexander Payne or Wes Anderson would be interesting choices too. Or Jim Jarmusch.

Watch MI3's Trailer:

Watch MI3 reviews:

Read other reviews of MI3 (will do something rare by shifting attention to Malaysian reviews):

Lin Ge Zhi | Mossism | Ramblings of a Perverted Corporate Slave | Ivan Choe

If you have reviewed Mission Impossible 3 as well, post the URL to your review at the comments section. (no, you don't have to be Malaysian to do thus)

P. S. One-minute long shot of Tom Cruise running through this village near Shanghai was awesome. It was made more awesome due to the fact that I went there last year. The place is called Zhou Zhuang, widely regarded as the "Venice in China".