Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is back in ‘Mission: Impossible III’ |

Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is back in ‘Mission: Impossible III’

Tom Cruise stars in "Mission: Impossible III." / Stephen Vaughan / Paramount Pictures

After production delays and a change in direction, not to mention cast members, it seemed almost impossible that this mission would have ever gotten completed. When original-choice director David Fincher (“Seven”) departed, and then writer/ director Joe Carnahan (who shot “Smokin’ Aces” up here in South Tahoe last summer) split, it seemed as if “Mission: Impossible III” might never get its assignment.

On a local connection, Tom Cruise had hand-picked Sacramento’s Carnahan to direct this installment after Cruise saw Joe’s “Narc” (which he also co-produced) a few years back. However, due to “creative differences” (Hollywood double-talk for “I don’t get along with you, man”), Carnahan dropped out (remind me to tell you Joe’s real reason behind the split sometime, so I don’t get sued here in print), and director J.J. Abrams was brought in.

He does a good enough job here, but several original cast members had to bow out due to delays because of the change in direction and Tom’s free time during the inquisition process to shoot Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds.” This meant not just new cast members but revisions in the script and finding suitable replacements to fill the void from those who exited. Of course, the main players are back, including Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and Tom Cruise as Secret Agent Ethan Hunt.

Ethan has been in a semi-retirement, behind-the-scenes sort of mode, training agents and taking some time out of the limelight. Well, that is until rookie agent Lindsey (Keri Russell of TV’s “Felicity”) becomes his reason to go back into the field of action. And wow! What action, too.

The movie wastes no time setting up the plot and taking us on a rollercoaster of a ride. Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman looked like he had more than a good time playing the bad guy, in this case the sadistic Owen Davian, who, of course, is involved with other terrorists, but he’s more of a businessman. A very ruthless one, too, with ice-cold blood in his veins and biochemicals on his agenda. Hoffman was great, but I wish he could have had more screen time – he was so good at being bad. Then again, maybe the main star didn’t want to be upstaged?

Hunt assembles a crack team, which includes old buddy Luther along with newcomers Declan, (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and background operative Zhen (Maggie Q). As with most maverick types, Ethan has to deal with upper management including supervisor Brassel (Lawrence Fishburne) and new boss John Musgrave (Billy Crudup). Along for comic relief is Brit actor Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) in the role of geeky analyst. Originally Ricky Gervais (creator of the original BBC series “The Office”) had that slot, but due to delays had to bow out. Pegg was a good replacement, but one can only imagine what Gervais would have done with the part.

Director Abrams had some pretty big shoes to fill following John Woo’s sequel and Brian De Palma’s original flick. Abrams cut his teeth primarily in television, creating such hits as “Lost,” “Alias” and “Felicity,” which was why Russell got the gig. To his credit, though, Abrams delivers what we have grown to expect in the way of a big-budget movie: fast-paced stunts with unbelievable situations. “M:I-3” delivers in that department with a plethora of action that would make even Indiana Jones proud.

But there’s a sensitive side to this movie as well. Would you believe Hunt has a fiancée? Hunt is settling down with sweetie Julia (Michelle Monaghan) and she’s clueless as to what it is he does. I guess if she did, then she, too, would have to self-destruct in 10 seconds.

“M:I-3” offers us a love interest and a mole within the organization. Sounds like the first movie, doesn’t it? I don’t care. The moment that familiar theme kicked in, courtesy of Lalo Schifrin (who also composed the original theme for the TV series 33 years ago), I was waiting for the members of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force for the uninitiated) to get into gear and rid the world of evildoers, donning disguises and speaking various languages to accomplish their mission. They do, of course, and that can lead to only one definitive conclusion: A fourth installment!

Oh, yeah, just an observation here, but does it appear that the summer blockbuster season has moved up earlier this year? With “M: I-3” being released wide this weekend, the official summer movie season begins, and it’s not even Memorial Day yet!

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8.

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