“It’s about a man, who’s a spy, who’s in love, who gets called to duty to go rescue a fellow operative and things unravel from there in a way he doesn’t expect.” JJ Abrams there, director of Mission: Impossible III, talking about the “simple” story behind his flash, bang, wallop and wallop again blockbuster – the most relentless, deafening ride of summer 2006.
And that’s one of the key pleasures of M:I:III – particularly when compared to the murky first in the franchise and the chuck-in-everything/hope-some-of-it-sticks approach of the second. Taken on its own merits, away from the tabloid hoohah surrounding the iconic star/producer, M:I:III is about as entertaining a night of popcorn-gnawing action as you could possibly wish for.
Completely, utterly, shamelessly unremitting, it tells of our hero Ethan Hunt (Cruise), in love with the very lovely Julia (Michelle Monaghan) and taking a backseat from his IMF missions to train newbies in how to save the world from unsmiling terrorist types. That is until one of his charges, Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), is kidnapped – pitching Hunt and his crack team of sharpshooters, bullet-dodgers and thrill-seekers (Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, Jonathan Rhys Meyers) into a globe-trotting battle of wits against über-baddie Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in pursuit of mysterious MacGuffin, the “Rabbit’s Foot”. What follows is an explosion-after-explosion, thrill-after-thrill, no-flab, no-time-wasted succession of action set-pieces, where any plot bridges are piffling pinpricks in an orgy of increasingly outrageous action.
Whatever you do, don’t watch for sense or resolution. If you engage brain, the True Lies apeing (Julia is ignorant of Ethan’s line of work), the Rabbit’s Foot thing (so what the hell is it?) and the way that IMF bod Musgrave (Billy Crudup) takes only about an hour to fly from Virginia to Shanghai may irk. But such grumbles miss the point. Abrams’ feature debut’s mission statement is to excite audiences as much as the franchise visibly does its star. In the plentiful, all-encompassing Making Of documentaries and featurettes, Cruise is forever grinning, smiling, hugging and laughing. He exudes energy both on set and on camera, with Rhys Meyers revealing in the 20-minute love-in Inside The IMF that the livewire was so ecstatic at the start of filming that he took to humming the “Dum dum DUM DUM dum dum DUM DUM” theme while speeding down Rome’s Tiber with his IMF gang. You’ve got to hand it to Cruise: the man does nothing by half.