M:I3 is Cruise’s Love Gun
Ethan Hunt is in love. The sound of that should send shivers down the spine of every action adventure spy thriller movie lover. Anyone familiar with the genre understands that no top secret agent can have a romantic relationship outside the job. It’s simply untenable. But considering the public relations nightmare the couch-jumping, meds- rebuking, new-baby-touting megastar Tom Cruise has brought on himself, maybe injecting a little love into a franchise that “MI:2” nearly killed off, seems appropriate.
We don’t know if Cruise demanded his character’s romantic turn, but it was Tom Terrific (who also co-produced) who brought on director and co-writer J.J. Abrams, the auteur behind TV’s “Lost,” “Alias,” and “Felicity.” This was a smart move. While it’s difficult to know what specific skills translate to the big screen– especially based on those shows, if you’re a fan you can e-mail me– one thing TV teaches is the economy of time. It’s grab the audience or lose it immediately to one of a gazillion other offerings.
Traversing the globe (Berlin, Vatican City, Shanghai), “M:I3” is longish at over 2 hours but never feels dull. It opens and closes with two particularly intense interrogation scenes that not uncoincidentally feature Cruise as our man Hunt going face to face with Phillip Seymour Hoffman who is this installment’s WMD trader and unrepentant villain, Owen Davian. If there’s been a more terrifyingly believable bad guy than Hoffman, memory escapes. That the same actor was so convincing as the fey, completely harmless Truman Capote only reaffirms his Oscar worthiness.
So why is “M:I3” so good? First, it has plenty of the primary elements required of this type of film. Namely: guns, girls, and gadgets. (Notice the absence of plot. Though as mindless popcorn thrillers go “M:I3” has a coherent, interesting story.) The best gun (technically a pyrotechnic device) is the magnetic mini-bomb. The girls are Michelle Monaghan (looking very Justine Bateman) who plays Ethan’s aforementioned love-interest, Keri Russell as a fellow agent who gets toasted by the films best new gadget– a brain exploding chip– and the delightful Maggie Q as one of Hunt’s kick-butt team members. Quality actors Lawrence Fishburne, Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Billy Crudup lend an air of credibility.
As for Cruise, he’s as dependable as they come. Still ripped at 43, the fact that he does his own stunts not only gives the action sequences a palpable plausibility but begs the question: Has any actor done this better? We’ll take his offscreen antics (an improvement over the rantings of another limousine liberal) because when he’s on his game the impossible seems possible. “M:I3” isn’t perfect, but it packs plenty of great action, special effects that don’t astound but don’t detract, a truly good bad guy, and a cool as ever Cruise missile.
Rated PG-13 for violence and profanity.