It’s been a decade since Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible hit theatres to box office success, established a new blockbuster franchise and added ‘action hero’ to Tom Cruise’s résumé. In 2000, John Woo’s highly stylized follow-up raised the franchise to new box office heights. This year, the long-awaited third installment arrived amidst controversy about Tom Cruise’s crazy off-screen antics.
M:i:III’s U.S. box office take suffered from the public backlash to its headliner’s whacky rants and questionable actions. Too bad about Tom Cruise being a kook, because J. J. Abrams’ top-notch action flick deserved better. I saw this one on the big screen, and I recall moments when I actually gripped the arm rests and held my breath. If that’s not the mark of a great summer blockbuster, I don’t know what is.
This time around, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from field duty and is living the soft life, training new agents and spending time with his fiancé. Everything’s peachy until Lindsay (Keri Russell), one of his students, is kidnapped while on surveillance of badass arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Ethan hops to it, pulling together a team to rescue Lindsay. It turns out, of course, that things aren’t so simple. Davian is a powerful guy, and malevolent when kicked. Soon Ethan is in a fight for his and his wife’s lives.
This wouldn’t be a Mission: Impossible film if it didn’t have fantastic action sequences. M:i:III does not disappoint in this department, as it offers up some of the most explosive and thrilling scenes in any movie this year. My favourites are the bridge sequence and the high-rise stunt, but these are just two parts of an action-packed movie.
Say what you will about Tom Cruise in real life, but on screen he more than does the job. In the film’s quieter opening scenes he’s just ok, but once the action starts, Ethan Hunt is as dynamic and lethal as ever. The rest of the cast is also strong, including Ving Rhames as the always-entertaining Luther, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who’s riding the Capote Oscar wave. While Hoffman does a nice job as the villain, I must admit that I expected a stronger performance. I recall prior to release hearing him in interview relishing the prospect of kicking Cruise’s ass, and while he’s obviously suited to the part, I had hoped for a looser performance. To truly be a great villain, he needed to show a little more zeal.
Accompanying these performances is a first-rate score by up-and-comer Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles). Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer left big shoes to fill from the first two films, but Giacchino rose to the challenge. His orchestral score ups the suspense, drives the energy in the action sequences, and switches gears effortlessly to accentuate the dynamic range of emotion explored throughout the film.
Tom Cruise waited a long while to get J. J. Abrams for this film, believing that Abrams was the only man for the job. I don’t know whether that’s true, but Cruise certainly made a good choice here, because M:i:III is a powerhouse, and the best of the franchise thus far. Whether or not Cruise’s antics have forever ruined his chances of returning to his Ethan Hunt character, he has at least left a lasting impression with this installment, and any new actor stepping in for a fourth film will have his work cut out for him.
Mission: Impossible III – Special Collector’s Edition is presented on two discs, with the film on disc one and most of the special features on the second. The film plays in 2.35:1 widescreen, which maintains the original theatrical presentation. The transfer is all-around excellent, with sharp detail, accurate colours, a clean picture, and consistently good contrast. You will not be disappointed.
The menus are stylized, animated and accompanied by music.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also excellent. I stopped the film partway through the initial rescue scene to answer the phone, and returned to it 20 minutes later, having forgotten exactly where I’d left off. When I hit play, all hell broke loose in my basement, with ricocheting gunshots, explosions and the frenetic score blazing on all channels. After my initial shock, I grinned and got lost in the scene.
It’s not just the crash-bang action sequences that play well here, as dialogue is always clear, and the score fills out the sound stage nicely even during the quieter moments.
Audio is also offered in French Dolby Digital 5.1, and both English and Spanish subtitles are available.
This set comes loaded with bonus material, and most of it’s top-notch. On disc one we have an audio commentary, a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, a Tom Cruise tribute and a few previews for other films.
On disc two, there are seven featurettes, four M:i:III trailers, six TV spots, a photo gallery and another tribute to Mr. Cruise. Oh, and subtitles are available for these featurettes, in English, Spanish and French.
The audio commentary is by actor/producer Tom Cruise and director J. J. Abrams. They open it up with some humour, and that positive interaction is consistent throughout. These guys sound like they get along well, and they’re both proud of their film. Most importantly, their commentary offers good insight into the creative process.
Next up is Making of the Mission, which is exactly what it sounds like. It runs about 27 minutes, moving quickly to cover a lot of making-of and behind-the-scenes content, from stunts to costume design. Definitely worth watching.
There are five deleted scenes available. It’s the usual here, stuff that was either unnecessary or detrimental to the film. They range from about 40 seconds to nearly two minutes, and you can ‘play all’ or check them out individually.
Then we have Excellence in Film, a Tom Cruise tribute from the 2005 British Academy of Film and Television Arts, when they awarded him the Kubrick Britannia for excellence in film. It’s basically a clip montage set to music, with a lot of memorable moments from an incredible film career.
The last items on disc one are three previews, for Transformers, World Trade Center and Tom Cruise on DVD.
Disc two kicks off with Inside the IMF, a 21-minute featurette about the cast and the characters they play. The list of solid performers is pretty long here, including Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q, Keri Russell, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Simon Pegg and Michelle Monaghan. Not too in-depth, but interesting enough.
Then there’s Mission Action: Inside the Action Unit, a cool 25 minutes on the film’s stunts. There’s a lot here about how Tom Cruise does most of his own stunts, and how committed he is to the film’s success. The more interesting aspects of this featurette are how Abrams’ direction helped guide the stunts, and of course just seeing the behind-the-scenes footage.
Next is Visualizing the Mission, which is about the film’s use of pre-visualization. It runs about 10 minutes, which is just enough to get a taste for how Abrams’ vision was realized by way of this technique.
Following that is 8-minute Mission: Metamorphosis. One of the coolest tidbits in this film is that we finally see how IMF makes those incredibly realistic masks. Here we learn about the creation of the mask-printer prop, from exploratory sketches right through to the visual effects and the finished product, coming to a big-box electronics store near you…in about 60 years.
The next featurette is Scoring the Mission, which brings us 5 minutes about the film’s score. It’s short and sweet, and includes an amusing moment when Tom Cruise shows up to jokingly guest conduct the orchestra.
Then we have Moviefone Unscripted, an 8-minute promo piece that has Cruise and Abrams interviewing each other, using questions submitted by fans and a couple they thought up themselves. The opening question, directed at Abrams, is pretty funny: “What inspired you to direct M:i:III?” There’s good interaction here, and definitely a lot of mutual respect.
The final featurette is Launching the Mission, a five-parter covering the film’s premieres in New York, Rome, Paris, London and Japan. All together it’s 14 minutes of premiere footage of screaming fans and grinning superstars, but this one is worth watching just to hear Cruise laugh about his infamous couch jumping incident.
Disc two’s content wraps up with the film’s theatrical trailers, including the teaser, the Japan trailer, and two main trailers; six TV spots, a photo gallery and another Tom Cruise tribute, this time from MTV for the first ever MTV Generation Award. It’s another clip montage, and the Kubrick piece was better anyway.
Mission: Impossible III – Special Collector’s Edition is a powerhouse action blockbuster presented in an excellent DVD set that offers a wide range of bonus material. This is the best Mission: Impossible film yet, and the DVD set is definitely worthy of any fan’s collection.
Special Features List
- Commentary by director J.J. Abrams and actor/producer Tom Cruise
- “The Making of the Mission” featurette
- Deleted scenes
- “Mission Action: Inside the Action Unit” featurette
- “Visualizing the Mission” featurette
- “Inside the IMF” featurette
- “Mission: Metamorphosis” featurette
- “Scoring the Mission” featurette
- “Launching the Mission” featurette
- Moviefone Unscripted: Tom Cruise/J.J. Abrams
- Tribute Montage: Excellence in Film
- Tribute Montage: Generation: Cruise
- Photo gallery and trailers