Having retired from field action in favour of training agents and planning to marry Julia (Michelle Monaghan - Made of Honour), Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Cocktail) is suddenly drawn back into active service when one of his students is captured and killed by arms smuggler Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Boat That Rocked). But with double crossing coming from Ethan's superior and Julia's life in threat as Davian goes after her, Hunt has to go renegade with the help of old friend Luther (Ving Rhames) in order to save both her life and bring Davian down.
Maybe it's just me but I find "Mission: Impossible III" the most boring of all the "Mission: Impossible" movies so far. We've seen it all before Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt and going on some top secret mission to battle a baddie, put his life at risk through various escapades resulting in big bangs and more often or not involving a helicopter. As such there is little about "Mission: Impossible III" that feels remarkably different to the previous movies, well at least in what to expect from a storyline.
But there is another change in direction with J J Abrams taking control behind the camera and visually "Mission: Impossible III" looks different to the others, the artsy slow motion action favoured by previous director John Woo has been replaced with less artsy slow motion and a colour palette which borders on being muted, even somewhat grubby. We get a new range of camera angles and some shaky handheld camera action which was used in all the "Bourne" movies to try and deliver some sort of realism during those action sequences. It's also less glossy than before as Abrams tries to deliver some moody tension through the darkness and muted colours. But another visual change actually doesn't work, it loses the continuation feel as we get another directors interpretation of what it should be like and to be frank although at times the arty shots in "Mission: Impossible II" grated I preferred them as it gave the movie that glossy appeal which is where it is at its best.
But in essence "Mission: Impossible III" is still the same even with the supposedly moving on of things with Ethan now in love with a nurse who he plans to marry and hiding his true identity from her as he now trains agents rather than being number one for those impossible missions. The storyline again is more than reminiscent of a Bond style escapade with a villain, something for Hunt to try and capture as in the rabbits foot and plenty of elements of danger as he returns to the field after an agent he trained died. There are still those few twists, the use of disguises that bring us the well choreographed scene where they make one of these facial latex creations on the fly. Plus the action which isn't as OTT as in previous movies still borders on the pure fantasy.
Even Tom Cruise who as Ethan Hunt has gone through a transformation to a short haired frighteningly pale trainer instead of field agent is lacking something. It's now a more serious character, if that is possible and it just doesn't gel. The action hero element which Cruise delivers so brilliantly has been restrained so much that the character borders on the boring. With Michelle Monaghan playing his love interest Julia it makes for a strange experience as she looks quite similar to Mrs Cruise, Katie Holmes. Plus Ving Rhames returns again and despite attempts to build on the relationship between hunt and Luther is ends up feeling like a cameo used just to provide some continuity.
Thankfully elsewhere things do improve and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the baddie Owen Davian is brilliant, an unlikely violent man but has the menace which any Bond baddie would be proud of, shame he wasn't picked to be Bond baddie. Plus Laurence Fishburne is pretty impressive as Hunts new superior the bullying Theodore Brassel and there is also Simon Pegg providing a bit of humour as Benji a sort of computer geek, in the sort of tradition that all these movies need some sort of comedy element.
The trouble is that it is no longer exciting, those big moments of action lack the impact they once had and for long periods there is little which really gets you on the edge of the seat. In search of making "Mission: Impossible III" more gritty and real they have effectively lost all that gloss and frankly cheesiness which made the series so entertaining. It tries to move with the times and in doing so also tries to grow up, but it didn't need to.
What this all boils down to that "Mission: Impossible III" is in my opinion a disappointment. Whilst not terrible, with a new director another change in styling and what seems like an attempt to grow up it loses all those bits which made the series entertaining. It just doesn't work for me and when they do make the "Mission: Impossible IV" in the series, which no doubt they will I hope they manage to recapture the gloss which made the previous movies more entertaining.