Friday, May 05, 2006

MI III--- Mission not so Believable

"Suspend your disbelief" I kept telling myself. After all, this is supposed to be just 126 minutes of summer fun, and after all we can't expect serious drama from Tom Cruise. This has to be a action and special effects flick with lots of Cruise's smiling mug splashed through the movie, for sure.

And you have to realize that this movie was supposed to come out two years ago this month. It has gone into the rewrite shop for a not so few small repairs several times (at Cruise's insistence), and then finally J.J. Abrams of 'Lost' and 'Alias' fame who has never directed a big screen movie was brought in and he insisted on a new script! The amount of money wasted on all this vanity is hard to fathom or justify. But you have to give them credit--- this movie is definitely different from MI I or II, and it does have some great action scenes (helicopter chase through wind turbines in Germany-- wait 'til the environmentalists get wind of this one; big blow up on and off the bridge to Maryland; and Cruise becomes human pendulum leaping tall buildings in a single bound).

But alas, the goal of this movie is to humanize Mr. Ethan Hunt, by giving him not just a love interest, but a wife (played well, though she gets too little air time, by Michelle Monaghan). And herein lies the problem. There is no back story about this relationship, and it is not allowed to develop at the beginning of the film. We must hurry up with saving the world for democracy and from the uber-bad guy-- played wonderfully by Phillip Seymour Hoffmann of Capote fame. We now know he can play incredibly different roles very well, but can he dance?

Of course the premise of the movie is "the things we'll do for love", including selling out truth, justice, and the U.S. of A. But of course Mr. Hunt manages to find a way to be both a hero, and a rescuer of the damsel in distress. It requires lots of running, blowing things up, and killing folks.

What is especially distressing about all this is that even though Cruise has a good MI team to support him, including Ving Rhames, they hardly get enough air time to appreciate them. We simply go from one set piece to another, to another, to another where the whole focus is on Cruise, ratcheting up the noise and action and violence. Some of this is effective, for example the sequence in the Vatican, some is not. Why exactly must we race from Berlin to Rome to Shanghai with the aid of Mapquest? We never find out, and one suspects this is just a matter of taking a page out of the old James Bond recipe of filming in exotic locations.

But what is entirely missing is the old Mission Impossible premise that gadgets, and technology can help us solve crime. What is missing is any finesse and attempt to fool the bad guys-- no we just want to out muscle them and beat them to the punch and to a pulp in this movie. Furthermore, in MI III the best gadgets are in the hands of the bad guys, and it is hard to imagine them ever having a postive or life saving use. Alas what would Martin Landau say?

Here is a movie with few redeeming features, an eminently forgetable plot, but it is fun to watch as it passes by on the screen with impressive special effects. Here is 'Tom' on Cruise control-- don't expect any Oscar nominations for this film. But if you want to be dazzled by action, this may provide a Jolt of adrenaline rush for you.


RC said...

oh believe me i'm not expecting an oscar for cruise...

no, no, no...

he's got his nods and i don't see anymore down the pipe.

interesting thoughts...thanks for sharing.

--RC of

B-W said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
B-W said...

But what is entirely missing is the old Mission Impossible premise that gadgets, and technology can help us solve crime. What is missing is any finesse and attempt to fool the bad guys-- no we just want to out muscle them and beat them to the punch and to a pulp in this movie.

This was my main criticism of MI:2, also (my main criticims of MI:1 being that, besides being too confusing, they made Jim Phelps the bad guy!). It may be an exciting ride, but it's not Mission: Impossible.

Traditionalist1611 said...

Why do you like to see these movies that have nothing redemptive about them and feature all sorts of sins? I don't know if Jesus would be at a movie theater for most movies. I have TV and cable but only for the old movies and news stations. I feel convicted for having even that. I think it still has effects of making me and my household impure at times. My church does not promote the going to see of most movies (except for some rare exceptions) and I have found following to be profitable.

Ben Witherington said...

I understand this Traditionalist, but I review movies for the church, and surely this review will in fact keep some Christians away-- which is part of the intent.

As for Jesus, you're probably wrong. Sometimes he hung out with sinners and tax collectors remember?


Denny Burk said...

I thought MI 2 was "Mission Unbelievable." Along about the time Cruise and leading lady's car chase ended in a car-slow-dance, they lost me. I thought it was completely silly.

I'm in no hurry to see the sequel.

Denny Burk

Gordon Hackman said...


It sounds to me like the question you are asking is basically the whole Christ and culture question. What one thinks about going to the movies or seeing certain movies will largely flow out of one's basic stance concerning the relationship between Christ and culture generally.

I can definitely respect where you are coming from, even though I don't think I completely share your views. I recently had a pretty traumatic experience at the movies which has caused me to do some rethinking concerning what I will view or not. I'm thinking, in particular, of Philipians 4:8 and what it means to live in accordance with it.

If you're interested, a couple of good resources relating to Christians and the movies are Robert k. Johnston's "Reel Spirituality" and William Romanowski's "Eyes Wide Open." Both of these books attempt to present some guidance in how Christians might discerningly approach movies in general and pop-culture in general. I've heard some good things about Brian Godawa's "Hollywood Worldviews" as well, though I haven't read it.


M. J. Mansini said...


I agree about the Tax collector's house... but I have to wonder, did the tax collector simply treat Jesus to dinner, or were there exotic dancers and blood sport. It seems to me that movies are more of the later, rather than the former...

Just some thoughts.

Ben Witherington said...

Jesus got a reputation for being a winebibber and a friend of sinners. I assume this means he celebrated with these folks and was willing to become ritually unclean in the process. I don't know about the entertainment on offer, but remember he had contact with 'sinner' women (Lk. 7.36-50) and one has to ask where this happened. Why was that woman so grateful to Jesus? Probably no blood sport during dinner in a private house though (the head on a platter story not withstanding).