MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III
With a series so dependent on a single star presence like Tom Cruise, this ultimately ended up being Mission: Impossible IIIs downfall. I have a theory that every celebrity has a certain critical mass that you could probably calculate to some mathematical formula. A celebrity is at best when maintaining an even balance between screen persona and public profile. When public profiles hit a certain critical mass, the public switches off and the celebritys popularity registers into the negative numbers. Look at the way in recent years that names like Jennifer Lopez, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton have gone from their respective five minutes of fame to an excessive loathing simply due to public overexposure. Tom Cruise, for some years the No. 1 star in the world, finally reached the point around 2005-6 where his various Oprah couch-jumping proclamations of love for Katie Holmes, pro-Scientology rants, anti-psycho-pharmaceutical rants and stories about unlicensed purchase of ultrasound machines reached a point where Tom Cruise seemed less a superstar any longer than a punchline in some chatshow hosts comedy routine. The public clearly reacted to the Cruise critical mass by switching off Mission: Impossible III and leaving it with a disappointing $47 million opening weekend, which, while impressive, was considerably less than forecast by the studio, not to mention in regard to the films purported $150 million budget. Not to mention resulted in the humiliating aftermath when Paramount owner Sumner Redstone subsequently cut all ties with Tom Cruises production company.
For a time, Mission: Impossible III attained near mythical status after being announced and then postponed several times. There was a revolving door of directorial talents attached, including David Fincher of Se7en (1995) and Fight Club (1999) fame and Joe Carnahan, the director of Narc (2002); not to mention various star names like Kenneth Branagh, Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson, Lindsay Lohan and Carrie-Ann Moss. Numerous scripts were written and tossed out. There were reports of studio complaints over an escalating budget due to Tom Cruises requests to film in some 15 countries.
Mission: Impossible III did finally go ahead where Tom Cruises ingenuity was to hire J.J. Abrams as director. J.J. (sometimes credited as Jeffrey) Abrams has been a screenwriter and often producer of various films like Regarding Henry (1991), Forever Young (1992) and Joy Ride (2001). J.J. Abramss greatest success came on tv with series such as the high school drama Felicity (1998-2002) and in particularly the smart and culty spy series Alias (2001-6), which is what inspired Tom Cruise to hire Abrams for Mission: Impossible III, and the huge hit of the deeply enigmatic Lost (2004-10), as well as the paranormal investigation series Fringe (2008-13). Abrams has also produced other genre tv series such as Person of Interest (2011-6), Alcatraz (2012), Revolution (2012-4), Almost Human (2013-4) and 11.22.63 (2016). Though J.J. Abrams has directed episodes of his various tv series, Mission: Impossible III represents his big-screen debut. (Mission: Impossible III also makes Abrams the record-holder for the biggest budget ever handed to a first-time feature-film director).
Mission: Impossible III is the best of the films in the Mission: Impossible film series so far. As mentioned above, there are many similarities between the Mission: Impossible and James Bond films like the Bond films, the Mission: Impossible series has become increasingly centred around globe-spinning locales and spectacular action set-pieces. (Although, the one thing the Mission: Impossible series lacks in comparison to the James Bond film is the constant line-up of gorgeous women, with Tom Cruises super-spy being cast more as the sensitive settled-down man). J.J. Abrams certainly tops all the other Mission: Impossible films and creates some incredibly spectacular action sequences the scene where the prison convoy carrying Philip Seymour Hoffman is shot up by a robot drone while crossing a bridge; the fulcrum swing between skyscrapers in Shanghai and Tom Cruises hair-raising slide down the angled side of a glass building while shooting at guards; the elaborate raid at The Vatican, which (as seems mandatory for every film in the series) involves Cruise dangling down to inches above ground level on a series of pulleys; and the big, loud shoot-up sequence involving the rescue from the factory.
As in Alias, J.J. Abrams loves to create scenes that push his characters to extremes and into morally difficult situations. The single most captivating part of Mission: Impossible III is the opening scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman has Tom Cruises wife Michelle Monaghan tied up in front of him and threatens to kill her on a count of 10 unless Cruise reveals the location of the Rabbits Foot. (The exact nature of the Rabbits Foot is something we never find out throughout). Although the climax, which involves Michelle Monaghan being given a crash-course in gun usage and having to hold gunmen off while she must also kill and then bring Tom Cruise back to life does manage to hold something up to this opening scene. The sheer hair-raising excitement and dramatic intensity that J.J. Abrams manages to wind up during these scenes is riveting. On the minus side, were one to compare Mission: Impossible III to J.J. Abramss muchly smarter and superior Alias, Mission: Impossible III would surely come out as a weaker Alias episode. Certainly here, Abrams has the clear budget that he must have only dreamed of on Alias where action scenes were kept to one or two per episode and the jet setting international locales never moved out of California state.
With Mission: Impossible III so focused around the persona of Tom Cruise, not many of the others in the cast get much of a look-in. Philip Seymour Hoffman, fresh from his Oscar-winning turn in Capote (2004), makes for an interesting choice as the villain of the show. Certainly, Hoffman lent the film one of the most captivating trailers of the year a single scene where he taunts Tom Cruise that he is going to find and hurt his girlfriend and then kill him in front of her. Hoffman, with stocky build, blonde hair and almost albinoid features, is certainly unusual in the part and captivating, although the films greatest failing is that, having finally created a super-villain worthy of the show, Hoffman fails to get the time on-screen that his character deserves.
As director, J.J. Abrams subsequently went onto revive a further tv series with Star Trek (2009) and its sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013), the alien monster/Coming of Age film Super 8 (2011) and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015). Abrams also produced Cloverfield (2008), 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) and Star Trek: Beyond (2016).
(Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) at this sites Best of 2006 Awards).