Hey folks, sorry I’m late. This summer has been moving along at such a clip I seem to have not even noticed it brush past me while I’ve been cooping myself up at home watching movies that I know won’t disappoint me.
Two weeks ago I offered up Conan the Barbarian as the perfect alternative to Prince of Persia, and just last week I urged you to stay home and watch Detroit Rock City instead of Get Him to the Greek. Now this past weekend has hit us with its own thunderous boom—a remake double-hitter of The Karate Kid and The A-Team.
Now, The Karate Kid was the box office winner easily over the weekend, but personally, I couldn’t care less about it. I never saw the original, so there’s no nostalgia factor, and the whole premise simply doesn’t appeal to me.
The A-Team, I could honestly say the same thing about. I’ve never seen an episode of the TV show in my life and frankly don’t care to. But this movie clearly doesn’t care that I don’t care about the TV show. It’s updating its techniques in an effort to appeal to a far larger audience. In fact, I’d bet that at least half of the $25.7 million worth of people who saw it this weekend weren’t even aware that it was based on a TV show.
But you are, aren’t you? At least you are now, anyway. So with that in mind, let’s say that you’re really in the mood for an action movie based on an outdated TV show, but The A-Team doesn’t exactly look like the team you want to be joining. My best advice would be to stay in, cuddle up with a loved one and some delicious Indian food, and watch J.J. Abrams’s Mission: Impossible III.
Yeah, I said #3! I’m starting with a sequel. Deal with it. Brian De Palma’s first Mission: Impossible film is certainly a good and classy thriller, although I think we can all agree that John Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2 was…well, let’s just say it was no Face/Off. But for me, the best of the series was absolutely J.J. Abrams’s high-energy 2006 threequel.
First off, let me just say that I like Tom Cruise. I genuinely do. I apologize to anyone who thought my taste was more in line with theirs than that, but I had to get that off my chest—I like Tom Cruise. Of course, the guy works best for me when he’s not asking to be taken seriously as any kind of a “normal” person. M:I-2 isn’t really the movie for that, as he’s trying too hard to come off as an pseudo-quintessential action star. Neither is War of the Worlds or The Last Samurai or…well, the majority of his early stuff.
But sometimes the guy can be frighteningly enigmatic like in Michael Mann’s Collateral, or he can be totally—and shockingly—unhinged like in Tropic Thunder. He’s also been quite good in a host of other roles, like in Minority Report, Eyes Wide Shut, and his Oscar-nominated turn as Frank T.J. Mackey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia.
In the case of M:I-3, however, he’s simply enthusiastically charming. A lot of actors could enjoyably sell the line “I’m gonna die unless you kill me”—because it’s a great line—but the only one I really want to hear say it is Tom Cruise.
Now onto the movie itself. I think it was probably the most unexpectedly wildly fun movie released in the summer movie season of 2006. It suffered a bit of a box office blow since it was right at the peak of America’s wariness of Cruise and his peculiar behavior (what with the Oprah couch-jumping, the Matt Lauer berating, the Brooke Shields scolding, and the general bizarreness of scientology). But anyone who turned their nose up to this movie out of any discomfort that Cruise’s admittedly strange personal life might have caused them was missing out on what was surely one of the best action movies of the last decade (and subsequently, THE MILLENIUM!!!).
And the flick comes to us straight from the immensely talented leadership of J.J. Abrams, who’s given us Lost and last year’s outstanding reboot of Star Trek. No one else in the film business knows how to make a movie as frantically energetic as this guy, and as a result, M:I-3 is the most alive, entertaining, straight-forward, and flat-out fun entry of the entire series.
Abrams pulls you right in at the very beginning, starting the show in the midst of the film’s ultra-tense climactic moments. The scene is shown to us in tight close-ups as the emotionless, merciless bad guy Owen Davian (an outstanding Philip Seymour Hoffman) demands that Ethan Hunt (Cruise) tell him the location of the “Rabbit’s Foot” (which is the most wonderfully shameless MacGuffin since the briefcase in Pulp Fiction). He has a gun trained on Ethan’s wife (Michelle Monaghan), and he counts to ten. Ethan is losing his mind. We can tell he has no idea. We can tell that Davian doesn’t care. Davian makes it to ten. He shoots. Credits. Whoa.
At this point, we don’t know where we are, who that guy was, or what the hell is going on. But we’re certainly intrigued, to say the least. And to be honest, the opening scene is a great sampling of the entire movie—it’s intense, exciting, and, unlike the first and second films, the plot really is as simple as just that—where’s that damn Rabbit’s Foot? “And what the hell is it?” is a pretty decent question too, but I wouldn’t go in expecting an answer if I were you.
Like Lost and Star Trek, this movie is a loud, crazy adventure that never lets up, and it’s the first of the Mission: Impossible films to actually live up to its title in its own winkingly amusing way. One scene in particular explains in perfect detail how what Ethan plans to attempt is virtually impossible…and then in the next scene, he does it.
And remember that horrible, cringe-worthy line that poor Anthony Hopkins had to dribble out of his mouth in Mission: Impossible 2? “Mr. Hunt, this isn’t mission difficult, it’s mission impossible.” Yikes.
ETHAN: “I’m part of an agency called the I.M.F.”
JULIA: “What’s that stand for?”
ETHAN: “Impossible Mission Force.”
JULIA: “Shut up.”
And for an added bonus, you actually get to see how they make and apply those wonderful life-like masks that they’re always pulling off each other. Not enough? How about some strategic subtitled lip-reading?
And remember that quote from earlier—“I’m gonna die unless you kill me”—don’t you want to know what that’s all about?!
And like The A-Team, Mission: Impossible III–and its predecessors–are based on a TV adventure show from years back. Admittedly, The A-Team looks like it’s retaining a bit more of its humble origins than any of the M:I films–they’ve really only kept the self-destructing tapes with the line “Your mission, if you choose to accept it…” and the way-badass theme music. But what M:I-3 lacks in faithfulness, it makes up for in being FUCKING AWESOME! So suck on that, A-Team.
But in all seriousness, you just can’t go wrong with Mission: Impossible III. It’s the best of the series, hands-down. Word is that Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Ratatouille) is heading up the next one (with J.J. Abrams back to produce), so I’m certainly excited for a new good time. But for now—and to effectively counter the dull-looking A-Team—I’m popping M:I-3 back in my DVD player for a thrillingly great time and then I’m goin’ to bed! Wake me up when Inception’s out!
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