Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3 | Agents of Fandom

Monday Movie Club: ‘Mission: Impossible III’

‘MI3’ redefined the franchise and gave us one of the greatest on-screen villains in recent movie memory.

*Warning: Spoilers ahead for Mission: Impossible III*

We’ve put an explosive charge in your head. Does that sound familiar?” is, without a single second of doubt, one of the coldest opening lines from a villain, ever. Like, ever. Think about it. What could possibly be more harsh, intense, and just downright badass? Very few other things. Actually nothing.

This leads me to why I’m ultimately writing this article—Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered the best, most acute, and lethal villain performance in the entire Mission Impossible movie franchise in Mission: Impossible III. Cold-blooded, exacting, and unrelenting. I mean, the guy was on the brink of being dropped out of the bottom of a plane and still retained his vigor to reveal who Ethan Hunt truly was! The man is unhinged and it’s freaking awesome. I miss that guy.

I’m part of an agency…called the IMF.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays stone-cold villain Owen Davian in Mission: Impossible III I Agents of Fandom
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the stone-cold villain Owen Davian in Mission: Impossible III. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Mission: Impossible III ushers in this new era of Mission Impossible movies and does so in a multi-faceted way. It distances itself from not only the storytelling quirks of Mission: Impossible II but the style of the movie as well. MI3 reasserts exactly what this franchise wants to be—a grounded, just-past-the-point-of-reality action thriller with Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. And thank whatever God you want that J.J. Abrams was able to capture that stark style shift because it helped create the franchise we know and love today.

Here’s the stage for this third entry: Ethan Hunt has retired. He’s got a fiancé, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), who believes he works for the traffic department—which, let’s be honest, is a pretty good cover for someone in his profession. Hunt is pulled back into the field when Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) kills an IMF agent (Keri Russell) that was sent undercover.

Hunt’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to capture Davian who is selling a toxic weapon that goes by the name of “Rabbit’s Foot.” Davian takes things to a personal level by capturing Julia and threatening to kill her, sparking Hunt to take on this impossible mission.

One of the best things about this movie compared to the prior two installments is that it is simple and concise! A villain that wants to kill the world and will stop at nothing to do it. Simple as you like.

This is the first Mission Impossible movie that understands that the crew around Tom Cruise can elevate what makes him so special. The introduction of characters played by big names like Brassel (Laurence Fishburne), Musgrave (Billy Crudup), and Benji (Simon Pegg), both add to the dynamic of Tom Cruise’s character and furnish a whole crew of people with their individually compelling stories.

Of course, I wish we got more time with Billy Crudup, but I will say his lip-reading conversation with Hunt is pretty sick and one of the sleeker moments of the movie. The entire escape scene is rad.

‘Mission: Impossible III’ is head and shoulders above the previous installments

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, left), Luther (Ving Rhames, middle) and Benji (Simon Pegg, right) work together. I Agents of Fandom
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, left), Luther (Ving Rhames, middle) and Benji (Simon Pegg, right) work together. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Speaking of cool scenes, I still firmly believe the infiltration of Davian’s party at the Vatican is up there as one of the most entertaining scenes in the entire franchise. You get Maggie Q, you get not one but two Philip Seymour Hoffman’s, and you get this incredible tension-building, finger-wagging scene that sees Hunt nearly caught after switching places with Davian.

Out of the first three entries into the Mission Impossible franchise, Mission: Impossible III stands head and shoulders above the rest. Whether that was J.J. Abrams injecting the film with a darker undertone, a more simplistic story, Philip Seymour Hoffman being Philip Seymour Hoffman, or a combination of all of that and more, MI3 just downright works.

The reason I believe it works so damn well? Because from the very first instant of the film, we are told that Ethan Hunt has had an explosive put in his head. And we are left waiting for it to go off over the course of two hours, secretly boiling the off-screen tension over the top to achieve something special.

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'Mission: Impossible III' Review

'Mission: Impossible III' Review
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4.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman is a stone-cold, unhinged villain
  • Grounded nature brings it back to 'Mission Impossible' standards
  • Darker undertone builds both off-screen and on-screen tension throughout

The Bad

  • Smaller scale stunts compared to rest of the franchise
  • Third act stretches credulity in an otherwise simple story
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