Cruise handpicked the creator of Lost, J.J. Abrams to co-write and direct. Abrams tries to add emotional depth to Hunt giving him a wife (Michelle Monaghan) who’s put into peril by Davian. Does it work? Yes and no. While the wife in jeopardy does strengthen Hunt’s involvement to the plot, unfortunately her role is drastically underwritten and therefore becomes just another chick in peril. Also the time spent on building their relationship could have gone towards another action set piece. There are a few of those (a rescue mission, an airplane attack, swinging from skyscrapers) but they pale in comparison to the tightly executed action scenes in the first film and the over the top nuttiness of Part 2 and makes the movie feel more like an overlong episode of Alias (also created by Abrams) than a big budget Mission: Impossible movie.
That’s not saying he doesn’t bring something to the table. Along with the patented mask ripping and wire dangling staples of the series, Abrams adds at least one novel gimmick (tiny bombs implanted into people’s brains) as well as a nifty breaking-into-the-Vatican scene.
What really saves MI3 from being just another cookie cutter spy movie is the performances. Hoffman makes a thoroughly despicable villain and the scenes of him (especially the opening scene) and Cruise going toe to toe are the best in the film (the duo were also in Magnolia together). Ving Rhames returns as Hunt’s right hand man Luther and gets more screen time to show off his and Cruise’s chemistry together. Laurence Fishburne is also great as Hunt’s superior and finds new ways to tweak his I-may-be-your-mentor-but-I-can-still-kic
But it’s Simon (Shaun of the Dead) Pegg as Benji the IMF tech geek who steals the movie. He’s only in two scenes but he still blows everyone off the screen and his rant about “The Anti-God” is especially memorable. Keri Russell (also in Felicity, created by Abrams), Billy (Almost Famous) Crudup and Jonathan (Elvis) Rhys-Meyers round out the rest of the team. So your mission should you choose to accept it: forget about Cruise’s couch jumping antics, Scientology tirades and Katie Holmes’ belly sonogramming and just enjoy this entertaining if uneven sequel.