Bless the television background of director J. J. Abrams. After successfully creating and directing the hit television series 'Lost' and 'Alias', he tries his hand as director of a major motion picture for the first time, and if a viewing of 'Mission Impossible 3' is any indication, then in the celluloid world of espionage and spy shenanigans, especially those taken from their television roots to the silver screen, familiarity breeds competence. Picking more than just a cue from the Jennifer Garner double agent TV show (and a tad bit from 'True Lies' as well), Tom Cruise's third mission as Ethan Hunt strikes a fine balance between heart pounding action and grounded sentimentality (despite going overboard after one too many doses).
Without being told about it, it is obvious that the story has the basic nuts and bolts of a continent hopping thriller, at times attempting to confuse us using strong helpings of double crosses, deceits and rogue agents but with everything finally making reasonable geo-political sense. The chase begins when a fellow IMF agent, caught in Berlin, needs to be rescued by Hunt – himself deliriously blissful in a serious relationship with Julia (Michelle Monaghan, the obligatory love interest), and a team of specialists – that's right, this time Hunt has a team, and they don't get obliterated within the first 30 minutes. Even though the operation is reasonably successful (and stunningly executed on screen), their efforts are strongly questioned by the CIA director (Lawrence Fishburne, delivering the juiciest lines) who believes a compromise has been made in tracking a bigger fish the CIA has been trailing, Owen Davian (a rather dry Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is scheduled to sell a certain something code named 'Rabbits foot' to an unknown buyer. Lying to his fiancée, Hunt plunges to right what went wrong and finds himself switching identities in Vatican city, jumping off exploding bridges back home and dangerously leaping off skyscrapers in China to get to the bottom of everything.
In its imitation and usage of its references, MI3 is both a form of flattery as well as an ode, with 'Rabbits foot' being nothing more than a glorified McGuffin, and the scenes set in Vatican city evidently reminiscent of De Palma's stint with the first film (which still remains the best, as a trendsetter). Where Abrams really succeeds is with his perfect fusion of action and stunt coordination on a massive scale and injecting a human dimension to every major character, be it Hunt's superior Musgrave (Billy Crudup) or the returning character of Luther (Ving Rhames). It clearly helps Abrams that he has had tremendous experience with crafting such rich scripts for his longer running television shows, except here he has limited time but seemingly unlimited finances in comparison. If the movie becomes a little docile in its final moments, it is probably because it has difficulty topping all the excitement seen in the preceding segments. Still, there is no denying that with this mission, not only is an almost dried up franchise given resurgence, but a new formidable director made prominent in the arena of the adrenaline action adventure. - Faizan Rashid