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MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 (article first published : 2006-05-9)

We've had the whizz-bangs and gloss of Brian DePalma and the visual flair and balletic action of John Woo. Now, for the third film in his popular secret agent franchise, star and co-producer Tom Cruise ropes in J J Abrams, noted for directing television's Alias and co-creating Lost.

Mission: Impossible 3 marks Abrams's big-screen directing debut and word is that Cruise was so determined to get him to craft the R1billion movie that he persuaded Paramount Pictures to put the project on hold for a year.

Cruise did so, we hear, to help persuade Steven Spielberg to move up production on War of the Worlds and postpone work on Munich to accommodate Abrams's schedule.

Was it worth the trouble? The answer is yes, as this sequel is everything one expects it to be - a compelling explosion of popcorn entertainment which, while still crammed with great action sequences, is less laden with gadgets and complex plotting, although there remains a fair amount of convolution.

Also, this time Hunt is not only saving the planet, but also going all-out to save his girl. She's his new nurse fiancée, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), who eventually gets sucked into danger when Hunt is reluctantly coaxed back to undercover work after a former spy student (Felicity's Keri Russell) lands in a life-threatening situation.

Hunt and his ace agency sidekicks - Ving Rhames, Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers - spring into action to try to save the former student and find themselves then being catapulted into another race against time.

The new impossible mission is a job that takes them from Berlin to the Vatican and, ultimately, the glistening skyscrapers of Shanghai. Their task is to kidnap the sadistic Owen Davian (Capote Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman), a black marketer in weapons of mass destruction, who is involved with a mysterious weapon called "the rabbit's foot", which has the power to end the world as we know it.

What really gets Hunt going, though, is when his fiancée is taken hostage

Also featuring Billy Crudup and Laurence Fishburne as, respectively, Hunt's immediate superior and the agency's head honcho, the film has some superb set-pieces, most notably an explosive showdown on a bridge and, later, Hunt taking a pendulum swing on to a sloped skyscraper.

One can also look forward to heroics on bungee chords, nifty ways with a parachute, tense moments involving detonating microchips implanted into one's brain via the nostril (ouch!) and a fun sequence that has Cruise posing as Hoffman in an elaborate, clever scam involving prosthetics and a voice-copying gadget.

The film, running just over two hours, sees Abrams keeping things moving at a brisk pace and its good to see him injecting some laughs at regular intervals.

It's not likely to win any awards, but Mission: Impossible 3 is a fun matinee bet. Park the mind in neutral and hop on to the rollercoaster. – Billy Suter




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