Even though I enjoy mocking Tom Cruise as much as the next guy, I've been eagerly anticipating Mission: Impossible III because it's directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, the creator of Felicity and Lost and most importantly Alias, which took many a cue from the original Impossible television show.
From the advertising materials alone, you could sense Abrams' Impossible would be a lot more like his brilliant spy series than either of the first two big-screen Missions. But Impossible goes a lot farther than that; it practically plays like a very special episode of Alias. It begins, as the very first episode of Alias did, in media res, with its hero (Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt here, Jennifer Garner's Sydney Bristow earlier) being tortured, then flashes back to explain how the situation developed. And Abrams has brought along many crucial members of the Alias creative team: writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, composer Michael Giacchino (supplementing Lalo Schifrin's memorable score with equally propulsive though less bombastic music), and production designer Scott Chambliss. Alias cast member Greg Grunberg even has a cameo. IMF itself has never looked more like SD-6 (or CIA or APO or whatever acronym Abrams & co. are using this season) Laurence Fishburne is Brassel, a grizzled (and possibly evil) supervisor in the Sloane mold; Ving Rhames returning Luther Strickell is now playing the Dixon role; and Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg is Benji a tech expert with social awkwardness and hey! Alias had one of those too, only he was called Marshall.
The film's plot plays like many episodes of Abrams old show: MacGuffin technology that's been stolen, globe trotting, exotic gunplay, spies discussing their love lives on comm devices. Of course, Alias never had Tom Cruise, who is his own best special effect: the guy is the craziest celebrity not currently residing in the Neverland Ranch (or is it Bahrain now?), but in a vehicle like M:I:III, his personal life is completely forgotten. And he's either got fantastic doubles who look just like him, or Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey are brilliant cutters, or Cruise is the most physically believable action star since the days of Arnold and Sly. The credits list dozens of stunt men, but you'd be hard pressed to spot any of them on screen. The most unique moment is probably one of the simplest (certainly simpler than the one where the shockwave from a missle impact knocks Cruise sideways, or another scene where Cruise slides down the entire face of a sloped skyscraper). With timing running out to save his Kate Holmes-resembling wife, Cruise books it through an Asian market to try to find her. In a movie where no shot lasts more than three seconds, Abrams simply stays on Cruise, trucking like a madman, as he runs at top speed for what feels like an eternity. Come to think of it, Cruise does a lot of running in Impossible III it's practically the movie's dominant motif and always with a look that's 99% determination, 1% constipation. Even if Cruise isn't very cool, he's plenty convincing.