The Rabbit Run

In Brian De Palma’s slick film, Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt memorably dangled on a harness. On the sizzling sequel, John Woo directs and Thandie Newton is the smoldering and coy co-star. And the third entry to the “Mission: Impossible” series? Well, JJ Abrams is at the helm and the movie plays out like “Alias” the movie. Granted, this is still a good movie but it’s the weakest of the trilogy.

On his latest mission, Ethan Hunt (Suri Cruise’s dad) leads a team (composed of Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Maggie Q) to retrieve a captured agent (Keri Russell) in Berlin. She has been caught by the villain Owen Davian (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) who’s involved in a highly expensive and highly mysterious product called “The Rabbit’s Foot.” Could it be the world’s most dangerous WMD? Whatever it is, Hunt and the gang must retrieve it and save the world… I think. Meanwhile, we also learn that Ethan Hunt has a fiancée (Michelle Monaghan), whose basic function is to become the villain’s convenient leverage.

I have to admit that this movie has a fabulous cast. It’s quite fun to watch “Felicity” star Russell kick some butt. It’s nice to see Rhys Meyers and Monaghan, who were both outstanding in last year’s “Match Point” and “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” respectively. But I was so disappointed. Almost all the characters are nothing more than pawns. I guess it’s quite convenient that agents should have no relationships at all, but should that mean that they have no personality? Other than Tom Cruise, only the chummy Ving Rhames and the chilly Philip Seymour Hoffman manage to rise above their characters. Everybody else is so one-dimensional that they could be easily replaced by other actors. This is not the fault of the actors; it’s the clunky screenplay.

But I guess that doesn’t really matter. While it could be truly enhanced by well-drawn characters, this is the kind of movie that’s more concerned with complex plotting and whole lotta action. Some scenes are elaborate, in the tradition of TV’s “Alias.” Some are very fun too. I particularly liked the sequence in Vatican City, where there’s a lot of switches and disguises involved. But sometimes, the movie can make you roll your eyes, pushing that “impossible” a little too far. Rabbit’s Foot?! Really? Rabbit’s foot, my foot! And the chip lodged in the brain? It sounds unreal and gimmicky to me. I know that MacGuffins have little relevance, but come on, put some thought in it. I’m surprised there’s no mention of Rambaldi’s prophecies or better yet, the Dharma Initiative. I know the Mission: Impossible films are much of a fantasy, but it is the movie’s goal to make us “buy it” as fake as it seems.

On the other hand, the film’s action delivers as expected. The stunning stunts, the vehicles on speed, the bright explosions, and the “realistic” special effects are all technically impressive. This is a decent “popcorn flick” – nothing more, nothing less. I just wish this is the end of the series. I realized that Ethan Hunt is a bland hero. James Bond had debonair charms. Austin Powers is stuck in the 60s. Jason Bourne had memory loss. Sydney Bristow is a double agent with double agent parents. And Jack Bauer has caffeine for blood. As for Ethan Hunt — well, there’s nothing really distinguishing about him except that he’s been tailor-made for Tom Cruise. A mission too easily accomplished, if you ask me.

Grade: B

CAST
Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, and Laurence Fishburne
Based on the TV series created by
Bruce Geller
Screenplay by
Alex Kurtzman
Roberto Orci
J.J. Abrams
Directed by
J.J. Abrams
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of frenetic violence and menace, disturbing images and some sensuality
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