Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mission: Impossible III d. J.J. Abrams, 2006

Pitch-perfect Hollywood action film with, surprisingly, a few strange bits up its sleeve. #1) Cold opening, in media res. Not unique, but not standard by far. Still, a nice little coup and a sharp way to open. Audience left feeling: bewildered, excited, punched in the face. #2) One of the boldest ellipsis of action I've seen. (Necessary aside: M:I:II is pretty much all action. Relentless retina pounding w/ explosions, et al; it knows - to an uncanny extent - when the pace needs picking up, when the film is becoming too talky, et cetera. Perfect, in that regard.) Some lame, digressive story tangents - two agents, with nothing to do really, except wait for Ethan Hunt, talk about a prayer or something that brings Ethan back home safe. Weird. Meanwhile, Ethan is in a building in Shanghai (right above their heads - I realize this makes little sense if you haven't seen the film. Sorry.) tracking down something called a rabbit's foot. I know all the missions are impossible, but this one's, like, super impossible. However (!): the whole bit with Ethan grabbing the rabbit's foot - surely one of the easiest tension builders available to screenwriter, et al - is ellipsed. Beautiful. How did he get it? Who cares; the point is this: if you're not part of the action in an action film (like these two discussing middlers are) you're liable to be excised, nixed, muted at any point. Beware, stragglers. Again: beautiful. #3) Two MacGuffins and a general reluctance toward exposition.

Now: I think that a perfect ending to a perfect Hollywood action flick is impossible. How does it end? The only perfect ending for this is an imperfect one, i.e. the one we have where we get an unnecessary bit of tension building (cue dissonant violins and slow-motion photography) and a neat, tightly packaged resolution. (Although they do fuck around with this last part a little. Kudos to them: it's clear that Abrams, et al are after something a little more interesting and respectable than John Woo and even Brian De Palma. Unfortunately, that thing might not sell quite as well.) The result: a flawed (albeit necessarily for $$ and, because, as aforementioned, a perfect ending just isn't possible), nearly perfect Hollywood action film, wherein the viewer is served with far more than escapism.


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