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Okay, let's get this out of the way now: I don't care about Tom Cruise's personal life. His religion. His fiancé. His couch-hopping. None of it. All I care about is whether or not the man makes good movies.

The answer 99% of the time is a resounding yes. The answer with the new Mission Impossible is absolutely.

In my opinion, the previous Mission films have suffered from a bit of an identity crisis. They didn't have the feel of the old show, and didn't even seem to fit together as films very well. Brian DePalma's original was spotty and hard to follow. It ranged from breathtaking (the café sequence with the water tank), to downright silly (the helicopter explosion.) The second film fared even worse, with a â"miscast" director in John Woo and a complete departure (almost) from the team â"thing" altogether. Tom Cruise's slow-mo hair didn't do the film any favors either.

Mission Impossible 3, or M:I:III for the purists, is a success on all levels. Is it a deep thinker. No, of course not. Were you expecting it to be? What this film operates as, is a complete roller-coaster ride from beginning to end and one of the best modern-day action films in recent memory. The story has real heart and genuine tension, thanks to a believable romantic sub-plot that has Ethan Hunt in semi-retirement mode and engaged to a beautiful nurse (Michele Monahan.) When he is forced back into action this time, he does it for personal reasons. That plot device alone is all you need in a modern day suspensor to get the audience to go along for the ride. Of course, a nifty cliffhanger-style opening doesn't hurt things. You're nervous and ready for action before the opening credits even start to roll.

The film has another advantage going for it as well. In a word (or three): Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Talk about being on a roll. Hoffman (coming off of Capote) is on a career-high ride of his own right now, and M:I:III utilizes him to great effect. This is not a jokey, charismatic, â"slumming" role for Hoffman. He plays it straight... and his character is all the better because of it. This guy is evil, and you really get the sense that Hunt might not make it out alive.

The rest of the cast ranges from good to great, with Ving Rhames getting more time in than ever before as Hunt's right-hand man. His lines are some of the best in the film, and you get a sense of real back-story to the two of them for the first time in the series. Jonathon Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q round out the IMF team, and deliver serviceably. Rhys Meyers is a bit short-changed, but his movie star presence makes up for his lack of screen time.

Rounding out the cast are Billy Crudup, Laurence Fishburne, and Kerri Russell, who all deliver their A-game in plot-twisty roles that serve the film well. If you look close, you'll even spot Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead fame) in a great comic supporting role that helps to cleverly diffuse some nail-biting tension when the scene calls for it.

Mission Impossible 3 is not the best film of the year, and time will tell if it's even the best of the summer. But, it is a great action thriller that is a marked improvement over the last two installments and one that will certainly deliver you your money's worth.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish; French

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; making-of featurette; deleted scenes.

* Commentary - Feature-length audio commentary with actor Tom Cruise and writer/director J.J. Abrams.
* Featurettes -
o The Making of the Mission (28:39)
o Excellence in Film (09:12) (montage)
o Inside the IMF (21:12)
o Mission Action: Inside the Action Unit (25:38)
o Visualizing the Mission (10:39)
o Mission: Metamorphosis (08:09)
o Scoring the Mission (04:59)
o Launching the Mission (5-parts playable separately or as an aggregate)
o Moviefone Unscripted: Tom Cruise/J.J. Abrams (08:00)
o Generation: Cruise - (03:36) (montage)
* Deleted Scenes - 5 total - playable one at a time or together in an aggregate of about 18 minutes of scenes that didn't make the final cut.
* Photo Gallery
* Television Spots - six spots in total
* Preview Trailers - 4 trailers in total

All featurettes are available with English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Number of discs: - 2 disc set with Keepcase Packaging.


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