The third mission, expected shortly after 2000, took six years to materialize.  Several directors and actors came and went.  Producer Cruise selected JJ Abrams to direct the next film.

In Abrams’ theatrical debut, we find Ethan Hunt retired from IMF and engaged to Julie Meade (Michelle Moynahan). Hunt is called back into service to retrieve a captured agent (Keri Russell), who dies en route home.  Despite the loss, they learn that their target, Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) will be at the Vatican in Rome. They are able to successfully capture him, but lose him once the team get him back to the US.  Hunt is captured by his own team, but is given coordinates for the Rabbit’s Foot, Davian’s target, in China.

This “Mission” seemed more improbable than impossible.  Davian is a more plausible villain than Ambrose on paper, but the character itself is more psychotic, which seemed out of sorts for this series of movies.  Perhaps that’s the “charm” of the character and the hook in the story, but it seemed overdone.   The supporting team in III is stronger than that of the prior movie, but neither is as strong as that of the first.  Cruise is joined by Jonathan Rhys Myers, who brings a cheeky dynamism and Maggie Q who is extremely sensual.  Billy Cudrup had a “blank” screen presence here, while Laurence Fishburne, freshly in the minds of “Matrix” fans makes an appearance as the director of the IMF.  Fishburne, though underutilized maintains a political balance that was sorely needed and is as effective as Hopkins was in “M:i – II”.

The story, written by Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, is overly weighed down by unnecessary emotion, although it allows for some lighter moments between Hunt and Stickell and Hunt and Simon Pegg’s Benji, a lab technician.  Michael Giacchino joins a well-established cotillion of musical artists to score Lalo Schiffrin’s theme and the music for this movie.  He brings his style to both.

One thing that Abrams does have is a vision – a vision for the big and the bold, and sometimes that overshadows the acting and the story.  “Mission:  Impossible III” would be the beginning of a pigeonhole for Abrams – that of ‘theatrical resurrector’.  Since this release, he has gone on to resurrect ‘Star Trek’ for Paramount and is on the cusp of releasing a new ‘Star Wars’ installment for Disney/Lucasfilm. His vision is compelling to watch, but isn’t for everyone.

The Paramount DVD exhibits the 2.35:1 anamorphic picture quite effectively.  It captures the essence of Dan Mindel’s fine cinematography and the signature sequences on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and in China are well rendered.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix makes effective use of all the channels, never being overbearing.  Special features include a behind-the-scenes making of featurette.

Paula Wagner ended her association with the franchise after “Mission: Impossible III” and JJ Abrams would take a behind the camera role.

Which leads us to the ghost in the franchise. . . . .