M:I x III = Awesome + Infinity 

The Equation of a Perfect Summer Blockbuster

Okay, so this is what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be like. Loud and big and fun and cool, its mega-budget straining to contain its action, its effects, its stars, all of which are there for a singular purpose: to entertain. This is what summertime movies should be: made up of this speaker-straining, eye-widening, childish delight, tinged with that too-rare sensation of awe. The ideal summer blockbuster boils down to fun—the sort of fun you're going to have whether you want to or not, even if you think you're too hip or smart or cultured for something this big and loud and show-offy.

That might sound hyperbolic—which, okay, it is—but it's also true, and it defines Mission: Impossible III pretty well. The plot's broad strokes: An eeeevil guy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants a device called the "rabbit's foot." (Do we know what this rabbit's foot is? No, and we don't need to: It has a biohazard symbol on it, which is enough to let us know that it should not get into eeeevil hands.) So it's up to the Impossible Missions Force—headed up by Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, and featuring Ving Rhames and a sorely underused Simon Pegg—to stop him, so they will do the following things: break into the Vatican, jump off of Shanghai skyscrapers, and blow the living shit out of a Berlin warehouse. They'll also have bombs implanted in their brains, get in some helicopter/car chases, and jump around a lot.

It sounds simple, but it all works so well because this Mission is leagues better than its two predecessors—both were entertaining, but Brian De Palma's intrigue-centric Mission was too dry, while John Woo's action-soaked sequel was ludicrously cartoonish. But here J.J. Abrams—he of beloved television royalty, he of Lost and Alias fame—directs and co-writes the script, and he's a perfect fit. III has the smarts of the first film, the balls-out fun of the second, and a gritty, sweaty, passionate feel of its own—in short, it feels like Abram's best TV work, twisting and alive. Abrams also brings an intensity that was heretofore missing, a frenzied importance: Super-spy Hunt may not know what the hell it is he's running all over the globe to track down, but Cruise and Abrams make sure that, for 126 minutes, we feel the rush of the adrenaline that's pumping through his veins. And if that's not the perfect definition of a perfect summer blockbuster, I don't know what is.

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