Monday, January 9, 2012

Mission Impossible 3 -- the anti-God weapon

Director: J. J. Abrams, 2006. (PG-13)

This Mission Impossible opens with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) chained to a chair and facing a man with a gun giving a countdown. Tense, thrilling, we are dropped in the middle of the film before it even starts!

After the opening credits, though, we are back to the present, where Hunt is now a trainer for Impossible Mission Force, living a sedate life in the States, engaged to be married to Julia (Michelle Monaghan, Gone Baby Gone). Ordinary life is interrupted when he gets a call during his engagement party from his boss John Musgrave (Billy Crudup) calling him back into the field. His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to save another IMF field agent who has been captured (Keri Russell). Of course he accepts! What would happen to this franchise if he settled down to married life. It would become a spy sit-com.

The third installment brings a third director to the helm. This time it is Abrams, making his feature film debut. Gone are the over-the-top kung fu sequences. Back are the thrills. The plot is better than the second. Once again we have global backdrops, from Germany to America, Vatican City to Shanghai.

Hunt's diverse team this time includes Luther Stickell again (Ving Rhames) along with newcomers Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen Lei (Maggie Q). But these are mostly support since most of the heavy lifting is done by Hunt. He, after all, is the super-spy.

This film has the best cast of the series so far. Alongside the actors listed above, there is also Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) as the somewhat shady director of the force and Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) as Benji Dunn, a Bond-esque Q-like character providing comic relief. Best of all is Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) as Owen Davian, the black market arms dealer after "the rabbit's foot". Hoffman portrays an articulate and heartless criminal who is by far the best enemy Hunt has faced. (He is the gunman from the opening scene and who laters tells Hunt, "Who are you? What's you're name? Do you have a wife? A girlfriend? Because if you do, I'm gonna find her. I'm gonna hurt her. I'm gonna make her bleed, and cry, and call out your name. And then I'm gonna find you,and kill you right in front of her.")

What we expect from a Mission Impossible film are superior action sequences, and this one does not disappoint. The acrobatics occur against the backdrop of the Shanghai skyscrapers, with Hunt showing why we should study math and physics: to determine how to swing from one building to the roof of another hundreds of feet above the ground. There is a terrific gun battle set on a long bridge that pits Hunt against drone. And then there is the elevator escape scene where Hunt illustrates the perfect use of "We are Family". But it is family that drives this film, since Hunt has to find the rabbit's foot to save Julia.

Perhaps the best part of the film is seeing one of the IMF masks created before our very eyes. And when Hunt employs this as he prepares to take the place of Davian, we also see how the voice encoders are programmed to work.

We never find out much about the rabbit's foot. Hunt has no idea but Benji tells us: "You see, it was inevitable that a compound would be created which is referred to as the 'Anti-God'. It was like an accelerated mutator or sort of, you know, like a, an unstoppable force of destructive power, that would just lay waste to everything - to buildings and parks and streets and children and ice cream parlors, you know? So whenever I see, like, a rogue organization willing to spend this amount of money on a mystery tech, I always assume... it's the Anti-God. End-of-the-world kinda stuff, you know... But no, I don't have any idea what it is. I was just speculating."

There have been several anti-God weapons: from nuclear bombs to biological viruses. All have the potential to wipe out mankind. But like Benji points out, all point to the end of the world. Yet, when we think of the end of the world we think of Armageddon and that points to the book of Revelation. In this last book of the Bible we find not an "anti-God" weapon but the judgment of God himself. The wrath of God is poured out on the world (Rev. 14-19) that has rejected him and his offer of love and forgiveness. Given the choice between God and the devil, the world has chosen the Great Babylon (Rev. 14:8). There follow seven woes, seven trumpet judgments and seven bowl judgments. Each brings further judgment and devastation on fallen humanity. Each brings us one step closer to the final judgment and the end of the world. Woe to those who remain apart from God at that time. It will be an impossible mission to save them!

Copyright©2012, Martin Baggs

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