Mission: Impossible 3 (12A)

We feel your pain, Tom
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The Independent Culture

After respectively dull and vaporous episodes directed by Brian de Palma and John Woo, Mission: Impossible 3 falls into the hands of a TV hack: a de luxe auteur hack perhaps, Lost creator J J Abrams, but on this evidence a hack nonetheless. Abrams may be famous for bringing surrealism and subsonic rumbles to TV desert-island adventure, but his one formal innovation here is a mildly disorienting pre-credit face-off between Cruise's masterspy Ethan Hunt and Philip Seymour Hoffman's petulant villain.

Other than that, only the bruisingly frenetic pace distinguishes the film from any other over-budgeted post-Bond knock-off. It's all there: the inconceivably lethal McGuffin, the international settings ("Berlin Germany", "Rome Italy" and "Shanghai China", as the captions note with admirable precision), and a vamp (Maggie Q) whose taste in evening wear is, you can't help feeling, entirely inappropriate for a Vatican drinks reception. The one interesting oddity is a snazzy bit of software that instantly crafts a perfect latex mask of Hoffman. That sums up this film: it inhabits a world in which a face like Hoffman's - baggy, humorous, ungroomable - can only be conceived of as a special effect.

By contrast, the muscular insincerity of Tom Cruise's physiognomy reaches new levels of phoniness, so much so that M:i:3 (as the publicity insists on calling it) could well deal the coup de grâce to his teetering public appeal. He's unable to do anything here without either flashing a hyper-muscular life's-grrrreat grin or furrowing his brow in soul-straining anguish (whenever a manly tear glistens in his eye, you just know he's been putting in extra hours on the Intense Empathy Workout Programme).

Hoffman doesn't look happy, or terribly interested; Michelle Monaghan, so snappy in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, makes do with being pert, as a wholesome Katie Holmes surrogate; only Simon Pegg's console-bound techie raises the spirits. What ought to be the breathtaking showstopper - the assault on a Shanghai skyscraper - is thrown away with breathtaking contempt in a matter of minutes. The whole thing's messy, unsatisfying and generally an insult to the intelligence - especially when it comes on all smart by putting spuriously literate one-liners into the mouth of Laurence Fishburne's grouchy security boss.

j.romney@independent.co.uk

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