Here’s the thing: Mission: Impossible III is a good movie. Sure, J.J. Abrams’ feature directorial debut fails to fully embrace the anamorphic landscape that the TV guru was brand new to at the time, but what this sequel sometimes lacks in visual spectacle, it makes up for with some of the best character beats in Tom Cruise’s venerable action franchise.
Abrams nails all of the emotional beats as Cruise’s Hunt gets engaged and married to a very likable Michelle Monaghan. From there, the stakes quickly get personal for Hunt, as he must retrieve his favorite trainee (Keri Russell) before a bomb in her head explodes, and stop Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the series’ best villain.
The franchise’s most underrated sequence, breaking into the Vatican, is a Swiss watch — a perfect mix of entertainment and tension that will make you fist-pump when Hunt and his IMF team finally pull it all off. Also cool? That iconic sequence on the bridge where an explosion throws Cruise sideways into a Dodge Stratus, and that fight scene in an elevator that culminates in a face-masked Ethan incapacitating a few guards with a telephone. While not as “big” as subsequent installments, Abrams’ feature-film debut helped set the tone those future films would follow.