Is it a sin to see this film?
There is no doubt that Tom Cruise is guilty of acting like a movie star in public. He’s jumped on Oprah’s couch, dissed Brooke Shields, even talked back to Matt Lauer — everything, really, except expose himself to Katie Couric. More substantively, there are convincing rumors of a three-carom corporate billiard shot involving the friendly folks at Viacom, putting the heat on Comedy Central to lean on South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to shelve “Trapped in the Closet,” an episode that makes fun of Cruise’s “religion” and also implies that studly Tom is, well, a homo.1
Viacom owns both CC and Paramount,2 the studio releasing Mission Impossible III, which naturally does not want to get put in the embarrassing position of suggesting that queers can kick ass, much less the truly disturbing position of suggesting that only queers can kick ass. Which is an awfully long way of getting round to the point that some South Park fanatics are demanding that right-thinking Americans take a pass on MI-III.3
Well, sorry guys, but when it comes to films, I’m no virgin. There’s just no way that I’m going to take a pass on two hours of big-budget bullshit, particularly with Lalo Shifrin’s immortal theme, perhaps the most exciting “hook” in history, pounding in my brain. Light my fuse, baby!
MI-III is, in fact, better than either of its predecessors. Unlike MI-I, you don’t have to think to follow the plot. Unlike MI-II, there are no damn white doves.4 Director J. J. Abrams, the genius behind Lost,5 seems to have perfected a way of telling a story that makes it exciting even though you don’t know what’s going on. Tom’s in trouble, damn it! That’s enough! Don’t you care?
Working with writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Abrams put together a script that, without trying to make sense, keeps things moving with enough bad-ass action, bad-ass babes, and bad-ass cars to satisfy the most discriminating skeptic. It’s a little hard to buy Phillip Seymour Hoffman (last seen, of course, as Capote) as a malevolent international crime boss, but in the slam-bang finale, when he’s beating the crap out of poor Tom, you believe it.6 Michelle Monaghan supplies some satisfying chick heroics at the end, and Kurtzman/Orci/Abrams even manage to come up with a few lines that are actually funny.7
Remarkably, the film even takes a poke at the Bush Administration when bad guy Billy Crudup reveals a plot to plant weapons of mass destruction to justify another “pre-emption” in the Middle East. We know they’re there! We know they’re there because we put ‘em there!8
Yeah, that’s the story on Terrible Tom and MI-III. A first-rate thriller made by a closet queen? Hey, it happens.
As I was leaving the theater I heard an alternative reason for boycotting MI-III — the presence of actor Billy Crudup. “I try to avoid his films on principle because of the way he treated Mary Louise Parker,” one not terribly principled dude told his girlfriend.9
- Well, maybe Tom is a homo, but if Tom is a homo, how homo are Trey and Matt? Way homo. In fact, way way homo. These guys are grown men playing with paper dolls. What’s up with that? [↩]
- You didn’t know that? Yeah, they do. In fact, Viacom also owns you, but only for tax purposes. It’s as corrupt, confusing, and complicated as only capitalism can be. [↩]
- Or MIV, as some of us like to call it. [↩]
- Director John Woo’s idea of “class.” [↩]
- I haven’t actually seen it, but I hear it’s great. [↩]
- Of course, if Truman Capote can kick your ass — well, you can fill in the rest. [↩]
- I can’t remember what they were, but I did laugh. [↩]
- Even more remarkably, the film takes a seriously subliminal poke at the Bushies when Crudup trashes his nominal superior Lawrence Fishburne as an “affirmative action poster boy,” the sort of crack real men at the CIA used to make about the pantywaists from the Clinton Administration. Do I detect the fine hand of Hillary Clinton behind all this jive? [↩]
- Crudup, seriously acting like a movie star in public, ditched Mary Louise when she was seven months’ pregnant so that he could chase around with Claire Danes. [↩]