Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible III (abbreviated M:i:III) is the third 2006 action film based on the spy-themed television series Mission: Impossible starring Tom Cruise who reprises his role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt.

The film was directed by J. J. Abrams. It was first released on April 26, 2006 at the Tribeca Film Festival, and widely released in the United States on May 5, 2006. Filming began in Rome, Italy in July 2005. The film had been kept under extremely tight wraps, and very little was known of its plots or new featured characters during filming. Location filming took place in China (Shanghai, Xitang, and Zhouzhuang), Germany (Berlin), Italy (Rome and Caserta), the United States (California and Virginia), and Vatican City.


The film begins in medias res with agent Ethan Hunt and a woman held captive and threatened by an unnamed man who demands that Hunt reveal the location of an item code-named the "Rabbit's Foot". The captor threatens to shoot the woman, and then, as tears fall from Hunt's face, he fires the gun. The narrative then rolls back five days.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from being an IMF team leader, instead opting for a quiet life with his fiancée Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a hospital nurse (who was the captive in the opening sequence). During their engagement party, Ethan is contacted by IMF Operations Director Musgrave (Billy Crudup) who provides him with a disposable camera. After viewing a video hidden in the camera, he finds out Musgrave wants him to rescue Agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), Ethan's protégé, who has been captured in Berlin by Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a prominent dealer in the international black market (the captor from the opening). He reluctantly agrees to participate in the mission and meets the team which has been selected for him, consisting of Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), Zhen (Maggie Q), and his old partner, Luther Stickel (Ving Rhames).

The team assaults an enemy stronghold in Berlin and extracts Agent Farris successfully, but she dies during their escape when an explosive capsule placed inside her head detonates. After Lindsey's funeral, Ethan is notified of a "package" sent to him by Lindsey, and discovers that it is a microdot hidden in a blank postcard. Ethan discusses its possible importance with Luther and both decide to keep its existence a secret.

Using information recovered from a laptop in the Berlin mission, Ethan then decides to go after Davian himself, targeting him at a meeting in Vatican City, where a lucrative transaction involving a mysterious object, codenamed "The Rabbit's Foot", is apparently taking place. Neither of Ethan's superiors, directors Brassell (Laurence Fishburne) or Musgrave, have authorized the mission. Before leaving, Ethan reassures Julia of their relationship, and promptly marries her at the hospital in a small ceremony. The team then arrives in Rome and sets off their elaborate plan to abduct Davian, barely avoiding disaster in the process. The operation succeeds nonetheless. Ethan interrogates Davian on the flight home. However he is angered by Davian's quiet but confident threats of killing his wife, and attempts to throw him off the plane before being talked out of it by Stickel.

While transporting Davian across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in a convoy, Luther hands Ethan a laptop computer and plays the video message from the decoded microdot: Lindsey had discovered that Director Brassel is a mole, who has been leaking information to Davian about IMF operations. Suddenly, Ethan and his team are attacked by foreign mercenaries who, after attacking Ethan and his team using a UAV drone, manage to extract Davian. Remembering Davian's threats to kill his wife, Ethan immediately rushes to the hospital where Julia works. He arrives barely moments too late and finds that Julia has already been abducted. At that moment of despair, Ethan receives a call from Davian with a proposition; he must retrieve the "Rabbit's Foot" from a facility in Shanghai within 48 hours, or his wife will be killed. Ethan, anxious to begin his mission to rescue his wife is abruptly taken into custody by the IMF (accused of masterminding the ambush). However, he manages to escape with help from Musgrave, who intercepted Ethan's call from Davian, and instructs Ethan to go to Shanghai.

In Shanghai, Ethan reunites with his team once more and manages to infiltrate the heavily guarded building containing the Rabbit's Foot and steals it. Ethan then goes to the established meeting place where Davian is waiting. Told to "ask no questions", he is made to drink a substance which knocks him out and wakes to learn an explosive capsule is implanted in his brain. The scene shown in the prologue then ensues: Julia and Ethan are bound to chairs and Davian threatens to kill Julia if he is not told the location of the Rabbit's Foot. Ethan, in panic, insists that he has delivered it. However, after counting to ten, Davian proceeds to execute Julia.

After Davian leaves, Musgrave enters, revealing himself as the traitor and explains the situation to a stunned Ethan; Davian will sell the Rabbit's Foot to known Middle Eastern enemies of the United States, the resulting attack being anticipated and controlled to generate only 'acceptable losses' - the concept of a "false flag" attack taken to the next level. This will then justify a massive retaliation that would result in an internationally supported hostile takeover of the region. He shows that the dead "Julia" was actually one of Davian's incompetent personnel (Bahar Soomekh) wearing a mask, used to make sure that Ethan had brought the real Rabbit's Foot; Julia is still alive. Ethan escapes by biting Musgrave's arm before attacking him and taking his phone, which is used to track down Julia's location. Instrumental in this is the assistance of Benji (Simon Pegg), an IMF laboratory technician.

Ethan finally finds Julia, but before he can free her Davian activates the bomb in Ethan's head. The result is a splitting noise in Ethan's head which renders him incapable of thinking properly and defending himself. Davian then begins to savagely beat Ethan, but just as Davian prepares to kill him, Ethan manages to make an impressive comeback and hurls Davian out of the window. Davian is killed when a truck runs over him and Ethan during the scuffle--Ethan, on the bottom, is clear of the truck. Ethan loosens power cables to be able to put electricity on his body, to deactivate the bomb in his head, and meanwhile quickly teaches Julia how to shoot. Julia turns on the power which seemingly kills Ethan, after which Musgrave attacks her. After killing Musgrave, she successfully resuscitates Ethan with CPR, and the two walk out with the Rabbit's Foot as Ethan proceeds to tell Julia the truth about his secret life.

Back at headquarters, Ethan is congratulated for his heroic actions, and then leaves for his honeymoon with Julia, with the blessing of his applauding teammates and promises for another mission which the White House is keen to contact him about. What the Rabbit's Foot is, is never explained.


Actor Role Notes
Tom Cruise Ethan Hunt Main protagonist
Philip Seymour Hoffman Owen Davian Main antagonist
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers Declan Gormley Member of Ethan's team
Ving Rhames Luther Stickell Member of Ethan's team
Billy Crudup John Musgrave IMF Operations Director/Traitor
Michelle Monaghan Julia "Jules" Mead Ethan's fiancée/wife
Keri Russell Lindsey Farris IMF agent Ethan trained
Maggie Q Zhen Lei Member of Ethan's team
Simon Pegg Benji Dunn IMF Technician
Eddie Marsan Brownway
Laurence Fishburne Theodore Brassel Head of the IMF


  • Tom Cruise approached J.J. Abrams to be the director of the film after binge-watching the first season of Alias on DVD.
  • Actress Thandie Newton was originally approached to reprise her role as Nyah Hall, but the actress had to declined the role because of conflicting schedules with another movie. (She has gone on record to say that it was just an unfortunate case of bad timing.)
  • Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) was slated to direct M-I: III but dropped out in favor of another film. Fincher was then replaced by Narc director Joe Carnahan, but he quit in a dispute over the film's tone.
  • Dean Greogaris and Frank Darabont both worked on the screenplay during the early stages of the film.
  • Production of the movie was halted in late 2004 so that Cruise could work on War of the Worlds.
  • Originally set for release in 2005, the delay in shooting caused early cast members Carrie-Anne Moss and Kenneth Branagh to pull out. Ricky Gervais - who had acted in an episode of J. J. Abrams' television series Alias - was cast in a supporting role, but pulled out when the part expanded. British actor and screenwriter Simon Pegg was then cast to play Ethan Hunt's sidekick.
  • The Martial Arts forms used in the film by Tom Cruise include a combination of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali and Keysi Fighting Method.
  • Cruise also asked for permission to film in the Reichstag building in Berlin but was denied access.
  • At the specific request of Tom Cruise, Kanye West reworked the Mission: Impossible theme in the same way that Limp Bizkit did for Mission: Impossible II; Kanye's version appears towards the end of the film's credits. In addition, West produced and rapped on a track called "Impossible" (featuring Twista, Keyshia Cole and BJ Thomas) that was to originally appear on the film soundtrack.
  • To promote the film, Paramount rigged 4,500 randomly selected Los Angeles Times vending boxes with digital audio players which would play the theme song when the door was opened. The audio players did not always stay concealed, however, and in many cases came loose and fell on top of the stack of newspapers in plain view, with the result that they were widely mistaken for bombs. Police bomb squads detonated a number of the vending boxes and even temporarily shut down a veterans' hospital in response to the apparent "threat". Despite these problems, Paramount and The LA Times opted to leave the audio players in the boxes until two days after the movie's opening.
  • Besides Ethan Hunt, Luther Stickel (Ving Rhames) is the only character to appear in all three films.
  • The night scenes involving the skyscrapers were filmed in Shanghai. The rest of the Shanghai filming was done in Los Angeles.

"Trapped in the Closet" controversy

A blog entry of in March alleged that Comedy Central parent Viacom canceled the rebroadcast of the South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet" due to threats of Cruise to abstain from the Mission: Impossible III publicity circle. These assertions were soon also reported by E! News and American Morning. Fox News attributed threats from Tom Cruise, stating, "to back out of his Mission: Impossible III promotional duties if Viacom didn’t pull a repeat of the episode," as evidence of "bad blood" between Cruise and Viacom. The Washington Post reported that South Park fans "struck back", in March 2006, and threatened to boycott Mission: Impossible III until Comedy Central put "Trapped in the Closet" back on its schedule. Melissa McNamara of CBS News later questioned whether this boycott hurt the Mission: Impossible III box office debut.

When asked in ABC's Primetime about his involvement with stopping the episode rebroadcast on Comedy Central, Cruise stated "First of all, could you ever imagine sitting down with anyone? I would never sit down with someone and question them on their beliefs. Here's the thing: I'm really not even going to dignify this. I honestly didn't really even know about it. I'm working, making my movie, I've got my family. I'm busy. I don't spend my days going, 'What are people saying about me?' A representative of Cruise had also denied any involvement of Cruise with the issue, specifically responding to allegations of Cruise's reputed corporate power play.


Opening in 4,054 theaters all across the United States (the 4th largest opening ever), the film easily topped the box-office in its opening weekend. It made $16.6 million on its opening day. It made $47.7 million in its opening weekend, a solid opening yet well below industry expectations and almost $10 million lower than the franchise's previous installment. On its second weekend, the sequel remained number 1 with $25 million (ahead of Poseidon's $22.2 million). The movie remained in the Top 10 at the box office for the first 6 weeks of its release. Mission: Impossible III ended its domestic run with $134 million. It was the second movie in 2006 to pass the $100,000,000 mark in the box office. (The first was Ice Age: The Meltdown).

Outside of the USA, the sequel grossed $70 million for the first five days (in some Asian countries, Mission: Impossible III opened two days ahead of its North American release date) and was easily the box-office champion in many countries. As of February 11, 2007, M:I-III's international box office gross has reached $263.8 million, for a combined worldwide gross of $397.9 million.

In the Netherlands, the film debuted in the week of May 4-10 at #1, grossing a total of 532,384 in that week. The following week, the film remained on the top position. In its third week, the film dropped to #2 and the following week, fell to #4. Next it maintained the #4 position to drop to #6 (in the week of June 6 - June 14). In total, the film has grossed over € 2,141,162.

Critical reaction

Reaction to Mission: Impossible III was mostly average to positive among critics. The film currently holds a 70% "Fresh" rating at, the best rating of the trilogy, although its "Cream of the Crop" rating is 62%, in between the other two. It holds a more mixed rating on Metacritic, with a score of 66 out of 100. Mission: Impossible III is presently the highest rated Mission Impossible film at the Internet Movie Database, where it is rated 6.9/10.

On the television show Ebert & Roeper, Richard Roeper gave Mission: Impossible III a "thumbs up", while Roger Ebert gave it a marginal "thumbs down". In Ebert's print review, he gave the film a score of two and a half stars (out of four), saying: "Either you want to see mindless action and computer-generated sequences executed with breakneck speed and technical precision, or you do not. I am getting to the point where I don't much care.

Keith Phipps of The Onion's A.V. Club said the film is "business as usual, but it's the best kind of business as usual, and it finds everyone working in top form. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly called Mission: Impossible III "a gratifyingly clever, booby-trapped thriller that has enough fun and imagination and dash to more than justify its existence. Marc Savlov of the Austin Chronicle said that "it's all poppycock, of course, but it's done with such vim and vigor and both narrative and visual flair that you care not a jot. James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film a score of two and a half stars (out of four), saying that it "provides lots of action, but too little excitement.

Ian Nathan of Empire said that Mission: Impossible III has "an inspired middle-hour pumped by some solid action" but added that "we now live in a post-Bourne, recalibrated-Bond universe, where Ethan Hunt looks a bit lost. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said that "Hoffman enlivens Mission: Impossible III" but criticized the film's "maudlin romance" and "Abrams's inability to adapt his small-screen talent to a larger canvas. Rob Nelson of the Dallas Observer said that "Abrams's movie is too oppressive, too enamored of its brutality to deliver anything like real thrills; its deeply unpleasant tone nearly makes you long even for [Mission: Impossible II director John] Woo's cartoon absurdities.

Claudia Puig of USA Today said that "Mission: Impossible III delivers" despite "a sense that the franchise is played out and its star over-exposed. Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide described the film as "breezy, undemanding, and a carefully balanced blend of the familiar and the not-quite-what-you-expected. Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer said that Mission: Impossible III is "plenty of fun" despite being "overwrought and overplotted.

Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat said that "you may be mildly entertained, but damned if you’ll remember any of it five minutes later. Stephanie Zacharek of said that "Cruise is the single bright, blinking emblem of the failure of Mission: Impossible III. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer remarked that "the latest [Mission: Impossible film] is just this side of insultingly stupid. Shawn Levy of the Portland Oregonian said that Mission: Impossible III "feels like one of the more forgettable James Bond films—saddled, moreover, with a star who's sliding into self-parody.


Paramount Home Entertainment released the film on DVD, HD DVD, and BD formats on October 30, 2006.



Mission: Impossible IV is currently in pre-production. Rumors have arisen that Brad Pitt may become the star of the sequel,. Tom Cruise's response about returning to the franchise when asked on the Oprah Winfrey show was that It is possible that he will return for the film. although Sumner Redstone has stated that it would be up to Brad Grey, who runs Paramount, to decide.

Video game

A mobile phone game based on the movie was released by Gameloft.


External links

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