Mission: Impossible III: Vatican Capers and Crostini

Year Released: 2006
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laurence Fishburne
(PG-13, 126 min.)

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Helen Keller

Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible III is as credible and grounded as the sometimes loopy star is not. So, forget his public persona and catch this testosterone-charged heart-stopper that explodes onto the screen.

On second thought, perhaps “credible” is pushing it a bit. I should say, credible according to high tech action standards, which means you plan in advance to suspend your disbelief. Therefore, a helicopter chase through a German wind farm or rappelling into the Vatican and across the skyline of Shanghai is par for the course.

Which also brings up the word “grounded” as perhaps somewhat misleading as well, since much of the film involves Airs above Ground, except that Tom Cruise is not astride a gorgeous Lipizzaner stallion in Vienna, but more likely bouncing off buildings in China or being "hoist on his own petard" from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. And the electrical connotation of the word – safely diverting dangerous currents – doesn’t quite jibe with the exploding device inserted into his skull, which can only be deactivated by literally frying his brain on electricity and dying – for a little while at least.

The story line is simply complex or complexly simple, whichever you prefer. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is enjoying a safer life training others to do the risky fieldwork. He is engaged to the lovely Julia (Michelle Monaghan, who incidentally looks a heck of lot like Katie Holmes) when he is called back to action to rescue his star pupil from a mission gone awry in Berlin. He’s back at work with his old team who, of course, perform the impossible with precision and aplomb.

Before you can say Rabbit’s Foot, he is once more drawn into the murky depths of international intrigue where he has to match brain and body blows with a particularly ruthless and amoral operator, Owen Davian (Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman). Forget his simpering falsetto as Capote and settle into a malice both detached and personal, an arrogance and vindictiveness almost Roman in scope.

No surprise then that the evil Davian is a top man in Italy, a VIP at an elite little cocktail party in Vatican City, where he entertains potential clients and exchanges not pleasantries but briefcases, inside which is the enigmatic Rabbit’s Foot, a device so fiendish in scope that even Ethan Hunt doesn’t quite comprehend its capabilities.

The script is tight and at times literate and light. Fishburne, - I think it is - refers to himself as the “Invisible Man,’ quipping “...and that’s Wells I’m talking about, not Ellison,” clearly a reference to H.G. Wells’ science fiction classic as well as Ralph Ellison’s’ more esoteric 1952 American classic chronicling the struggle of a nameless black youth.

Giving us some comic relief sandwiched in between the brutal opening and the high tech tension that is to come, Cruise really nerds it up at his engagement party when he describes his faux career as a transportation expert. A somewhat Shakespearean technique, I believe, one that would be not unfamiliar to Lawrence Fishburne, whose 1995 role as Othello made him the first African American to play that character on screen.

Yes, the cast is as finely tuned as their spy capers, showcasing Oscar winner Hoffman, and the impeccable Lawrence Fishburne as Hunt’s Bureau Chief, as saturnine and Byzantine as one would expect. Old bud Luther (Ving Rhames) frosts the high tech cake with avuncular wisdom and warmth, telling Hunt what the audience is thinking, that a person in his profession can’t afford to have a private life. That it’s going to get increasingly hard to keep up the front that he is a statistics nerd with the highway department, and both dangerous and unethical to keep his secret life from a trusting wife. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had some problems there, you might recall.

It is also personally satisfying to see Jonathan Phys Meyers in the role of Declan, one of the good guys, redeeming himself from the totally corrupt “beady-eyed” calculator he played in Woody Allen’s Match Point.

Maggie Q sizzles as the glamorous Zhen, although her wardrobe choice at the Vatican reception would certainly test any vows of celibacy taken by the Holy Orders crowd, but the ordained stay safely cloistered in their catacombs during the chic event for the most part. Cruise is about the only one seen wearing priestly garb, and he looks surprising natural in the black cassock and skullcap. (The Vatican setting hints that corruption in the Catholic Church has reached the highest levels, which given the history of that institution, is not surprising. But I couldn’t help but wonder if this is Hollywood softening up the that venerable body before the shock and awe siege planned for the May 19th release of The DaVinci Code.)

Finally, despite his yearlong public mid-life crisis, Tom Cruise does some of his best acting here. Good looking actors always have had a hard time being taken seriously, and Hollywood, recently affording him some begrudging respect, seems to be taking a certain glee in his recent public outbursts, reverting to the scornful attitude they started out with when he began his film career.

But don’t let them scare you away from this perfectly fine, better-than-expected thriller. It’s almost summer and you have every right to expect sunshine and not rain on your parade.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

One of the best scenes of MI3 takes place at Vatican City within Rome, where the team uses finesse and deception rather than high tech explosions to infiltrate the walled compound. This part is more like the "Mission Impossible" of television fame, where mind games and clever acting get the job done, and I must admit that I like that better than multiple fiery blasts, such as the explosion overkill used to rescue Agent Lindsey in Berlin. 

Imagine the elegance of this city within a city. Both are as old and graceful as they get, steeped in the shadows of the past, where Roman warriors trod the same cobbled streets that are there now, and endless Popes the marble corridors of power.

Our dish is as simple and exquisite as this setting. The Vatican Capers and Crostini, our black tie antipasto, can also be enjoyed in casual comfort in your own castle.

Buon Appetito!

Vatican Capers and Crostini 

Antipasto means "before the meal" (pasto means "meal"). You will sometimes find it spelled antepasto in cookbooks and on menus. Included here is a simple Roman antipasto that's easy to make.—Paula Laurita 

Black Olive Paste (Tapenade)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound black olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup drained capers
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound green olives, pitted
  • 2 Tbs cognac
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 12 thin bread rounds cut from Italian style loaf

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients above in a food processor and pulse till blended.

2. Serve at room temperature with Crostini, Italian bread rounds.

To make the crostini, very lightly brush bread rounds with olive oil and arrange on a cookie sheet. Place in a 400-degree oven until golden on the surface but not hard-toasted all the way through.

Recipe Source: BellaOnline.com