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Brilliant throwback action score

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Mission: Impossible themes by

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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Paramount Pictures; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall

Mission: Impossible III's comparatively disappointing box office take has been blamed on the increasingly-erratic public displays of Tom Cruise, though perhaps a simpler explanation is that it isn't really very good.  Admittedly, it is a hundred times better than the second film (though so is being shot in the leg) but it's still disappointing to see a summer blockbuster quite so dumb.  I don't mind brainless action films, but there's some truly ridiculous stuff in it that stretches credibility way too far, and its attempts at "character development" seem like they've been written by a child.  Furthermore, what are meant to be staggering plot twists are signalled so far in advance that they are greeted by a shrug of the shoulders; and the attempts to provide dramatic tension late on by using Cruise's character's wife in a desperate situation are completely uneffective since as a character the audience simply doesn't care about her.  Brian de Palma proved that you could make a brilliant film out of Mission: Impossible, so its a shame his successors haven't found the right formula.  When Tom Cruise dusts himself down after being involved in furious physical derring-do and ends up looking like he's just stepped out of his stylist, it's like Leslie Nielson in the Naked Gun films, leading me to wonder whether it's actually Jim Abrahams rather than J.J. Abrams who had a hand in it.  It really is just hard to care about the latest adventures of the IMF - though who would ever have thought that working for the International Monetary Fund would be quite so exciting?

Musically, at least, it is a return to form for the series.  Abrams turned to his regular tv composer Michael Giacchino, who has made a real name for himself over the last few years.  The film moves from one big action sequence to another, offering Giacchino a great opportunity to flex his muscles.  Electronics are refreshingly absent, and instead Giacchino crafted a fully-orchestral score which sometimes brings to mind the brilliant thriller scores of the 1970s by Jerry Goldsmith (and of course Lalo Schifrin).  After a reading of Schifrin's classic theme, the score launches straight into the first action set-piece, "Factory Rescue", based around Schifrin's "The Plot" theme, which Giacchino uses wonderfully well.

An early highlight is "Helluvacopter Chase", a brilliantly breathless action piece with so much going on it's almost impossible for the listener to keep up.  There are occasional breaks in the action provided by the laughable character moments, but these allow Giacchino to give the listener a chance to take breath, such as in "Special Agent Lindsey Farris"; the composer does his best to inject some actual emotion into the film, but even he can't manage that - on album, they work well enough.  "Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall" accompanies a particularly ridiculous part of the film, but is a brilliant piece of action/suspense music, with the low-end piano (always a brilliant film music device) and fluttering woodwind combining in great fashion.  It also sees Giacchino introducing his own main theme for the film for the first time, which again is a great retro piece which could have come from The Cassandra Crossing or something.

Another great action piece comes along in "Bridge Battle", with some furiously exciting playing from the Hollywood musicians, the brass section in particular being given a real work-out.  Admittedly, after that the album does lose a little bit of steam - it is virtually impossible for an action score like this to sustain itself over such an ambitious (65-minute) running time, and it would probably play far better had one or two tracks been pruned.  When "Davian Gets the Girl" comes along, it has all the ingredients of the previous action tracks, but seems a bit superflous; and things don't really pick up again until the terrific "Hunting for Jules", which is actually one of the score's finest pieces, with some terrific orchestration choices leading to a pulse-pounding action sequence.  "World's Worst Last Four Minutes to Live" sees Giacchino introduce a little string run device straight out of Lost which should satisfy his fans, and then it develops into another good action piece.  The album closes with "Schifrin and Variations", which does what you might expect with the classic Mission: Impossible theme.  This is a great score, one which confirms Giacchino's continuing rise, and is his best yet.  Highly recommended.


  1. Mission: Impossible Theme (:52)
  2. Factory Rescue (4:14)
  3. Evacuation (2:46)
  4. Helluvacopter Chase (3:12)
  5. Special Agent Lindsey Farris (2:45)
  6. Ethan and Julia (1:23)
  7. Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall (5:53)
  8. Masking Agent (3:38)
  9. Voice Capture (2:40)
  10. See You in the Sewer (1:42)
  11. Davian's Brought In (2:04)
  12. Bridge Battle (4:10)
  13. Davin Gets the Girl (2:41)
  14. IMF Escape (2:42)
  15. Disguise the Limit (3:21)
  16. Shang Way High (3:37)
  17. The Chutist (1:58)
  18. Hunting for Jules (3:53)
  19. World's Worst Last Four Minutes to Live (4:08)
  20. Reparations (3:33)
  21. Schifrin and Variations (3:05)