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Being good at being bad. Really, really, bad.

Posted at 10:13 AM on May 5, 2006 by Euan Kerr

Philip Seymour Hoffman is superb at being bad. In "Mission Impossible III" his Owen Davian is just a mean cuss of a guy who has somehow become a super villain, but really all he wants to do is hurt people.

If you enter this film with "Capote" on you mind, you are in for a rude awakening.

In recent years filmmakers have attempted to put some reasoning behind why their baddies are bad. It's honorable. Yet in fantasies like MI III (which is actually every bit as fantastical as say "Peter Pan" when you get down to it) these socio-political excuses always ring a little hollow.

With Hoffman it's the little things that make his characters real. At one point he has a brief interaction with a waiter at a Vatican reception. It last a fraction of a second, but it tells you all you need to know. Owen Davian is just a nasty man, even when he is wearing a tux in the Vatican.

Hoffman prospers under the direction of J.J Abrams. The opening scene plunges the audience into a terrifying scene where Tom Cruise, as Ethan Hunt, has to put more emotion than he's probably displayed in his last 10 films.

Abrams, the creator of "Lost" and "Alias" makes sure there are all the requisite explosions, vertiginous stunts, and cool gadgets in MI III, but the movie is really about how Davian just wants to get Ethan Hunt, and he's going to do it by hurting the woman Hunt loves. It's a story which taps into a deep primal fear.

"Who are you?" Davian asks Hunt in their first encounter. "Do you have a wife? A girlfriend? Whoever she is, I'm gonna find her. I'm gonna hurt her. And then I'm going to kill you right in front of her."

It just makes you shudder.

Another performance worth watching is the cameo role by Simon "Shaun of the Dead" Pegg who plays the also requisite British boffin.


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