Mission: Impossible II (2000) — Wooing fans back to the franchise

“This isn’t Mission: Difficult, it’s Mission: Impossible”

PoolMan’s rating: Well, they’re right, this is pretty impossible…

PoolMan’s review: So much has been said about this movie, it’s tricky to know where to begin. You have one side of the fence which says it’s a great John Woo movie with tons of action, fighting, and cool cinematography. Then there’s the other side of the fence, which says “What the hell happened to Mission Impossible?” They’re both right.

M:I2 is the sequel to the mindnumblingly complex Mission: Impossible of 1996, but it’s only a sequel in the fact that there’s a number 2 after the title. This whole plot really could have been done with any other set of characters using any other franchise, but here goes. Superagent Ethan Hawke (aka Bond Jr) assembles a “team” of agents and a thief in order to steal back a superweapon that’s in the hands of an old ally turned bad. Does that sound as fiendishly clever and loop-filled as the first M:I movie? No, I didn’t think so either. Does that sound suspiciously similar to GoldenEye? Hmm…

One of the things I enjoyed most about the original film is the fact that it took me a good three viewings to fully understand every little thing about it. What character is aligned to whom, who’s who, and why things happen in the sequence they do. It felt like a mystery movie, and I loved that. Where the newer Mission differs is that it’s straight ahead, nonstop action sequences, separated by just enough exposition to explain why everyone keeps shooting at one another without making the audience drowsy. There is no puzzle to solve here. There’s nothing challenging for the audience to figure out, and the movie lacks for it.

Where it does pick up steam is in its awesome, John Woo-engineered action. This is a Woo flick from top to bottom. Amazing stunts, unlikely kicks, doves and flames abound here. High speed fights, car races, motorcycle stunts are the norm in M:I2. If Woo’s style of film is up your alley, then great, you will find this up your alley. If not, that’s two strikes. Apparently Woo demanded the script be written around certain scenes that he wanted to film. This, to me, is a bad idea. Having action scenes dictate story instead of vice versa is a slippery way of doing things, and indicative of a lack of creativity on Woo’s part. Perhaps the man’s running out of tricks? The end beach fight smacked of Face/Off, for instance.

Tom Cruise puts in a decent turn as a more intense Ethan, and Dougray “I Coulda Been Wolverine If I Weren’t In This Flick!” Scott is actually pretty decent as Ethan’s shadowy counterpart, Sean Ambrose. I guess there might have been a little more development between characters, but as is, you have an acceptable framework to work with.

I guess if I had to sum the whole experience up in just one sentence, this would be it: “This is an Asian Bond movie, without all the cool characters, and half the gadgets.” This is a waste of a great franchise, which should have had more toys, more plot twists, and teamwork.

Mission: Impossible 2 is a disappointment, but it’s far from terrible. As an artsy action flick, it’s definitely got its perks. As a mysterious, gutsy spy thriller (like its predecessor), it lacks sorely. Take what you like from that, and choose wisely.

Didja notice?

  • Ethan’s disappearing/reappearing scar at the end
  • The tires and windshield on the bikes keep changing all around
  • In scenes where Ethan and Sean are together, it’s pretty plain Sean’s a lot taller. So how come they switch identities so often and no one seems to notice? (especially Nyah, who has been a lover to both of them)
  • According to Robert Towne, much of his script was written around action scenes that director John Woo told him he wanted to able to direct in the movie.
  • The song playing during the rock-climbing scene at the beginning is “Iko Iko,” which also plays over the opening credits of Rain Man, also starring Tom Cruise.
  • The script bears several similarities to that of Hitchcock’s Notorious, in which a man is assigned by the government to attract a woman for the purpose of sending her back to an old love who is a spy. Both films also have a clandestine meeting at a race track.
  • Inflicting injury by cigar-cutter, and disguising one of the bad guys as the hero so that other bad guys will kill him, are devices in this film that both previously appeared in Darkman
  • Climax involves a fist-fight on a beach, just like John Woo’s earlier film, Face/Off.

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