Mission: Impossible II

Tom Cruise

Ving Rhames

reviewed by Tom-Tom



The Mission Impossible film series is unique in that each film has been shaped by a different director. John Woo is the second director to tackle the franchise. He brings with him his considerable talents for action and dramatic cinematography in a hit and miss sequel which is light (very very light) on character development but high on action and suspense. There are few too many slow motion sequences which worked very well in, say, The Killer and A Better Tomorrow but feel rather dated and cheesy here. One Woo characteristic I may never reconcile is his love of pigeons and doves flying in slow motion in the middle of a battle. How do the bug-eyed little blighters always find the time to visit a shoot-out?

An unasked for but very pleasant addition is Thandie Newton, very possibly the most beautiful woman alive. I remember very literally having my breath taken away when first seeing her on the screen back in 2000 and after hearing her voice, I was immediately smitten. I couldn’t believe that people that beautiful could exist. And that’s my Thandie Newton drool-fest. She plays Nyah Nordoff-Hall, a sexy, limber little cat-burglar with nimble hands, a wry smile and perfectly penciled eyebrows. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is ordered to recruit her among two others for a yet unexplained mission. Apparently, in the opening scene in which Hunt free climbs up a massive arid, red cliff, Cruise used only a harness and no safety net scaring the crap out of producers and everyone. It’s an unnecessary sequence but impressive to watch all the same. The voice in his ear this time is Anthony Hopkins, who gives the IMF mantra about what happens if an Hunt or any other of his agents “are caught or killed” a bit of style and nobility.

Hunt is sporting slightly long hair parted down the middle which is, at least for me, an unwelcome change from his professional short trim in the first film which hinted at intelligence and class. He looks like a reckless adventurer with not much on his mind here, much as he did in Knight & Day where it suited his character but not so much here, now that we already have an idea who Ethan Hunt is from the first film. Luther is also back (the great Ving Rhames) and conveys with his beautiful deep voice and micro-expressions more than the entire cadre of bad guys even with the help of all the moody slow motion sequences and tear stained faces cast in shadow. Brendan Gleeson is totally wasted in this film forced to portray a posh evil business man with not such a great attempt at a British accent. He’s not allowed to exude any of the charm we all know he is capable of. An unforgivable waste of talent.

The bad guys, led by Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) are attempting to capture and ransom the world with a deadly virus called Chimera. They aim to sell the antidote to the highest bidder, invest in the bidder’s stock and get rich. A modest and simple plan. Ambrose has had previous relations with Miss Hall, as Nyah is called by almost everyone in the picture but Hunt. This was the main reason for her recruitment, not her mad thieving skills. She has to go under cover (and under covers) to help stop them. Ambrose being a former IMF agent gives a sort of Goldeneye familiarity with the plot. Ambrose knows everything about Hunt.

After the mostly boring and cheesy first hour, things get down to business. There is a lot of cool fooling around with masks, suspenseful hand-offs, and plans to do impossible stuff. Two bikers appear for no other reason than to give Hunt and Ambrose vehicles to chase each other with. Hell, they’re not even armed. Were they trying to scare Hunt away by revving their motors? The final chase scene is suspenseful and fun although the man on man punch out goes on for too long ending with a horrible cliche’.


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