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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 (2000) ***1/2 movie review by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

Very rarely does a sequel surpass the quality of the original, but it looks like, despite its shortcomings, “Mission Impossible 2” succeeded in this aspect.

Tom Cruise returns as indestructible IMF agent, Ethan Hunt. Swanbeck (Anthony Hopkins) appears briefly as Cruise’s boss to send him on a new mission… to stop a rouge agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) from unleashing a super-virus upon the unsuspecting world. Hunt once again employs Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and a new agent, Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), Ambrose’s ex-love interest, to help infiltrate the terrorists. Hunt becomes involved with Nyah and goes to extremes to rescue her when the operation turns sour.

Cruise performs adequately, but his best work was evident in his role as one of the film’s producers and hiring John Woo as the director. Woo has a talent for making stars look like supermen, skillfully creating the illusion that Cruise is performing Jackie Chan-like stunts. Good career move by Cruise. The baby-faced Thandie Newton was absolutely magnetic in her first big commercial role. She got some critical accolades for her role as a ghost in “Beloved”, and I expect more exceptional things from her in the future. Rhames gets little screentime and Hopkins gets even less. However, they add to the movie the same way that Q and M (respectively) add to the James Bond film. I suppose the producers of “MI:2” know the successful elements of a spy film franchise when they see it.

Hong Kong director John Woo created an action film renaissance back in the 1980’s, which didn’t get much notice in the West until the mid-90’s. His first American films, “Hard Target” and “Broken Arrow” didn’t get much acclaim until he broke through with “Face/Off” in 1997. It’s no surprise why all of the A-list actors want to work with Woo, considering he invented the modern action film. “The Matrix”, “Desperado” and countless other visually stunning films were directly inspired my Woos influence. Although he is one of my favorite directors of all time, Woo suffers a bit in the English speaking market partially due to the fact that he speaks little to none of the language, making communication difficult with his actors. He also relinquishes much of the creative control to the studios, something he didn’t have to worry about in Asia.

“MI:2” turns out to be a pretty decent effort compared to the awful, first “Mission Impossible” film. It abandons the terminally confusing plot of the first film and focuses on a simpler story, adding a more impressive visual style and elaborately choreographed action scenes. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience interested, even if some are pretty predictable. Although the plot was coherent, most of the film was a bit slow and the writing could have been better. Ultimately, the result is a good example of an over-the-top action movie done with style. It appears that Paramount Studios is grooming “Mission Impossible” to be the American answer to Britain’s “James Bond” franchise. More power to them… if they can duplicate (or surpass) the success and style of this film. That in itself may be a Mission Impossible.

In theory, this is an excellent date movie. The guys will enjoy the action and for the women… Tom Cruise. Most people aren’t accustomed to the over-the-top Eastern style of filmmaking and some may see the kinetic action scenes as silly or unbelievable. I say give it a chance and take it for what it is, a fun time-waster. As for youngsters, this has the exact same elements as “Bond” movies: A little suggested sex, lots of action and no gore. If they can handle that, then they can handle “MI:2”.

Scale of 1-5:
3 ½

Most refreshing aspect of the movie:
Hands down, the visual style of the movie. Intimidating slow-motion shots, outrageous stunts, meticulously choreographed gun battles, big explosions and black motorcycles… all Woo trademarks and he doesn’t disappoint. If you want to see John Woo at his best, I recommend his earlier Hong Kong films “Hard Boiled” and “The Killer”. Both star Chow Yun Fat, Hong Kong’s most revered leading man, and both contain more brilliantly choreographed carnage than any American movie in existence. Although, be warned… Blockbuster Video has severely edited “The Killer” beyond recognition, as they sometimes do with films they believe to violate their anti-“NC-17” ratings policy. This mega-corporation cuts scenes as they see fit, even if they do not involve sex or nudity. Worst of all, they do so without informing the consumers, so be wary.

Biggest gripe:
The villains. No matter how clever or diabolical these guys are, they come across as boring, generic, James Bond rejects. Dougray Scott leads the crew with almost zero charisma. He was slated to play of the coveted role of Wolverine in “X-Men” due out in July but had to cancel due to the “MI:2” shooting schedule. Bad career move, but good for the audience since we won’t have to see this boring guy in another movie this summer.

Biggest surprise:
That they pulled off a better sequel than the abysmal first “Mission Impossible” film. Brian De Palma, director of the recently doomed “Mission to Mars”, turned the first “MI” into a confusing mess. It all goes to show you what a good director can do for a troubled franchise-to-be.

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