Mission: Impossible II (2000) / Action-Thriller
aka Mission Impossible 2
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, some sensuality and language
Running time: 123 min.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzjia, Anthony Hopkins
Director: John Woo
Screenplay: Robert Towne
Review published December 24, 2007
Rather than calling this basically in-name-only sequel to the successful De Palma directed outing of 1996 Mission: Impossible, they really should have just called it John Woo XI. This basically is just a continuation of the over-the-top stylistics of its director, rather than an homage to the popular TV show of the 60s. Complete with fast-paced fistfights on speeding machinery, slow-motion ballets of martial arts, and unnecessarily religious symbolism, this is the Woo, the whole Woo, and nothing but the Woo.
Special Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise, Magnolia) is back, trying to take down a rogue agent who specializes in impersonating him named Sean Ambrose (Scott, Ever After). It seems Ambrose wants to get his hands on a deadly virus called Chimera, which has the capability of killing anyone it comes in contact with in over 20 hours, and to which there is only one antidote. The plan is to release the virus on the unsuspecting public, and then to sell the antidote for an outrageous fortune. The Impossible Missions Force is entrusted to infiltrate the baddies hideout by hiring a former girlfriend (Newton, The Truth About Charlie) to rekindle a past romance and get the plans from them.
The recipe for this formula picture is to take a plotline from Hitchcock's Notorious, rework this into a James Bond feel, then cut John Woo (Face/Off, The Killer) loose for the last hour for the roller coaster ride of action. The proverbial double edged sword of this formula is that the film does succeed in providing the action Woo's fans crave, yet on the other it fails to be a great movie due to its venturing into oft-traveled waters, and in particular it will be disappointing to fans of the television show who will find almost nothing to relate the two in Woo's high-adrenaline stylistics.
Even fans of the first movie may have trouble relating the two films. In the first film, Cruise's portrayal of Hunt was cool and professional, leading a qualified team with icy efficiency, and while clearly a capable fighter, there was nothing particularly flashy or schmoozy about his character. In this sequel, Hunt is a smirking bundle of charisma for the ladies, and an unstoppable killing machine, who handles guns, knives, martial arts and motorcycles in ways that would rival any experts in the field. No team is really necessary as he handles almost all of the action himself, even telling his superiors very little of his goings on. To cut it short, Hunt is Bond.
One can't help but be thrilled by Woo's chutzpah, and the action scenes are so impressively mounted that they are worth the price of admission alone. Still, one also can't help but leave the theater with an emptiness of feeling, because while the meal is undoubtedly tasty, it's definitely not very filling.
-- Follows Mission: Impossible. Followed by Mission: Impossible III and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.
©2007 Vince Leo