“Mission Impossible II (2000)” Review

Tom Cruise is basically playing a different, more watchable Ethan Hunt in this. We get a little insight into what makes him tick in the breathtaking under-the-titles ‘holiday’ sequence. Gone is the nervy uptight schemer of the first film. He’s a fearless thrill-seeker, with a relaxed attitude and an even more relaxed haircut.

It’s almost as though they decided to forget about the first film (and the TV series) and make something different instead, which is fine with me, except that there’s a reappearance of Ving Rhames’ character who is now working along side Hunt at the International Monetary Fund or whatever it’s called.

Once again there’s a fine cast (including an uncredited Anthony Hopkins) led by young Thandie Newton who is fantastic.  Rather less fantastic is the fact that her character is placed back into an abusive relationship primarily to generate tension for the film without it every being properly addressed. Her character is introduced as a talented cat burglar and Hunt expresses disappointment that this these skills will not be drawn upon for the mission, disappointment I share since it has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. There is, however, a superb moment [spoilers ahead…] when she, faced with a room full of men who have either used her or abused her, choses to inject herself with the chimera virus. It’s the only twist that surprised me and it seems a very clever move when she faces an apparently insurmountable threat with no-one to help her. Only somewhat undermined when the writers have her reveal moments later that she did it out of panic rather than cunning.

This is a John Woo film, his next after Broken Arrow (which I merely disliked) and Face/Off which I found offensive.  There are plus points to it being Woo though: it’s all rather beautifully done, albeit with cheesy slow-mo and doves flying through flaming doorways, but that kind of thing Woo can get away with. The twists are well signalled – in a good sense, being carefully established but never drawn out.

But the dialogue is still stolid and inevitably the story does dwindle into high-testosterone pissing contest between the two alphas, degenerating into the long big punch up.

Once again the primary adversary is a rogue agent. I can’t help feeling that if the IMF didn’t generate its own work by developing its bad actors in house, it would have to shut up shop. Which might not be a bad thing.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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