Mission: Accepted – Mission: Impossible 2

Posted: July 14, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: May 24th, 2000

Running Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes

Written by: Robert Towne

Story by: Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga

Directed by: John Woo

Starring: Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Dougary Scott, Richard Roxburgh

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

What once was all about style and suspense has become all about mindless action sequences and birds flying in slow motion in Mission: Impossible 2, directed by John Woo and overall signaling the general direction this franchise would take from here on out. To be fair, it can be said that this film has plenty of stylistic touches, but in comparison to Brian De Palma’s mark made on the first film in this series, John Woo’s sense of style seems even more emphasized as overkill. No doubt the general public who saw the first Mission: Impossible movie when it was released in theaters complained about the lack of non-stop action, or at least, I assume so because I can think of no other reason why this franchise would shift gears so abruptly from an atmospheric and intriguing Hitchcock-inspired thriller to a mediocre-at-best James Bond knock-off where the most important question shouldn’t be, “How in the world are they gonna pull off this mission?” but rather, “Why don’t these people just check the others’ faces for masks every time they meet?”

Last time, it was about protecting the security of the CIA NOC List, this time, it’s about preventing the outbreak of a deadly virus. The film opens with Russian bio-chemical expert Dr. Vladimir Nekhorvich (Rade Serbedzija) injecting himself with a mysterious biological agent before boarding a plane to the United States with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to escort him. But, wait! It’s not Ethan on the plane with Nekhorvich, but in fact rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougary Scott), using a handy-dandy Ethan Hunt mask and voice chip. Ambrose and his team crash the plane, but not before making off with the case Nekhorvich had in his possession, which contains a newly-developed virus called Chimera and its antidote, Bellerophon, which Ambrose plans to sell to the highest bidder in a classic “supply and demand” scheme. The real Ethan Hunt soon learns of this and is then ordered to recruit a professional thief named Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), a former girlfriend of Ambrose who the IMF believe can be turned into an asset for gaining information on the buyer (Brendan Gleeson) that Ambrose intends to sell to, as well as any other activities he gets up to. Of course, this directive comes after Ethan has bedded Nyah and fallen in love with her, making this mission just a bit more difficult. Although, as a character points out in the film, “This isn’t Mission: Difficult, Mr. Hunt. It’s Mission: Impossible.

Alright, so if you’re thinking that this plot somewhat familiar, that’s because it borrows heavily from the 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film Notorious, continuing the tradition of this franchise in taking inspiration from the Master of Suspense. But to say that Mission: Impossible 2 is worthy of such a comparison would be giving it way too much credit. Any similarities this movie shares with Notorious ends at the set-up for the plot, because Mission: Impossible 2 definitely doesn’t handle this type of story with as much intrigue and mastery that Hitchcock did; it’s all just the prelude to a series of over-directed action sequences in the film’s second half. That’s particularly frustrating, too, because the potential for a legitimately good movie is here, but John Woo continually discards said intrigue in favor of the, “Look, this guy’s not who he appears to be! He’s wearing a mask!” revelation or the, “Look, doves!” trope he clearly loves so much; both of which are used ad nauseum in this movie and get old somewhere around the fifteenth or so time that they’re used. What a step down from the first film this movie really is.

Tom Cruise does a decent-enough job as Ethan Hunt in this outing. He still has that charm and swagger that’s present in nearly every Tom Cruise action hero performance and almost impossible not to like, but while the script certainly makes attempts to give him some dramatic material to sink his teeth into where Ethan’s doubts of Nyah’s safety is concerned, it still feels disingenuous because Nyah seems like such a throwaway character, not unlike the always-moving assembly line of Bond girls whom Bond becomes involved with in one film, yet we never hear from again in the next film. What makes Nyah so special? The performance by Thandie Newton offers no answers there, seeing as how she plays the part as your typical “tough girl thief” who’s always armed with a nifty gadget or skill that comes in handy right when it needs to. John Woo would have you believe that Nyah is worth getting invested in, but neither screenwriter Robert Towne nor Thandie Newton provide anything to make her memorable in terms of the various characters this franchise has to offer, and also not in terms of characters of her kind. John Polson is the usual comic relief guy in a movie like this and Ving Rhames does more solid work as Luther. Meanwhile, Dougary Scott is a pretty laughable villain, offering up so much ham, that all that’s missing is some cheese and bread.

Speaking of laughable, let’s talk about the action scenes in this movie for a minute. Now, to a certain degree, the action in Mission: Impossible 2 is quite fun and energetic to watch, but there comes a point where all the stuntwork, defiance of logic and pyrotechnics borders on comedic. Indeed, there were one or two moments during the film’s climax where I couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurdity of what I was seeing, because a John Woo movie is one of the few kinds where you’ll see something as illogical as two motorcycles crashing into each other and exploding without either of them leaking gas beforehand. And it’s also the only type of movie where you’ll see doves majestically flying ahead of the heroes as they walk out from somewhere in slow motion. Now, I’m not saying John Woo’s tactics surprise me any (I am a big fan of Face/Off), but the frequency with which it’s all used here, in addition to a Hans Zimmer score that even a Zimmer fan like me has to call overdone, makes the action feel just a tad satirical. I mean, watch this movie and try not to involuntarily laugh at least once at any of the intense action-fueled moments where the scene slows down while Lisa Gerrard’s vocals take over the soundtrack. For me, that moment came pretty early on in the film, during the scene where Ethan and Nyah are both in cars spinning out of control, and John Woo uses slo-mo while constantly cutting back and forth between each character’s face. What movie does he think he’s directing, exactly?

I can’t really call Mission: Impossible 2 awful, though, when all’s said and done, but it’s still too silly and too uninteresting for me to give it any more real credit. I do like the general idea of taking the franchise into a more exciting, action-fueled direction as opposed to the first film’s more low-key approach, even as much as I liked that approach there, but as the series would later prove, it all essentially hinges on the execution.

**/****

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. It’s mostly fun because of what Woo puts into it. Everything else about it is relatively stale. Especially the villain.

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