Mission Impossible 2
Director: John Woo
Mission Impossible 2 is the sequel to the 1996 film that premiered in 2000. With almost an entirely new cast and a different style, this film has been the subject of much criticism and critiquing. I grew up on this film and watched it just as often as the first having the first 3 films on DVD. I would say that even back as a kid I preferred the 1st and the 3rd to the 2nd, though I think before today I haven’t been able to describe why.
To start with my positives, I still think Tom Cruise is great in the role of Ethan Hunt, and once again he proves to be a charismatic leader who delivers on multiple intense and life-threatening stunts that makes you question his life choices in the best way possible. I also think the threat that they face in this film makes sense as biological weapons are a threat that is real, and yet they made it seem threatening enough to pose an impossible mission. There are two really cool stunts that I have learnt were done for real in this movie.
The first is in the film’s opening when we see Ethan Hunt rock climbing up a steep canyon, and he does a jump across a huge gap and just narrowly makes the jump. Tom Cruise actually performed that jump, which again just shows his commitment to the film. The other stunt is during the final fight when Ethan is nearly stabbed in the eye, and Tom Cruise allowed a real knife to be put right up close to his eye. In general, the action in the movie was quite distinct in this entry in the franchise with many stylized fight scenes with fast-paced action and some martial arts choreography that gives even more skill to Ethan Hunt’s fighting technique.
The story of the movie is honestly quite simple with Ethan and the team trying to extract a biological weapon from a former IMF agent who has gone rogue and tries to sell this virus and its antidote to reap the rewards.
Ethan uses a thief named Nyah (Thandie Newton) who used to be in a romantic relationship with the rogue agent named Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) and therefore could infiltrate his compound and learn his plan. That is the barebones of it but honestly, the story is just quite straightforward. For a franchise that would later have twists as a staple, this film is surprisingly empty when it comes to twists. I think that the story is good enough for a Mission Impossible film and just a couple of tweaks could have made it great.
Now in my first paragraph, I said that even as a kid this was my least favourite of the initial 3 but I couldn’t figure out why, and now I can. This movie’s emphasis on style makes it incredibly distinct from the rest of the series yet I would say that is more of a negative than a positive. I did say I enjoyed the action and that is true, but I enjoyed it for its over-the-top nature and the super-choreographed craziness it presents. I never felt the danger or the visceral nature of the fights that the other films managed to capture so well with tension that is built up naturally. I never felt like Ethan Hunt was going to lose any fights in this one whereas in the others it felt like he might lose or not complete his mission. Other than the action scenes I think this movie has less intriguing dialogue and exposition scenes.
I feel the tension that the first film worked so hard to build up in every scene is not in this movie. The exposition scenes are just boring even when they are explaining important elements of the plot it does not convey the paranoia and anxiety that those scenes masterfully used in the first film. Even the final fight feels just too simple and easy as the villain felt completely out-classed by Ethan Hunt and it wrapped up rather quickly despite all the slow motion. This movie uses a lot of slow motion and camera spins to give the action this grander feel but it just takes away from what’s happening on the screen in my opinion. It takes away the suspense and especially any of the realism that this series has.
All in all, I think that Mission Impossible 2 is actually a good spy movie that fits in with many movies from this genre. It has some really cool action, an interesting McGuffin as well as a good performance by Tom Cruise. Sadly it does not live up to the highs of this series with not enough of the elements that make these movies distinctly Mission Impossible. I would only recommend this movie if you are in fact doing a marathon of the entire series. Otherwise, I would say there are 5 others I would pick before throwing this one on.