Mission: Impossible II


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Mission Impossible II
"It is to Tom Cruise's credit that the sequel is infinitely better than the original." | Photo: Paramount Pictures

"The name is Hunt. Ethan Hunt." Doesn't have the same ring to it, somehow. In every other respect, this is a Bond movie, done funny side down, with a Chinese director (John Woo) and the biggest Hollywood star of the moment going for the burn.

It is to Tom Cruise's credit that the sequel is infinitely better than the original. His perfectionism, which goes as far as doing the majority of his own stunts - when you see them you won't believe the producers allowed it, until you realise he is one of the producers - and professional approach is exemplary. As action entertainment it has everything. Even the story is semi-credible, although certain details, such as the overuse of face-changing masks, are ludicrous.

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The music (Hans Zimmer) has a pulsing beat, the locations add glamour and grandeur, the fights evoke gymnastic elegance. Woo's use of slow motion changes the choreography of violence into a thing of beauty. He succeeds in extracting the cliché from car chases and injecting an unadulterated dose of excitement.

Accepting that this is hokum, it has been tackled with infinite seriousness. As a result, Cruise's respect for the genre pays dividends. The film is extremely well made and its absence of self-mockery, which marred Roger Moore's reign as 007, allows a suspension of disbelief to plug leaks in the plot.

Thandie Newton plays an international thief. She has never looked lovelier, nor less like a criminal. Catherine Zeta-Jones stretched the imagination to breaking point in Entrapment, but Newton doesn't even start. She's too delicate, vulnerable and true to her feelings to be doing this kind of work. What matters is that Ethan Hunt (Cruise) cares about her, which for a hard bitten mercenary spy, who leaves his emotions under lock and key, is saying something.

Dougray Scott, complete with Scots accent, is not a convincing villain. His Aussie sidekick (Richard Roxburgh) is far colder and more menacing. Scott cannot disguise a romantic soul. Trying to be mean and ugly constricts his natural charm, leaving him in limbo with the rest of the lumberjacks. The pleasantest surprise is finding Anthony Hopkins as an M figure, issuing instructions and throw away asides, such as "This is mission impossible. Should be a walk in the park for you."

Robert Towne's script attempts one-liners, but lacks the English wit and style. Ethan is not James. He didn't go to boarding school and learn how to use humour as a defence against intimacy.

The story of a hijacked deadly virus puts clothes on Woo's desire to transform action pictures into an art form. With Cruise giving a performance that redefines star quality and a budget big enough to expunge compromise, M:i-2 lives up to its marketing hype.

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2001
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Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt in the big action sequel to the TV spin off.
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Read more Mission: Impossible II reviews:

Symon Parsons ****
Stephen Carty **1/2

Director: John Woo

Writer: Robert Towne

Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzija, William Mapother, Dominic Purcell, Mathew Wilkinson, Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Marber

Year: 2000

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA, Germany


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