Mission: Impossible II

Mission: Impossible II

**1/2

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Given that the general reaction to the first instalment in the Mission Impossible franchise was "good, but too much plot", producer-come-star Tom Cruise faced a difficult challenge with the sequel. However, as Anthony Hopkins' bossman brilliantly says: "This isn't mission difficult, its mission impossible. Difficult should be a walk in the park". Recruiting style-specialist director John Woo to give his take on the seminal Sixties series, the result is everything the original wasn't: high-tempo action, minimal plotting and an assault to the senses, not the mind.

Attempting to steal a deadly virus named Chimera, ex-secret agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) plans to make a fortune with the antidote. Getting wind of this, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is sent to recruit thief and Ambrose's ex Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), so that she can go 'undercover' while he destroys the lab samples.

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Arguably, this is the most 'John Woo movie' that John Woo has ever made. There are shootouts with guns in each hand. There are doves flapping by as fire arms blaze. There’s constant hair-swishing and billowing clothes (seriously, everything billows). Then there’s the operatic martial arts played in slow-motion. Indeed, at one point, it's a wonder there isn't a dove flying by with a gun in each talon as his wings swish and billow in slow-mo.

And yet, while the movie would probably only last about 45 minutes if everything was played in real-time, there's no doubting that it's all very beautiful. Of course, at the other end of the scale, the action scenes are mostly high-energy pulse-raising affairs, where the attention-deficit disorder masterwork drags you along for the ride. A credits-sequence mountain climb, a parachute jump escape, a final bike-chase... its pulse-pounding stuff.

Shame then, that it all feels a bit empty. While undoubtedly achieving its aim of not confusing anyone with the 'plot', there's little substance to go with the style and the jarring change in tone from post-Cold War paranoia to by-the-numbers Bond feels like dumbing down (which it is). We do get a jazzed-up version of the catchy theme tune via Hans Zimmer's excellent score, but the fake face-masks - while perfectly realised as they're pulled off - are overused and show staples like gadgets, spying and teamwork are largely absent (with returning Ving Rhames and newcomer John Polson not given much to do).

Still, the latter complaint is hardly surprising given that we're essentially watching the Tom Cruise show. All in black, shades and with constantly billowing-hair (told you!), it’s true the camera affords him the Vidal Sasoon-hero look shot after shot, but Tom's arguably never been cooler. While Scott chomps his lines with accenty-quotability ("I. Am. Gagging for it!") and Newton looks good next to the Cruister despite going from heartless thief to infatuated girlfriend in no time at all, they're basically here to play opposite him. Oh well, at least Hopkins has fun with his 'cameo'.

Exciting and gorgeous no doubt, but John Woo's sequel goes too far to avoid the same 'mistakes' as Brian De Palma by removing the plot.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2010
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Mission: Impossible II packshot
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:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****
Symon Parsons ****

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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