Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Mission: Impossible 2" (2000)

Starring Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton and Dougray Scott
Written by Robert Towne
Directed by John Woo
Rated PG-13 — Violence, language
Running Time: 123 Minutes

While super secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on vacation, a situation arises requiring his — and only his — attention. With Hunt unavailable, IMF boss Swanbeck (Anthony Hopkins) sends another agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) disguised as Hunt. His mission is to meet up with an old contact of Hunt's who has developed a deadly biological weapon called Chimera and its antigen, Bellerophon. But instead of protecting the contact and delivering Chimera to the IMF, Ambrose kills the contact and steals it for himself to sell to the highest bidder, only to discover that he's actually stolen the Bellerophon.

To catch him, Hunt recruits Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton), a professional thief and Ambrose's ex-girlfriend. Despite their own budding romance, Hunt sends Nyah undercover to discover Ambrose's plans for Chimera and its location in order to help him steal it back. But when Hunt discovers what Ambrose is up to, the mission gets much more dangerous for everyone involved.

Four years after its initial outing, Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible" became a franchise with this John Woo entry. Cruise wouldn't return to the role for another six years after this one. While it features a number of the franchise staples, including some acrobatic stunts for Hunt, disguises and chase sequences, it's easily the weakest of the films.

Woo's directorial style doesn't really work here. His operatic, exaggerated action sequences are great in Hong Kong police thrillers, but his American output was never quite up to the kind of work he did overseas. "Mission: Impossible 2" is no different. Watching it now, 15 years and three far better M:I movies later, the whole thing feels kind of hokey and somehow way more self-indulgent than later entries that would feature Cruise in bigger, more outlandish stunts.

Most especially, sequences involving lots of slow motion feel the most dated and awkward. There's a long, green-tinted shot of Tom Cruise walking toward some medical equipment that is probably supposed to feel like it has dramatic weight but instead it feels aggravating, like the movie is just trying to prolong a worthless moment.

Part of my disappointment when I first saw it in 2000 stemmed from how completely different a movie it is from the first one. Other than featuring Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames' characters from the first film, the two movies bear little resemblance to each other. In style and execution, these movies couldn't be any more different, full of dual-wielding pistol shootouts, motorcycle fights (!!?) and more explosions in one scene than I think the first movie had in total.

Another aspect that doesn't quite work is the romance between Hunt and Nyah Hall. While both performers are trying their best, the screentime just isn't devoted to it to really earn the way they seem to feel about each other. It feels like the movie wants us to care, but doesn't want to do the legwork necessary.

Dougray Scott is okay as the film's villain, but there's really not much else to say about him. He's supposed to be in love with Nyah or something, but ultimately it's just that he's a possessive asshole — which works well enough for an action movie villain, but the movie seems to mistake this for actual depth.

As I've said, "Mission: Impossible 2" is definitely the worst of the now five M:I moves. It's reasonably enjoyable at parts, but in 2015 hasn't aged as well as the first film, and that's taking into account that it wasn't all that good in 2000, either.