One of the things I love about cinema is it’s variety: from 1 week to the next you could watch an alternative ‘ideas’ movie, an intelligent social critique, a comedy, a psychological thriller, a romance, a horror film or an action movie & enjoy every one of them. My attitude is that if it’s well made it’s probably worth watching.So it is with ‘Mission: Impossible 2′: with the slightly negative reaction it seems to have got so far I expected to be disappointed – but I am very glad to say that I was not. I’m not really sure why it hasn’t been so well received – I try not to pay too much attention to reviews before I’ve seen the film myself & can form my own opinion – but I wonder if perhaps people are expecting too much from this film. This is an action thriller, & doesn’t pretend to be anything else: if you want complex characterisation or an engrossing, twisting storyline, watch Godard or Hitchcock. No – John Woo is an ‘action man': action is what he does, it’s all he does & that’s fine by me because he does it extremely well.
Having as much in common with Woo’s other (superb) American film ‘Face/Off’ as with the original ‘Mission: Impossible’, ‘MI2′ features good-guy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) vs. a virtual mirror-image of himself, his former colleague turned renegade Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott). Ambrose has managed to get hold of the only existing antidote to a newly created potential 21st-Century Plague. Hunt’s mission, should he… (OK, so you know the rest), is to get the antidote from Ambrose & get the virus before Ambrose does, enlisting the help of a beautiful international thief (Thandie Newton), a techie (Ving Rhames) & a local pilot/driver.
So, OK you could criticise this movie for having a plot that’s too simple, which is probably a reaction to criticism of the original for having a plot that was too complicated. (I can already hear studio exec. heads being banged against studio exec. walls: “What do we have to do – they complain when they’re made to think, then they complain when they don’t have to!”). And yes, the characters are stereotypes & there’s no character development – but as I said before this is an action movie, nothing more & nothing less, & it’s a very good one, so I recommend you forget about all that & enjoy it for what it is.
In my opinion Woo is unparalleled as an action director: his flair for complex, imaginative, brilliantly conceived & executed action sequences is what makes this movie. As with ‘Face/Off’ he brings with him his Hong Kong-style mysticism & slow-motion techniques & marries them to Hollywood’s high-budget high-octane pyrotechnics. The result is a raft of stunning set-pieces, some of the best I have ever seen: breath-taking in their complexity & execution, especially in the film’s climax.
Cruise himself looks the business: he’s rumoured to have done a lot of his own stunts, he seems to be in great shape, & if his moves in the superb one-on-one fight sequences are anything to go by, he’s become quite a martial artist!
Apart from Cruise & Rhames Woo has bravely cast non-Americans in a Hollywood movie in the next major roles, & I think the risk paid off. Scotsman Dougray Scott stars next to alongside Cruise as the villain of the piece & he plays the part with great menace & conviction, & I think should have a great future; & English/Zambian Thandie Newton does well with the limited character she is given to portray.
Overall, this is unpretentious & undemanding, with a simple plot, stereotypes for characters & impossible stunts – but if you like stylish action movies, you ought to enjoy this one.