Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violent Action and some Sensuality
Directed by: John Woo
Written by: Robert Towne
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson & Brendan Gleeson
Seeing as 1996’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was such a big, dumb, action-packed hit among audiences, you’d expect that a sequel (especially one with John Woo as director) would be bigger, dumber and even more action-packed. You would definitely be right on it being dumber, but I’m not sure if the bigger and more action-packed descriptions are entirely correct. It has been noted by many fans that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 is considered to be the worst in the series. I really hope that’s the case, because I was bored out of my mind whilst watching this supposedly adrenaline-filled ride. This second installment in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise is laughably overstylized, carried by a bland script and feels like a vanity project for Cruise. If this didn’t have Tom Cruise slapped on the front, I could easily see this film starring a washed up Steven Seagal or Christopher Lambert.
Ever since his little escapade in the first film, Ethan Hunt has been a full-fledged IMF agent. His latest assignment has required him to climb a rocky cliff with his bare hands in order to pick up a specialized pair of exploding sunglasses. After putting on the glasses (in slow motion, of course), Ethan is informed that a deadly virus (known as Chimera) is in the hands of rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose. Ethan will have to use former thief and Ambrose’s ex-flame Nyah Nordoff-Hall to get close to the rogue IMF agent and his super virus. With the clock ticking and an ever predictable plan unfolding, Ethan begins falling for Hall…all while Ambrose begins to suspect that something might be up.
In a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film, you’d expect crazy excitement right out of the gate, but that’s not the case with MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. Instead, the first 20 minutes consist of the pre-credits obligatory villain introduction and Tom Cruise wooing the former thief (played by Thandie Newton). Even when we receive a car chase or surveillance scene, they come off as laughable in these early moments. It takes a long while for anything remotely interesting or exciting to happen in this sequel. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have a couple of enjoyable action sequences, but these are rarely the case. With little action to distract from the convoluted plot (in a stark contrast to the first film), the plot holes stick out with glaring stupidity. These include a dumbass villain who seems to foiling his own plan with a series of idiotic decisions. Another unintentionally hilarious aspect comes in a scene where Tom Cruise seems to form an unspoken psychic connection with pigeons and doves (this is still John Woo, after all) to knock out a bunch of random henchmen.
What makes MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 that much more of a disappointment are the bigger names in the cast. Tom Cruise seems to revel in the camera being on him throughout this entire film. He constantly looks like he’s posing for a magazine cover, even when he’s supposed to be in action scene. It never feels like he’s in any danger whatsoever, even though the first movie also sort of suffered from the same problem. Ving Rhames plays the computer genius who delivers lots of exposition and doesn’t really do much of anything else. Thandie Newton is the typically bland damsel-in-distress/love-interest for Cruise. Anthony Hopkins and Brendan Gleeson also pop up for…some reason. Maybe, they just wanted a quick paycheck (though Gleeson wasn’t nearly as big as he is today). Finally, Dougray Scott is a pathetic villain. He’s just so generic. There wasn’t much to his character other than being interested in superweapons and money, but little in the way of an entertaining delivery or crazed personality.
While watching MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2, I couldn’t help but get the sense that it seemed like nobody on the set really cared about this sequel…except for Tom Cruise and John Woo. John Woo cared because he wanted to throw explosions, slow motion and doves at the screen. Tom Cruise cared because it gave him an excuse to flash his smile, flip his luscious locks during a would-be climactic fight scene, and do a model pose in every possible frame of film that he could. This is a lackluster sequel that’s just plain bad. Aside from a couple of enjoyable action moments and unintentional hilarity, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 is quite boring. This sequel feels like it’s trying to focus on being way more hip and cool this time around, all while never understanding why the simple crazy thrills in the original worked as well as they did.