I’ll say right off the bat that despite the played-down Apple presence (compared to the first one), despite the utter lack of motivation that everyone in the movie has, and despite the relative boringness of the supposedly exotic Thandie Newton (seven of you may have seen her in Besieged and/or Beloved), Mission Impossible 2 was a fun, popcorny, silly movie full of impossibly hot men. Yes, my friend, this movie was made for the ladies. I wouldn’t have thought John Woo to have the eye, but he does. So we get the guys in the seats to see some cool, slo-mo airwalking kicks from Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott, and girls along with them to remember why we liked Cruise so much in the first place. You may remember Dougray Scott from his swoony role in Ever After. Cruise has been in a couple of regrettable films, including Eyes Wide Shut, Days of Thunder, and Losin’ It. We love Tom so much, we let him get away with that haircut decade after decade. Why? Sometimes he can just smile in such a way that we scream “show me the boxers!” and forgive him for his past transgressions.
I digress. Don’t get me wrong, both the films in this franchise are Mission Implausible, but I think John Woo (Face/Off) can work the fantasy-testosterone action with more skill than Bonfire of the Vanities’ (and MI 1) Brian De Palma. And mano-a-mano is just plain less silly, even when stylized, than leaping from a helicopter onto a train while both are traveling in a tunnel. Man, that was insulting! But MI2 is no Silence of the Lambs, despite Anthony Hopkins, version 2.0 (post-Merchant Ivory, pre-Amistad). MI2 is good clean fun, lots of violence and danger and implied sexual situations, a little sneaky-snoo spy stuff, cool camera work, and Tom giving us that look that says, “you love me, don’t you?” We do love you Tom, like that bad boyfriend we keep getting back together with. You’re no good for us, you disappoint us on the big screen sometimes (not in Magnolia!) but it’s fun to watch you run around!
The sad truth of movies like this is simply that they feel they have to top each other, and we end up being excited to death – over-stimulated with no emotional connection, no reason to care, no tension, and so no charge. I really couldn’t tell half the time why people were doing what they were doing but I could tell good guy from bad guy (the hats helped) and that was enough to know that that guy shooting at Tom is someone I should enjoy getting kicked in the face. A scene I thought was the end of the movie (premature climax) was loud and broken glass and yelling and rolling and shooting and I was just utterly uninvolved. This is a shame, because, technically speaking, it was nicely shot. Woo has a lot of glass flying around in his movies – it’s tense (remember the broken glass on the bathroom floor in Die Hard? True, not his movie, but great glass!) and it catches the light and it’s a great symbol of chaos. No one gets a scratch on them, no one has to walk barefoot through it, nothing. Nothing in MI2 was as tense as the hanging from a wire cat burglar scene in the first film, either. Yet again, I was far less confused and insulted by the second film. So, make your own call here.
Lalo Schifrin’s legendary dun-dun-daada dun-dun daada theme to Mission Impossible may well be what has kept this franchise going at all. MI gives us precious few James Bond gadgets to arouse the technophiles, one woman at a time for Ethan Hunt, but WOW! What a theme. They could just crank the theme over a scene of 20 people walking peaceably to the park for a picnic and the scene would be riveting…up to a point. That’s where storytelling is supposed to take up the slack and as of yet, the MI franchise is still lacking there. Still, I’d rather see this than the Joel Schumacher Batman crapchise! It’s not great, but it can be fun.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/25/00
Time in minutes 125
Director john Woo