Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Director: John Woo
Starring: Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, and Dougray Scott

If Mission: Impossible 2 were a person, it would be that person who sits beside you on the bus when there are plenty of other seats available to them. Being specific, this is a film that seems to set out to annoy, despite the fact that it doesn’t really appear to be doing anything wrong.

The plot:
Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has been offered a new mission. A new strain of virus entitled ‘Chimera’, and anti-virus entitled ‘Bellerophon’, has been stolen by one Sean Ambrose (Scott), a man who once served as Hunts rival in the service. With the help of professional thief Nyah (Newton), Hunt must track down Ambrose and retrieve the virus before he puts it to more sinister use.

Did you just read that plot? All right, I’m about to reveal a spoiler. There are NO spoilers in this film! Where the first film revelled in its intricacies and convoluted plot, M:I 2 seems to rocket in the opposite direction, offering the most ridiculously simplistic plot possible that could involve explosions and guns. It is almost as if John Woo looked at a check list for a stereotypical spy movie, and ticked each box while in the process of directing.

First of all, every single character, bar none, is a stereotype. Ethan Hunt is a spy in the first film and he has a lot of wit, sense and athletic ability. Here, however, he is basically Batman. And not in a good way. The film is desperate to remind the audience that Hunt is a ‘badass’. Cue an introduction of Hunt climbing a mountain in the desert. Without a harness. Taking ridiculously stupid risks that any self-respecting mountaineer would never even consider unless feeling completely suicidal. Coupled with this, Hunt is now far less charming and far more irritating with his cocky attitude. He has several moments where he may as well be winking at the camera, and his dialogue is cringeworthy. A prime example:

Hunt: Would it make you feel better if I said I didn’t want you to do this?
Nyah: Yes.
Hunt: *yelling* Then feel better!

Unbelievably, his opponent, Sean Ambrose, manages to somehow come off as worse. He is the most typical evil villain one could hope for, accentuating his character traits in a way that makes them ridiculous and, ergo, boring. He has the watery eyes, the half smirk, even the slightly twitchy eye. There is nothing interesting about his character, nothing which makes you stop and think, “Hang on, his argument could be justified.” If you took Dr. Evil from Austin Powers and subtracted his comic relief, this sorry husk is what you’d be left with.

Nyah, the love interest, could be argued to be acceptable. She hands in a decent enough performance, as plain as that may be. Her only function appears to be to standing around and looking sexy which, to her credit, she does well enough. It’s frustrating, however, that she doesn’t have some kind of relevance, possibly a double cross or something up her sleeve. She is very simply the damsel in distress, and nothing more. The two spy assistants Hunt hires manage to be the most boring supporting cast seen in recent years on cinema. The only person who comes out of the entire film looking in any way good is Anthony Hopkins, who has a minor role as Mission Commander Swanbeck and adds his own little touch to it.

If you are looking for a spy thriller, you’re looking in the wrong place. This is a film made up of so many second-hand ideas that you’ve actually seen it all before. A few car chases, several notches above ridiculous. A couple of fight scenes that centre entirely on spectacle rather than emotion or necessity. Even the ‘twists’ of the film can be seen long before they are coming, and have a tendency to rely on the face mask trick, which was already slightly overused in the first film. All of this adds up to a very safe and standard spy movie that IMPOSSIBLY (eh? eh?) manages to delicately balance ridicule with boredom throughout.

Overall:
A very sorry attempt to follow-up on a great blockbuster film. It takes the fun and somewhat ridiculous nature of the first film and cranks it up several notches too high. It doesn’t try to be clever, so at the very least, it doesn’t come off as pretentious. What you have here is a perfectly straightforward, over simplified spy movie that indulges far too much on action and not enough intelligence. A stain on the Mission: Impossible franchise.

Rating: 2/10

“Mr. Hunt, this isn’t mission difficult, it’s mission impossible. “Difficult” should be a walk in the park for you.” – Mission Commander Swanbeck

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • This is the first film that Metallica ever agreed to write a song for. Shortly before they composed their St. Anger album. The Noughties were not a good decade for Metallica.
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