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Mission: Impossible 2

tn_mi2woozone?MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 was made at a time when the world just wasn’t ready for this particular MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. There needed to be more of a cooling off period after the first one. We needed some time to learn that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequels weren’t gonna be the elegant balance of smart-people thriller and blockbuster spectacle that Brian DePalma introduced in the first one, and also that John Woo was not gonna ever seem like the exact same filmatist who made THE KILLER, or HARD BOILED, or even FACE/OFF, again. Returning to it now it’s even more evident that it’s best appreciated by watching it like we watch other post-Hong-Kong Woo pictures like HARD TARGET, or his TV ones like BLACKJACK or the Once a Thief series. You just try to enjoy it as some Hollywood bullshit that he tried to add some of his particular style to. Here he treats it as an expensive studio movie love story set against a rogue agent trying to get rich off of a man-made disease and its cure.

Tom Cruise (JACK REACHER) returns as Ethan Hunt, who has graduated from IMF support man to lone wolf and is now so awesome that he spends his vacation rock climbing out in the middle of nowhere with no equipment. He doesn’t have his phone on him (it was 2000) so the agency has to send a helicopter to fire a rocket at him containing douchey sunglasses that give him his mission briefing. This is a good idea because the ol’ “this message will self destruct” means he throws a pair of sunglasses at the camera and they explode into the title, and everybody wants to see that.

Like the first one the screenplay is credited to Robert Towne, this time with story by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga (writer/producers from Star Trek: The Next Generation). They came up with another complex web and what not, but this one has shootouts and motorcycle stunts (not at maximum Woo level, but better than some other PG-13 action movies). Hunt’s mission, which it turns out he does choose to accept, starts out charming and ONCE A THIEFy because he has to recruit the beautiful master thief Nyah (Thandie Newton) so he flirtatiously intrudes on her jewel heist at a mansion party. They first make eye contact on opposite sides of some flamenco dancers, a red dress twirling and floating up between them. Before long they’re in a high speed chase on a mountain highway, their convertibles spinning together as they stare into each other’s eyes and the music from the dancing scene comes back. People used to talk about Woo’s “bullet ballet,” and here he explicitly does automobile flamenco.

Nyah ends up dangling off a cliff, he jumps from car to car, pulls her up into his arms, and it cuts to them in bed post-sex. Man, he knocks her off a cliff then knocks her boots! Only Woo would do this kind of heightened action musical romance shit. I respect that.

mp_mi2But things get darker when we find out that the IMF doesn’t want Nyah for her skills, but because she was the rogue agent Ambrose (Dougray Scott)’s girlfriend until 6 months ago and he still has a thing for her. So she gets back with him as a mole in exchange for expunging her rap sheet. Not only is it dangerous, but she immediately has to fuck him. It’s like the agency forced her into prostitution.

Yeah, I’d say she gets treated the poorest of any female in a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, but she arguably accomplishes the most of any of them until Ilsa Faust. I mean, Agent Emmanuelle Beart did some stuff for the team (dress up sexy and squirt poison in a guy’s drink) in the first one, Maggie Q got shit done in 3 and Paula Patton in GHOST PROTOCOL. Nyah gets pushed around and put in danger, but when the shit goes down she’s the one who comes up with a plan to stop the plague: inject the last sample into herself. That way they can’t kill her because they need to sell it. On the negative side she’s gonna have to jump off a cliff pretty soon to stop it from spreading.

Remember that gimmick of the Mission: Impossible pullover masks? This one opens seemingly with Ethan Hunt undercover as a Russian named Dmitri, but it turns out to be Ambrose wearing a mask to be Ethan Hunt as Dmitri (in other words it’s Tom Cruise playing Ambrose playing Hunt playing Dmitri). It’s part of a treacherous deception, not an actual IMF mission, but we also learn that the agency frequently uses the masks to mimic their own agents. According to IMF boss Anthony Hopkins, Ambrose has “doubled” Hunt two or three times. It makes sense – he kinda looks like Hunt. He’s the not-as-good Hunt. He got sent for the jobs Hunt couldn’t be bothered for, and now he loses his girlfriend to Hunt. In a moment that could only happen in a John Woo Mission: Impossible movie he verifies Nyah’s betrayal by meeting her disguised as Hunt – then when he takes the mask off he has tears rolling down his face.

The action goes not 100% into the real Woo Zone, but at least into the Hollywood backlot re-creation of it. There is an enjoyably ridiculous motorcycle chase between the doppelgangers that culminates in a game of chicken where both sides somehow sense that they’re supposed to jump off and tackle each other mid-air. Then it’s a knock down drag out on the beach with frequent cutting to close ups of the waves. Cruise looks small but the choreography makes him seem formidable. Lots of throws and hard slamming against the sand.

I suppose the go-to Woo scene would be the one that actually has pigeons flying in slow motion. A bunch of them. This has a great moment where the music revs up and a silhouette dramatically enters through smoke and you’re thinking “ah ha, Ethan Hunt is here to kick your–” but then you realize oh shit, that’s not Hunt, that’s the other guy dragging Hunt. Nice switcheroo.

And then a little later it’s revealed to be a trick where both of them are wearing masks of the other. Okay, that was Hunt getting the cool entrance there then. Good job.

Whatever you think of this movie, it will always be historically important for going over schedule and forcing Dougray Scott to drop out of X-MEN. We all know and totally agree that BLADE was the first and still best of the modern comic book era, but Americans will never give credit to a black man, let alone a Daywalker, let alone David S. Goyer, so they’ll skip to X-MEN for that honor. And X-MEN is more super hero oriented, so it’s fair to say that its success is what made it possible for Marvel to reposition themselves as a studio and eventually make IRON MAN and launch an empire with one more brilliant casting decision. But I truly believe that X-MEN would not have been a success without the charisma of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and he only got it because Dougray Scott couldn’t do it, because John Woo took so long. So if you liked THE AVENGERS or GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or any of those, send John Woo some flowers.

I think maybe the fatal error that made the movie more cheesy than necessary was Hans Zimmer’s decision to put together a rock band to play alot of the score. It’s kind of a cool idea on paper but I think it makes it play almost as self-parody. The forced coolness levels of Tom Cruise in black leather and shades riding a motorcycle or running (sometimes through fire or doves) in super slow motion, his long hair blowing in the wind, pushes the needle to the absolute limit. Throwing electric guitars on top of that is asking for a meltdown. Note how much the feeling changes when it goes from the opera at the beginning of this clip to the rock ‘n roll:

I think if he went for “classy” instead of “awesome” it would’ve worked alot better, and this one might not even be the joke of the series. Then again, I cannot deny the HARD TARGET style ridiculous fun of all that. So I like this one. And I appreciate a series that’s willing to have different directors and let them transform it into different styles. There oughta be more of that in this world.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 at 9:13 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

47 Responses to “Mission: Impossible 2”

  1. Actually it wasn’t Woo who took so long, it was Kubrick with EYES WIDE SHUT, so they had to start late on this one, which then caused Scott to drop out of X-MEN.

    Anyway, I liked this movie more when I was 18. I wouldn’t even call it “A bad M:I movie, but a good action movie”. It’s just surprisingly boring, for a movie with so many cool stunts and explosions!

    BTW, no mention of the “Grab an evil henchman, gag him and put a mask of yourself on his face, so that his buddies think they are shooting you”-trick, that they lifted from DARKMAN?

  2. This movie is a pretty good litmus test for whether I should bother talking about action movies with someone. Everybody can agree that it is melodramatic, absurd, and often downright laughable. Some people think that’s a bad thing, though.

    If nothing else, it should at least get credit for the invention of Stuntman Cruise. The emphasis on real-deal physicality has set his movies apart from the movies of all of the other stars of his level and I think is the main reason people haven’t gotten tired of him yet. You can think he’s weird and creepy but when he’s doing some crazy shit no other multimillionaire would do, you have to respect him. That all started with his entry into the Woo Zone.

  3. I recently watched this and it is still really lame. I like the action scenes but not much else. My biggest complaint is that how all these people get fooled by fake Ethan Hunt when Dougray Scott is 5 inches taller than Tom Cruise.

  4. This is still my favorite Mission: Impossible. I love the entire movie, especially for it being a shameless remake of NOTORIOUS, but once they get to the obligatory M:I heist, it’s just about the best thing ever.

  5. I’ve always wondered just how much Dougray Scott really resents this movie.

    I actually think he would’ve made the better Wolverine too. Such a shame.

    As for M:I 2 it’s one of those “it is what it is” movies. I think it’s the least offensive sequel to the original with it’s followup being the most offensive and I think it’s a good enough movie to watch when you’re downing some cold ones on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It’s ok in my book.

  6. I remember when my cousin and I walked out of it he goes to me “That’s Tom Cruise’s version of a JCVD movie” that is such an accurate way of describing it now that I think about it especially since like the “JCVD riding on a bike with firey explosions going off in the background” movie it also takes place in The Woo Zone.

  7. Holy hell, am I really gonna be the person defending a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequel? Man. Sign of the times, people, sign of the times.

    Ok then… I like this movie. It’s stupid as hell but I can’t agree that it’s “lame”. Although parts of it definitely are.

    Parts such as Dougray Scott. Now, for those of you wanting to know what the big deal with this guy was, I would recommend you check out TWIN TOWN, which was filmed in my home town (you can actually see the house I used to live in at one point), in which Scott plays a frankly terrifying character – an incompetent psychopathic corrupt policeman who has no clue just how dumb he is. He’s a thug with a badge and delusions of grandeur, constantly thinking he’s got some grand scheme, when the reality is his own cluelessness leads him into worse and worse situations; and his way to get out of them is, because he’s a psychopath, to become more and more violent. He’s scary-good in that role.

    In MI:2, on the other hand… he just has nothing to work with. He’s just a generic bad guy dealing with trust issues with the woman closest to him. (So is Lane from MI:5, but Lane has at least a couple of good moments – his last appearance in particular. Scott’s bad guy has none.) Honestly, in what I’d say is the most memorable scene that this villain has, he’s not even played by Scott (the villain is wearing a Tom Cruise mask at the time, so it’s Cruise actually playing him).

    So the main villain is lame (I kinda like Richard Roxburgh in this, but he isn’t given much to do either); what does the film have going for it to compensate? Well, excellent cinematography and a bombastic soundtrack, for one. Yeah, it’s ultra-cheesy, but it kinda fits the movie.

    It also features a memorable, albeit short, turn by Anthony Hopkins, who plays the manipulative IMF director using enough of the same mannerisms as he once used when playing Hannibal Lecter that it becomes noticeable. Let’s just say his performance here is a lot closer to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS than to THOR 2: THE DARK WORLD. There’s some enjoyment to be had from that.

    And I’ve never understood the hate Thandie Newton got for this movie. I think her arc is fine and gives her moments to shine, and I had no problems whatsoever with her character. The lesson being, if you’re going to do the “mole in the villain’s camp” subplot, don’t make it the basis of two thirds of the movie.

    Hunt has a team of other people as well… that is all I have to say about them. (I can’t remember a single thing Ving Rhames does in this movie, and I’ve watched it at least twice.) If you liked the Hunt-Benjy dynamic in MI:5 (and I did), you’re not going to find an equivalent in MI:2.

    I’ve (justifiably) accused this series of protagonist character-deterioration before. And while this is certainly true of MI:2 every bit as much as MI:3, MI:4 and MI:5, I think it matters less in MI:2. Because this is a film whose crowning moment is a slow-motion shot of Tom Cruise’s hair waving in the wind while doves fly off behind him. MI:3, MI:4 and MI:5 want to be taken seriously as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies. MI:2 clearly does not. It hadn’t reached the point of that the later sequels had is what I’m saying. I think the producers thought MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was “too confusing” and MI:2 was “too dumb”, so the following movies were what they settled on (“average”). I think MI:2 is an impressive spectacle, nothing more, nothing less. It’s not an impressive movie, or even a good one. It looks good, sounds good (albeit in an incredibly cheesy way), and has some impressive action (it’s still John Woo). I can enjoy it on its own dumb terms without any hangups regarding its predecessor. I can look at MI:2 in the same way as people who aren’t bothered about the series like I am can look at it.

    And looking at it that way – as a dumb John Woo Hollywood-era flick, rather than a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequel – I find it enjoyable. Yeah, it’s dumb, the villain is lame, and there are lots of problems with it. But I don’t think it’s as bad or as boring as it’s given credit for at times. At least it wasn’t to me.

  8. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 9th, 2015 at 10:59 am

    I actually have a real soft spot for the score of this one, cheesy and melodramatic though it may be. At least it’s memorable and it adds something to the film, unlike 95% of modern movie scores which offer nothing but generic audio wallpaper. I particularly enjoy the “Injection” track and yes, the bit you linked to, with the opera stuff going into “awesome” rock mode. You know what, I’m going to take those quotation marks off. Awesome is exactly what it is, and although the action that follows is hardly Woo’s best, the music gives it that little extra oomph to make it more entertaining than it would have been.

  9. Super happy you reviewed this one Vern.
    Mr. Majestyk is on point with the comment about Cruise as stuntman. Good observation.
    I like this movie a lot. For me it’s the most endearing corner of the Woo Zone because I just can’t see anyone else communicating pure sincerity with the same ingredients. I mean, Tom Cruise flips around into a Christ-on-a-crucifix-type pose while rock climbing. There’s almost a word for word lift of the scene from Last of the Mohicans where Daniel Day-Lewis jumps into the waterfall, complete with Tom jumping out of a skyscraper. But the scale of the movie is such that it resists being judged by a so-bad-it’s-good criteria. There’s something weird about that.

  10. Glad to know there are a few people who still find this profoundly stupid movie charming. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but I remember it fairly fondly as a delightful mix of the actual cool and the hilariously ridiculous. I tend to prefer that mix to the blander, less out-there later MISSION IMPOSSIBLES. The older I get, the less interested I am in genre movies which want to be dignified and self-conscious. Look, just on a conceptual level this stuff is already dumb. Stop pretending it’s anything else and have some fun with it.

    Just, uh, don’t put Limp Bizket on the soundtrack. That might be a mistake.

  11. Fun fact: before this film, Tom Cruise had never fired a gun onscreen.

  12. I had read there was quite a bit of conflict in post production with this film. In the end they brought in Stuart Baird to help edit it to the producers liking (he even has a special thank you credit).

    Did you ever see the Bootleg Directors Assembly for Hard Target? I always thought that was a better cut of the film. I don’t know how long Woo’s original cut was for MI:2 or what exactly was toned down/taken out (although there are portions of an extra Hopkins scene which show up in the trailer), but given how Hard Target turned out I like to think it was a bit more badass than what we ultimately ended up with.

  13. Bellerophon used to be the name of a cool Greek mythology hero, but now I have a Pavlovian instant hatred for the word.

  14. One thing I think this film really blows is the heist scene. Nothing physically memorable, and it looks like they shot it in a laser tag facility.

    Philosophically this is a weird film. If I remember correctly, there’s a line repeated like 3 times, “In order to create my hero, Bellerophon, I first needed a villain, Chimera.” Something like that. I guess that kind of binary shit is pretty standard Woo, but if you map that statement onto his Christianity you’d get a pretty funny comment about the relationship between God and Evil.

  15. AnimalRamirez1976

    September 9th, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    “Actually it wasn’t Woo who took so long, it was Kubrick with EYES WIDE SHUT, so they had to start late on this one, which then caused Scott to drop out of X-MEN.”

    Kubrick, man. Not only is he playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers, he is playing chess FROM THE GRAVE.

    The two guys flying off the motorcycles was a huge meme around the turn of the century, almost up there with Bullet Time from The Matrix. Guess it didn’t stand the test of time, however.

    Like all the MI movies, the boring villain is a huge minus for me. But I remember getting a reasonable amount of enjoyment out of this film.

  16. Paul, everything you describe about the movie backs up my statement of the film being lame. In my mind, you actually agree with me and that I’ll take it. :)

  17. I know it’s shallow as hell, but I just can’t get over Cruises hair in this movie. It’s… so fucking bad.

  18. I liked the first Mission Impossible and loved John Woo’s movies even the American ones like Face/Off so I was excited for this movie. When I saw it however I thought it was just okay. Part of it was that they borrowed the plot from a much better movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS, which a lot of critics at the time noted. Tom Cruise could be a modern Cary Grant, but Thandie Newton, as pretty as she is, was no Ingrid Bergman.

  19. Sternshein – well it’s definitely not very good. I’ll give ya that!

    Ben – no need to apologise. So much emphasis is put on that hair that I can absolutely understand it being a point of contention. I can’t remember if there’s any “Wash and Go” product placement in this film (like in EVOLUTION for example) but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  20. Also AdmiralRamirez – did you seriously just quote Lindy Booth in CRY WOLF? Or is the “checkers / chess” thing from somewhere else and CRY WOLF just ripped it off? ‘Cause I’m kinda surprised anybody else has even heard of that film, let alone seen it. (I think that might be one of the few examples of a product where the marketing campaign – a version of the “mafia” game using the film’s characters – was way more entertaining than the film it was based on.)

  21. Thandie Newtons character goes from strong independent woman to lose her personality because she meets Prince Charming Ethan Hunt. All of a sudden she now gives herself up to be dependent of the male. Romantic garbage. But I guess it is Woos old fashioned view of chivalry that perfectly fits Hollywood like a glove.

  22. I can appreciate the movie as an operatic, poetic piece of work. But some stuff is kind of questionable or lame. The face-mask deal at the end with the switcharoo was just embarrassingly predictable. Which is the greatest sin in a movie that borrows the MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE name. i revisited the first four movies lately and can only agree with Paul. The first is by far the best. I did like part 5 a lot.

  23. Shoot, regarding Newton – it didn’t occur to me before, but yeah, I can see that. I guess I thought she was partially redeemed by her act of self-sacrifice near the end.

    Also I’m sure I’ve mentioned the CRY WOLF thing before. Apologies if I’m repeating myself again.

    Also, apologies if I’m repeating myself again.

    (Geddit? Oh never mind.)

  24. You ever notice how some movies from the year 2000 have this odd swagger about them? As if American culture was saying “fuck yeah mother fuckers, the new millennium is here! let’s do this!”

    SCARY MOVIE is like that, CHARLIE’S ANGELS is like that, even GLADIATOR to a degree, but MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 is the purest, most concentrated example of that I can think of, I mean just look at Tom Cruise wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses riding a motorcycle, it’s so stereotypically “cool” that it seems like self parody and yet the movie thinks it’s awesome and why not? it was the year 2000 and the rules of what this century was going to be had not been written yet.

  25. I always thought the makers knew MI:2 was borderline parody anyways. If you’ve seen Ben Stillers MTV parody it’s obvious Cruise understood it.

  26. “You ever notice how some movies from the year 2000 have this odd swagger about them? As if American culture was saying “fuck yeah mother fuckers, the new millennium is here! let’s do this!”

    And the year before 1999 was all about the ennui of working in an office.

  27. I always find it trippy whenever I see Lawrence post because I think it’s me posting and then I realize I use my last name here and not my first name.

  28. @Sternshein
    I always think I use my last name on here and can’t find where my last post was to keep reading from.

  29. The biggest problem with this one, outside of the boring hour in the middle, is that the PG-13 rating ruins the flow of Woo’s action. They keep having to cut around actually showing the bullet impacts, and his style of action (clear staging, crosscutsing between fast shots and slomo impacts) really loses a lot of impact when you don’t get that violent punctuation. I”m almost certain there’s a really badass version of this on the cutting room floor somewhere, but as it is, it feels compromised as fuck

  30. @Griff. Yeah, I noticed the pumped-upness of the 2000 releases back then, especially with this one. Early-millennium optimism. After the stellar year movies had in 1999, there was a sense that the sky was the limit, hence the liberal adoption of bullet time in Scary Movie and Charlie’s Angels, the rapturous response to Gladiator (Oscars and everything), and the slightly misplaced sure-footedness of the Wooified M:I franchise after the low-key first instalment.

  31. Arnold’s THE SIXTH DAY is also another interesting time capsule of “early-millennium optimism”, like the fact that his character is supposed to be a veteran of the “rain forest wars”, the thought that America would go to war to save the rain forest is about the most blindly optimistic thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

    Plus the whole theme of cloning and how people thought that was the wave of the future at the time post Dolly the sheep.

  32. I worked on this movie when I was in my early 20’s and I was so excited to be a part of it. Then I saw it in the theater opening night and I was so embarrassed to be a part of it. It is easily the worst Mission: Impossible movie, and sadly, that includes my portion of it.

    Here is some behind the scenes trivia for you folks. The original cut of the movie went into the titles straight from the airplane crashing into the mountain. I loved that — the second movie in a spy franchise starting with a reveal that the person we thought was the hero was just a bad guy in a mask is totally “From Russia With Love,” and going into the titles after that sequence ended completed the reference, in my mind. But Tom Cruise disliked the idea of the movie beginning before his [real] character was introduced, and forced John Woo to re-edit it so the title sequence comes like 15 minutes into the movie. Very awkward and interferes with the rhythm of the story, if you ask me.

  33. Yeah, I would have liked that better if the credits came after the explosions.. Interesting stuff. What did you do on the movie, if you don´t mind me asking?

  34. Poeface a.k.a. Poeny Starks

    September 12th, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Shoot, Sue Denim could be an acronym for second unit director. Maybe they can’t disclose for certain reasons? Or I’m just over-speculating, which is probly the case..

  35. You could be right. It might be for national security reasons that we might not know what happened during the shoot of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2. I don´t think the public is ready yet for that information.

  36. Blitzkrieg – I thought the same thing – that Cruise hadn’t fired a gun onscreen until this movie, but I’m pretty sure he did in Born on the Fourth of July and Taps (still haven’t seen Taps though). Still, it’s remarkable that it took him this long in his career to get into traditional action-hero mode (i.e. shooting and fighting guys, as opposed to Top Gun/Days of Thunder-style action)

    I just remember this movie as being both boring and lame, and a huge disappointment since I was one of those typical high-schoolers obsessed with Woo, but that youtube clip makes it look kind of amazing. I may have to give it another try.

  37. He fires off like a thousand rounds from an M-60 in TAPS–it’s the entire climax of the movie–so I’m not sure where this rumor got started.

  38. Well I just gave this one a rewatch to see how it held up as dumb entertainment, and man, was it disappointing. Sternshein, you can now count me as a recent convert to your camp. I no longer like this one.

    What really struck me about it this time out is just how much all the characters talk and act alike. The finale is basically a confrontation between a bunch of identically-dressed brown-haired men wearing sunglasses. At times I was genuinely confused as to which one was Hunt (a total lack of staging or geographic setup didn’t help). And until the very end it’s almost impossible to tell which of the guys chasing Hunt is Dougray Scott’s character. There’s a “main” henchman who doesn’t do much talking but who keeps getting shown as one of Scott’s right-hand men, and I don’t have a clue when or how this guy ended up dead. At one point Hunt and pursuers are driving through what appears to be an upmarket Australian suburb, and it looks as though Hunt is firing at random civilian vehicles. It’s that confusing.

    Oh yeah, and put this down as yet another example of why gratuitous slow-motion shots are evil. I remember most of them punctuating ridiculous flying Capoeira kicks that Hunt was throwing, and I have no problem whatsoever with slow-motion used to punctuate this kind of stuff. And there’s definitely an aspect of this, but mostly it’s just there for very little reason and – yet again – just slows the film down. Again, not as bad as THE ONE, but still pretty bad.

    I think my tolerance for stupidly cheesy action sequences has gone down, which feels like a bad thing. THE ONE was torturous, and MI:2 wasn’t much better. I think the best part of it, by far, is the heist at the beginning when Cruise’s character recruits Newton’s. When these two are playing off one another, the film feels like it has some pace, some energy. One thing I think I got right before was Dougray Scott’s character, but it’s not just the performance that doesn’t hit the mark; honestly I think everything to do with him brings the film down.

    And I didn’t even recall the bit with the doves correctly! The slow-motion hair thing is in a whole other shot. In the bit with the doves, Hunt is wearing a hat. So basically I was confusing what are actually two less-good shots for one great one. So that sucked. And then it hit me: that slow-motion shot of Hunt grinning at the camera – that’s Blade putting on his sunglasses in slow motion, or Django giving that stupid hateable shit-eating grin at the fucking camera that just puts a lid on how fucking awful the last quarter of that fucking film is. (Yeah, I still haven’t quite forgiven Tarantino for the last part of DJANGO UNCHAINED. Especially after everything up until the moment the white guys are killed off is so bloody good.) It’s a fucking “awesome shot”.

    Reminder of what I hate about “awesome shots”… If you take a character who’s normally not awesome, for example giving the nerdy hacker character an assault rifle that’s almost as big as she is, and have her framed in the headlamps of the van belonging to the terrorist she’s just single-handedly taken out, it works perfectly. ‘Cause that character can use a single moment of awesome. If, on the other hand, you apply it to a character who was a stoic badass motherfucker to begin with, make him strike a dumbshit pose while putting on sunglasses in slow-motion or something… it’s just going to make him look ridiculous. Hell, the exact moment that Blade became a cartoon in BLADE 2 can be seen in that one shot.

    And why did this not bother me more about MI:2? Well, because Hunt is so un-charismatic in this film that the “awesome shot” rule doesn’t really apply. It doesn’t make the badass character look ridiculous if the character wasn’t convincing as a badass to begin with. This might be the least charismatic or animated performance that I’ve ever seen from Cruise, at least as far as the scenes following the recruitment at the start go.

    And I think I’m with Vern on the scoring too. At the beginning of the movie, it’s great; but the cheesy fake-sounding rock music at the end is way too much. Hell, MI:5’s most striking visual image, by a very wide margin, was Tom Cruise diving headfirst into a giant anus; and that seemed like a model of restraint compared to some of the action shots in MI:2. (On a side-note, why has nobody made an animated .gif of that anus-dive yet? I feel like somebody needs to do this, to restore balance to the world or something. It could be accompanied by some witty quip about closets or Scientology or bouncing on sofas during talk shows or something.)

    Oh, and I’d forgotten the Australian guy who’s Hunt’s fourth team-mate in the movie. This character’s portrayal in the movie could be summarised in two words: “Annoying Australian”. (This isn’t just my opinion – the other characters in the movie also find him annoying. I think we, the audience, are supposed to find this funny. I didn’t.)

    So anyway, MI:2 is not as good as MI:1 (shocker), MI:4, or MI:5. It’s not unlike MI:5 in that it’s consistently good for the first act, then goes downhill. And unlike MI:5, it doesn’t have the occasional great moment to redeem it afterwards, nor does it have Benjy, or Ilsa Faust (if they’re your thing). Yeah, I enjoyed MI:5 quite a bit more than MI:2. That’s just sad.

  39. Well I for one like this movie quite a bit, but it’s all wrapped up in childhood nostalgia so I can’t guarantee my objectivity here. The theatrical Woo-iness really speaks to me. The motorcycle chase at the end rules, and the fist fight on the beach is pretty great in my opinion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to replicate the “kick the sand under an object and catch it and spin and shoot” move Cruise does. Tough little maneuver.

    I also like what other people have noted about early-millenium swagger in movies at that time. I wonder if we could pinpoint an exact date when that ended…

  40. The thing I remember hating about this movie was that at the end, Thandie Newton decided to commit suicide and was going to walk off the cliff, and then they kept cutting to her walking to the edge of the cliff as-slowly-as-possible and then Cruise frantically trying to get to her before she jumped off. But they did it over and over and over. It was interminable.

  41. Haaaaaaaaans – that’s what I thought too, until I re-watched it. Take some advice from me: keep your fond memories of this movie and don’t try rewatching it to see if it holds up.

    Except maybe the first thirty minutes or so. They’re still great. Everything after that… not so much.

  42. Logically , the whole millennium optimism would have ended with 9/11 2001. I remember Bruce Willis stated at the time he would never do action movies again. For a time I was convinced that tragic event was the death knell of action cinema.

  43. That attitude strikes me as incredibly hypocritical. America has been bombing the ever-loving shit out of whomever it feels like for decades while simultaneously making films extolling the aesthetic and moral pleasures of righteous destruction, but the second it happens on our home turf the joke’s not funny anymore. We can dish it out but we can’t take it. I’m glad we got over that shit right quick and realized that not every fireball is a 9-11 reference. Shit blew up before the World Trade. Lots more shit blew up after. Let’s not pretend we have the monopoly.

  44. Shoot, to be clear, I was talking about Bruce’s attitude, not yours. It was understandable if you to fear for the future of action cinema.

  45. I remember that! Suddenly all of Hollywood was like “Oh noes, terrorism is real! We can’t do action movies anymore and make from now on only G-rated family fare!” There even were roundtable discussions with directors and producers. about how what Hollywood should do next!

    During that time only Arnie (whose COLLATERAL DAMAGE was in danger of never getting released after 9/11) had the guts to state the obvious and said in an interview: “Nah, give them a few weeks and the movies will be as violent as ever.” (paraphrased) And of course he was right.

    Also at that time the Blues Brothers were on weekend update and held a seriously racist speech. Definitely not a good time.

  46. The early millennium optimism certainly ended with 9/11, except not necessarily 100%, the last vestiges of American culture of the late 90’s/pre-9/11 00’s did not fully go away until the 2008 recession, I think a lot of people throughout most of the 00’s had the hope that things would return to “normal” after a while but by 2008 the writing was on the wall that things had changed for good, there was no going back to where we were in the 90’s, we had dropped the ball on this whole “new millennium” thing.

    Now flash forward to the 2010s, everyone is angry all the time, everyone is discontent, almost no one has much hope for the future anymore, it’s in a big way pretty miserable times we live in, at least in my opinion.

  47. Maybe I’m a bit harsh on the 2010s, but there’s no denying there’s a lot of anger and discontent going around.

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