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Mission: Impossible II (2000)



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While Mission: Impossible II is even less in the spirit of the original television show, at least it does not disgrace its memory. But if you're going to do a feature film under the moniker of a cherished television show that had such a unique and rewarding formula, and you're going to do away with that formula, you ought to have something better to replace it with. Yet Mission: Impossible II is an awkward mismatch of things that don't work together. It owes more to James Bond than Mission: Impossible, which would be all right if the main character, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), were strong enough to connect with.

The first half hour or so of Mission: Impossible II establishes Hunt's relationship with a jewel thief, played by Thandie Newton. Much of the rest of the film depends on the establishment of their mutual involvement with each other, but I never quite believed they cared for each other, or how they possibly could; the first act was too rushed to be convincing.

The second act, with some Bondian spying going on, is more convincing. If only it led up to a payoff. By the time Ethan Hunt starts sneaking around in the Elaborate Badguy Hideout, believability goes out the window. A moment or two of reflection raises countless questions. When Hunt dove off the helicopter, why did he rush to do so before his path was clear? Why was the pilot counting down at all? Why did they have forty seconds to get in when a sensible alarm would have gone off after one? And when did Mission: Impossible become nothing at all about teamwork and everything about Tom Cruise doing mid-air acrobatics? Ah, there I go comparing the movie to the series again. Shame on me.

The rest of the movie consists of Tom Cruise doing a lot of slow motion flips, many of which have no purpose at all. He improvises plans to fool the badguys in ways that require him to carry around equipment that he couldn't possibly have predicted he'd need. A martial arts showdown seems decidedly out of place.

John Woo directs this film, and it owes much to the "terrible beauty" in the way he choreographs and films action scenes. I like many of John Woo's films, but the unfocused story compromises his style. Whose bright idea was it to have John Woo direct a Mission: Impossible film, anyway? Mission: Impossible is about spying, sneaking around, con jobs, and trickery. John Woo is famous for ultra-violent anti-violence, rapid gunfire, stunts, and explosions. The two approaches do not mix well.

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