Movie Review: Mission: Impossible II

Posted: January 29, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,


Mission: Impossible II (2000 Paramount Dir. John Woo)

There’s going to be a lot of sunglasses in this movie. I can tell.

Yes, I know. It’s not a great John Woo movie, it’s not a great action movie, it’s not even a great movie. However, I don’t think that makes it a bad movie. I get really annoyed at this idea that if it isn’t the “Best Thing Eva” then it has to be the “Worst Thing Eva” as a result. About the only thing more annoying is the group think thing that happens to some movies where just because the internet said it was bad, people just fall into line and hate on it. It’s like how everyone today pretends that they always thought the Ewoks were stupid even though they spent the better part of the 80s with an Ewok doll in their backpack and if they’re honest they’ll admit that it was that Wicket doll that really gave them their first kiss. Fanboys are essentially liars. They like to claim they always believed this or that, but in reality their opinions are as fluid and malleable as anyone else’s. I’ve never quite understood why people aren’t allowed to change their views with time, but it seems to be a fact that your views on anything from politics to entertainment must remain carved in stone forever and never deviate one inch. It bugs me.

Damn cheap sunglasses. Wear them for five minutes and they just explode on you.

Yes, there’s a lot wrong with this movie, but it’s not that bad. It gets a lot of flack for not being as good as John Woo’s older movies, and not being as tense as DePalma’s installment. That’s justified flack though. What we actually have here, is a movie that should have been better but wasn’t. Let’s look at why that might be. DePalma’s movie didn’t make as much narrative sense as it should have, but neither do a lot of Hitchcock movies and I’m going to get flamed up the butt just for suggesting there’s anything wrong with old Hitch’s movies. What the first movie did, was create a good atmosphere of tension and drama, even if it was at the expense of sense or logic. Lots of Depalma’s are like that though, so I don’t see why we should start to criticize him for it now.

When he heard he was going to Australia, Cruise got himself some Yahoo Serious hair.

However, why should this be a tense mystery? John Woo was and is an action director. His movies influenced how action movies would be made in the 90s and 00s. He was one of the main proponents of the heroic bloodshed genre of action movie. So this movie was to be more action, less tension, more zip bang and less convoluted plot. Pity it didn’t turn out so well. I think one of the reasons the movie didn’t turn out so hot was due to wanting one little letter to turn into two letters and a number. R was made to become PG-13 in the editing booth, and the movie lost a lot of the weight behind its punch. Of course, rumor has it that Woo’s original cut of the film was 3 and ½ hours, which I can’t help but feel would have made a much worse film. Call me an old stick in the mud, but there isn’t much reason for a movie to go over 2 hours. 90 minutes is good for lighter fair. There are only three or four movies that I know of that really can justify their 3+ hour runtime. In fact, more than half the movies that I’ve seen that are more than 90 minutes could use a harsh hand at the editing station. While it’s not true of all films, most have areas that you could cut without trouble and a lot of the cuts should happen during the scripting phase. Anytime I hear about a movie still being written while it’s being made, I hold my head and prepare for the worst.

Moments of your life are ticking away as we speak.

Well, we’re past the three-paragraph mark and I’ve not talked about the movie at all yet. Let’s not spend too much time wondering why that is. As I said, I actually don’t think this is a horrible movie, I just don’t think it’s a great one. So let’s dig in and see why this movie is derided and why I think it’s at least okay. The movie starts with one of those fake out moments when you’re supposed to think it’s Tom Cruise, only it turns out to be the guy who would have been Wolverine if scheduling on this movie hadn’t forced him to drop that roll. The character isn’t actually interesting enough to learn his name so we won’t bother. Then we cut to Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt doing his best impressing of Capt. Kirk in Star Trek 5. Yup, just like William Shatner, Tom Cruise wanted to do free climbing on screen. The problem being that the Cruisester is just NOT The Shat. When he gets to the top of his rock, without the aide of Xenu or a Vulcan, a helicopter fires a rocket at him. The rocket contains a pair of Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses which Hunt slips on and listens to a recording from his boss. He’s got to go recruit Thandie Newton’s character (named Nyah) to help him in his quest. The action on the plane is silly, but sort of neat. The climbing is sort of neat and the sunglasses briefing is sort of neat. Unfortunately, not much will be neat for a while after this.


This being about 2000, it was when was while the rumors of Tom Cruise being gay were being whispered at their loudest. The problem is that Cruise has absolutely zero chemistry with Thandie Newton. He looks uncomfortable during the intimate scenes, almost scared even. The budding romance between them just doesn’t work for me. This is also a John Woo movie, which means it’s pretty homo-erotic anyway. John Woo’s films have always had more interest in the relationships between men than they ever have had between men and women. It’s like while he was trying to claim he wasn’t gay, Tom Cruise kept picking the gayest things he could think of. So lets skip the recruitment, the seduction and move right onto the so-called plot. A virus has been stolen by Not-Wolverine and it’s up to Ethan Hunt & Co. to get it back… or something. It’s slightly more complicated than that, but not by much. It’s essentially got two McGuffins, a virus and the cure for it.

Another guy just looking in the camera’s direction with sunglasses on. It must be in an attempt to look dramatic or something.

Not-Wolvie’s plan was to steal both, but he only got the cure for the virus. So he needs to get a hold of the virus, so he can create an outbreak, so he can then sell the cure. Hunt is supposed to get the cure and the virus back to his bosses, without letting an outbreak happen. Got it? Okay then. So Hunt gets Nyah arrested as a ploy to find Not-Wolverine, who is hiding out in Australia. We know it’s Australia because in the space of a minute they fly by the Sydney Opera house, fly past some kangaroos and have Ving Rhames walk in sheep droppings. So, yes, defiantly Australia. We’ve got everything people outside Australia know about the place. All we need is someone to hunt a crocodile, drink a can of Fosters, wave around a big knife and we’ll be set.

Yes, he’s shooting behind his back and looking in the mirror to aim. Also, sunglasses!

So we have some plot, which plods along without much going on. It’s always annoying when these action movies try to have a deep and meaningful plot or act like they know how characters should interact. Trying to mix drama and action almost always leads to neither being done very well. What could be a neat, by-the-numbers action/thriller is weighed down by a fairly irritating love triangle that drifts into misogyny more than once and smashes into it head on several times. While someone clearly wanted Nyah to be important to the story, in the end she’s just another object to be fought over. She’s just not very interesting or useful and in the end she just pads out what should have been a tighter movie. Instead of being quick and sharp, it’s slow and mushy. However, there are a couple of action scenes worth watching.

Our hero keep shooting at the car, even when it’s already flipped over and exploded.

After some plot and stuff, which actually includes someone explaining the whole plot to Hunt while lying in a bed, we come to the first big set piece. Hunt breaks into the pharmaceutical company that has the virus on hand, at the same time Not-Wolverine breaks into to get the same. He does this with a similar trapeze act like in the last movie. Instead of being dangled by a Frenchman, this time he’s dangled from a helicopter. It’s silly, and makes only minimal sense, but it is pretty cool. Hunt then breaks in and destroys the most the virus, but is interrupted at the last moment by Not-Wolverine who has come to steal the bug. They stir up such a ruckus that half the security gaurds in the world turn up with sub-machine guns. I always have a problem with plans like these. How do the baddies plan to escape? Are they going to just explain that they’re totally not with the guy who was killing the bugs?

It just occurred to me that a lot of this movie is just people in sunglasses looking at the camera.

Before Hunt can kill the last bug, Nyah shows up with an action scene in tow and injects herself with it. The action scene isn’t allowed to be nearly as cool as it could have been since Paramount decided they wanted a PG-13 rating and as a result, the editing is a little poor on the sequence. You can tell it was the rating chasing that did it because the sequence is cross cut with Ving Rhames in the van being blown up and that bit works while the gunplay doesn’t. I must say though, there is a line during this scene that hits home. Not-Wolverine says that the hardest part about pretending to be Hunt is having to grin like and idiot every fifteen minutes. Just about every fifteen minutes during this movie, I find that he actually is grinning like an idiot over something. He seems to grin like an idiot a lot during this movie.

We’ll play volley-gun! It’s like volley ball, only with a handgun. MY SERVE!

So Hunt runs away from the fight, leaving Nyah in the hands of the baddies. At this point, a race against the clock gets going and it’s pretty much action from here on out. I’d talk about some of the dumber plot points, but none of them really matter because they’re just something to build suspense before the action gets going. Fortunately, action is something John Woo is pretty good at. Even with the PG-13 hanging over out heads and most the action having to take forms other than gun ballet, it’s pretty good. Not great, because Cruise insisted on doing flips and things that make his fights look like Big Time Wrasslin’ but good.

How does one NOT make a buttplug joke with a face like that?

You’ve got three major sequences. Fighting in a storage complex on an island makes up the first section and it’s not so great. The island stuff is more about suspense than action really. The second section is probably the best, that’s where Hunt escapes the island and the bad guys give chase. This includes a decent amount of gun play and car chasing, which are two things I like. Do you ever wonder about the cars that get smashed up and wrecked during these car chases? I do. I always wonder if that’s just some poor guy’s last chance and the car gets smashed up and he can’t afford to get it fixed and ends up jumping off a bridge as a result. Or the truck driver who hits a car load of thugs and can’t come to grips with the fact that he killed four people and descends into a self-destructive spiral of drinking and drugs? Yeah, all the sudden Tom Cruise shooting a gun while doing a front wheel wheelie seems less cool, doesn’t it?

Not pictured: Years of personal agony and therapy stemming from this moment.

Still, the chase is quite cool and goes into some neat stunt work. The problem is, that chase ends and goes into the third section, which is the hand-to-hand combat bit. Hunt and Not-Wolverine engage in some fisticuffs on a beach after one of the most ridiculous mid air slams in history. If you look up M:I 2 and motorcycle jousting, you should be able to find people complaining about it. The whole start of the fight is pretty bad. The fact that it ends with Tom Cruise kicking a gun into the air, flipping, grabbing it as he falls and then shooting the baddie is pretty out there. It’s like the end of the silliest western you’ve ever seen. That doesn’t make it uncool, it makes it silly. Too silly for some, not too silly for me. I don’t even try to take this movie seriously, so it doesn’t matter.

I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to think of something funnier than the fact that he tapped the gun with his shoe and it shot three feet into the air. Can’t do it.

Once the baddie is killed, the movie is over. No, really. There are about two minutes left in the film once Not-Wolvie is shot. Woo never was all that good at endings, preferring to wrap everything up in a look and a sigh. In this case, Hunt and Nyah wander off into the most artificially crowded part I’ve ever seen in my life. John Woo made a few more movies after this, but frankly his personal brand was pretty badly damaged after this film. He did go back home and make the Red Cliff movies though, and after I get a copy of those I’ll let you know how they faired.

Okay, one more shot of him with sunglasses looking at the camera.

Official Score:
15 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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  1. harry georgatos says:

    blame editor stuart baird who was brought in by paramount to cut an hour and half out of the film and make it PG13 rating. I’m still hoping the 3 hour version will find it’s way on blu-ray as I think that number 2 is unjustly maligned. The shoot-out in biocyte is poorly re-edited by Baird and seems like a second-hand job! The scene where Stamp tells Ambrose “Hunt has done McCloy” didn’t make sense as Stamp would not have known at that point that Hunt was in Australia. After some research I found out before that scene where McCloy gets abducted by Ethan in that fake hospital there was a major boat chase sequence where Hunt is chasing Ambrose in Sydney Harbour and that is why Stamp would go on to say “Hunt has done McCloy”. Woo’s reputation took a severe slamming with this badly re-edited version from editor Baird and out of respect to Woo’s reputation it is time the 3 hour original be released in it’s R-rated glory.

    • M.A.M says:

      exactly brother these paramount people should be ashamed & that guy suart baird should be jailed for life.mi2 is my favorite film i wish i could some day before dying meet john woo & tom cruise ill beg them to release an uncut version of this film.

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