Despite being released in 2000, this film couldn’t be any more ‘90s if it tried. It’s John Woo in the director’s chair and suddenly the first film, in the comparatively safe hands of Brian De Palma, starts to feel like a long time ago.
Falling somewhere between a faux-sequel to Face/Off and a rip-off of the style of The Matrix, Mission: Impossible 2 is really the only duffer of the series. The Matrix might have been influenced greatly by the Hong Kong cinema of John Woo, but here he shows his hand in Hollywood, and he’s only got a pair of twos.
Even the great Robert Towne (again) can’t save the screenplay, which feels like it’s been defecated out of a Hollywood script-meeting. It’s all style over substance. The cinematography is tacky, Tom Cruise’s hair is tacky, the dialogue is tacky, the plot is tacky, the editing is tacky, the action sequences are tacky, and those gratuitous slow-mo shots? Tacky!
What should also be tacky is Hans Zimmer’s flamenco stuff on the score, but I quite like it. It’s almost as good as Michael Kamen’s work on the Lethal Weapons, Die Hards and License To Kill, and in general Zimmer’s score belongs in a better film. My only gripe is that he leans a little too heavily into the fabled Mission: Impossible Theme. Danny Elfman’s score for the first film held this back and dropped it at just the right moment.
Speaking of Tom Cruise’s cringe-worthy haircut, I wonder if there’s any correlation between the floppiness of his hair and the critical flops in his career around the turn of the century? This film might have done okay financially, but it was a critical disaster, and you have that other floppy-haired turkey, Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, around this time too. The only role that bucks the trend is in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, but it seems a bit of a stretch to call that a Tom Cruise film.
The opening credit sequence follows on from those of the first film, and start to look a little like what the Marvel and DC film idents have become. We’re introduced to Mad Russian Doctor, who’s being chaperoned by the Cruiser. Only it’s not the Cruiser, it’s bad guy Dougray Scott in a Thomas Cruise Mapother IV mask (available at all good Scientologist souvenir shops). Woo leans a bit too heavily on these masked ruses, and you have to wonder whether that’s what attracted him to the film inn the first place, having stretching the concept beyond all elasticity in 1997’s Face/Off.
We’re introduced to diamond-thief Thandie Newton, who looks about 8-years old, and you have to wonder if any child-labour laws are being violated. The short scene in the bathtub, and the whole start of Newton and Cruise’s relationship feel a little too close to the Clooney / Lopez dynamic in Out Of Sight. At this point, you have to wonder whether Woo and Towne actually brought anything original to this project, or just took beats from Hollywood’s Greatest Hits of the prior five years.
It’s nice to see William Mapother in the cast as one of the henchman. Forever linked to the role of Ethan in TV’s Lost, this marks the third collaboration with his cousin Tom, and it wouldn’t be the last. For some reason (nepotism?) he’s even credited as a ‘special consultant’ on the film. I was just happy to see the famous Mapother nose on screen again, on such a weirdly striking face.
The motorbike stuff at the end of the film is just as ludicrous as the helicopter sequence in the first film, and it’s arrived at tenuously: a couple of henchman appear out of nowhere, on a small island, on motorbikes, and it makes no fucking sense. These are then requisitioned by Cruise and Scott for their final battle. It’s bonkers.
In summary, as sequels go this really is a stinky number two. John Woo personifies the directing style of ‘more is less’, making Michael Bay look subtle in comparison. He nearly ruins the film by turning Ethan Hunt into an acrobatic superhero. Tom Cruise should be commended for rescuing the franchise from such a blunder (with a little help from J. J. Abrams and Brad Bird).
Hit: Mission: Impossible Theme
Hidden Gem: Nyah (Film Version) – Hans Zimmer featuring Heitor Pereira