"Mission: Impossible 2" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
In 1996, Tom Cruise starred in a little film called "Mission: Impossible", based off the television series that came out thirty years prior. Not only did it inspire a new generation of spy thrillers to be released in the early 2000's, but it kicked off a massive franchise that is perhaps at its peak now in 2023 more than ever. However, it's a wonder the franchise didn't totally die out after 2000's "Mission: Impossible 2", a film that seems like a total misfire on almost every level because director John Woo and the screenwriters simply didn't understand what made Brian de Palma's film so brilliant.
The film follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise), who is still kicking ass as the lead IMF agent for the United States. His next mission, if he chooses to accept it, is to hunt down former IMF agent Dean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), who has gone rogue and stolen the Chimera Virus, a virus that if got out, can wipe out anyone affected with it. His plan is to sell it to the highest bidder, so they can make an antidote to prevent the spread of Chimera in the human body.
Hunt forms his team, which consists of Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and helicopter pilot Billy Baird (John Polson), while also forced to recruit Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandiwe Newton), who is Ambrose's ex-girlfriend. Her goal is to infiltrate her ex's compound, and find a way to get Hunt and his team into the heavy guarded fortress to retrieve the virus and destroy it.
From the get-go, this film already doesn't feel like its predecessor. The first movie was smart, slick, intelligent, but also possesses the qualities that make a blockbuster so fun and entertaining. This film goes in the opposite direction, it is not trying to be intelligent or slick. It's mainly looking juts to entertain, with a story cheapened by the cheesy antics and one-liners, as well as it lacking the urgency it so desperately needs. We get a car chase on the side of the mountain just so Ethan can get Nyah to fall for him (as well as impressing her), when it's obvious Ethan wouldn't have put himself or another in harm's way just for the hell of it.
I think this simply comes down to Woo not being the right choice for this film. Before this, he has made huge action-blockbusters like "Face/Off", which I think benefits from the over-the-top antics and cheesy characters and story. But for "Mission: Impossible", which de Palma already worked hard to set up as a smart and fun spy thriller that does take itself seriously, it sort of seems like a slap in the face when Woo just throws that all to the wind. Instead, in this movie, we get slo-mo shots of Cruise driving away from an explosion on a motorcycle and of Newton in a sexy manner. While the first one took itself seriously, this one seems like it really didn't care about being something worth of substance.
Of course, the only thing that really saves this film is Cruise and Rhames, who are still fun to watch. I don't think it's either of their faults this movie isn't what it needed to be, and they simply tried their hardest with what they were given. I even quite enjoyed Newton's performance, and I sort of wish we got a better character for her to play. I think she could have been a great asset to the IMF team and to Ethan moving forward, but the film unfortunately used her mainly for eye candy. At the same time, Ambrose isn't that great of a villain; in fact, I don't see why Hunt and his team couldn't have stopped him sooner. Like I mentioned in terms of Newton, this is no fault of Scott, and I feel bad for him having to play this abysmal villain.
I would also say some of the stunts here are decent, at best. None of them blew my mind or had me sitting there in awe, but they were still fun to watch for the most. In fact, I would say that the action sequences might have been the best part about the movie. They took away from the really bad story, and instead had Cruise having fun in his own sort of playground, allowing him to do what he is known for doing in films like this. Even though this is without a doubt the worst "Mission: Impossible" installment, at least the stunts have been good in all of the movies.
Almost every franchise has that one film that is simply just not as good as the others. Thankfully, their second outing in the Mission Impossible franchise is that movie, similar to how the second Daniel Craig Bond film is not as good as the others that were released. Thankfully, like Craig's Bond movies, the filmmakers learned from their mistakes, and have released great installments since then.