Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Review: "MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2" is Still on Fire

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 31 of 2023 (No. 1920) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action and some sensuality
WRITERS:  Robert Towne; from a story by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Barga (based upon the television series created by Bruce Geller)
PRODUCERS: Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeffrey L. Kimball (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Steven Kemper and Christian Wagner
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer


Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzija, William Mapother, Dominic Purcell, Nicholas Bell, Kee Chan, Antonio Vargas, and Ving Rhames with Anthony Hopkins

Mission: Impossible 2 is a 2000 action-thriller and espionage film directed by John Woo and starring Tom Cruise.  It is a sequel to the 1996 film, Mission: Impossible, and is based on the American television series, “Mission: Impossible” (CBS, 1966-73), that was created by Bruce Geller.  In Mission: Impossible 2 (also known as M:I-2), Ethan Hunt battles a rogue fellow agent in a bid to obtain a genetically modified virus.

Mission: Impossible 2 opens in a lab at Australia's Biocyte Pharmaceuticals.  There, Dr. Vladimir Nekhorvich (Rade Serbedzija), a bio-genetics scientist, sends a message to his old friend, “Dimitri,” which is the cover name for Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).  Nekhorvich's employer, Biocyte Pharmaceuticals, has forced him to create a biological weapon, which he calls “Chimera,” and a cure for it, which he names “Bellerophon.”  Biocyte's CEO, John C. McCloy (Brendan Gleeson), plans to profit from Bellerophon as cure for Chimera after the virus is released into the unsuspecting world.

Nekhorvich injects himself with Chimera and carries Bellerophon with him and heads to the U.S., where he hopes to meet “Dimitri.”  However, he is intercepted by IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), who is, in some ways, Ethan Hunt's equal and opposite.  Ambrose and his men steal Bellerophon and begin their hunt to obtain Chimera, not knowing that it was inside Nekhorvich.

IMF Mission Commander Swanbeck (Anthony Hopkins) orders Hunt to lead his team – computer hacker, IMF agent Luther Stickwell (Ving Rhames), and helicopter pilot, William “Billy” Baird (John Polson), on a mission to get Chimera before Ambrose does.  Swanbeck also orders Hunt to add to his team a professional thief named Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), who was, until recently, Ambrose's girlfriend.  Can Ethan trust Nyah, or has he gotten to close to her?  And is Ambrose more than a match for Ethan?

I divide the six Mission: Impossible movies into two trilogies.  Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), and Mission: Impossible III (2006) make up the first trilogy.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011),  Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), and Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) form the second trilogy.

That's just my personal thing.  M:I-2 is its own thing.  Directed by Hong Kong auteur, John Woo, the film features the hallmarks of Woo's directorial style, including his “bullet ballet” action sequences, stylized imagery, slow motion action and character drama scenes, Mexican standoffs, and fight sequences that recall the Chinese martial arts sub-genres “wuxia” and “wire-fu.”  However, the film doesn't really kick into high gear with some of Woo's best flourishes until its second half.

The first half of the film focuses on Ethan Hunt's obsession with Nyah Nordoff-Hall, which mirrors Sean Ambrose's obsession with her.  This “love triangle” allows Woo and his screenwriters to build tension between Hunt and Ambrose that explodes with jealousy and rage and eventually leads to a fight to the death.  M:I-2 may be the film in this franchise in which Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt shares the most screen time with other characters, especially Newton's Nyah and Scott's Ambrose.

Anyway, the film really begins to rumble in the second half.  The last half-hour or so is a masterpiece of directing, film editing, cinematography, and stunt coordinators and stuntmen.  My high rating is mainly because of this exhilarating last act, which makes me want to see this movie again.

Tom Cruise was in his late 30s when Mission: Impossible 2 began filming, yet he looks much younger onscreen, about a decade or so (at least to me).  His long hair, that boyish grin, his immature and petulant anger and jealousy would be largely gone 19 months later when his trippy drama, Vanilla Sky (2001), arrived in December 2001.  So for me, Mission: Impossible 2 is a good-bye to the Mission: Impossible film franchise's beginnings.  The series would rapidly begin to morph with the third entry, and boyish Tom Cruise would finally give way to adult Tom Cruise.  At least, I now remember why I loved this film so much 23 years ago, and now, I want to see it again.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

2001 Image Awards (NAACP):  2 nominations: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Ving Rhames) and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Thandie Newton)

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