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Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Directed by: John Woo
Starring: Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Dougray Scott
Rated: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violent Action and Some Sensuality
Running Time: 2 h 3 m
TMM Score: 1.5 stars out of 5
WEAKNESSES: Cheesiness, Writing, Directing
Ethan Hunt goes to Australia to destroy a super-virus known as Chimera.
Until yesterday, I’d only ever heard about the infamous second outing of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, Minority Report). I’d seen every other entry in the franchise, but somehow I’d always missed seeing number two, and since it had a reputation for being the worst MI movie, I figured I wasn’t missing out on much. However, when we at TMM decided to cover all the Mission Impossible movies, I figured I’d volunteer to watch this one, to finally see John Woo’s biggest bumble. Well, I can honestly say that this entry lives up to its reputation. It’s loud, cheesy, ridiculous, and very stupid. Is it fun? Um… kind of.
SO X-TREME, MAN!
I remember around the early 2000s there was a phase of advertisers constantly using the word X-TREME (or eXtreme, or EX-treem, or a billion other misspellings of the word extreme). This movie comes right from that time period, and honestly, I think John Woo thought that’s exactly what we wanted: something SO XTREME that our faces melt off from the sheer awesomeness of it. John Woo is an alright director; he’s got some fantastic films like The Killer and Hardboiled, and I’d argue Face/Off, though far more ridiculous than even this film, is still a good movie. So what went so wrong here? Lots of things, but I think the biggest problem is its likeness to another popular spy series: Bond. James Bond.
Bond went through an awkward phase during the 90s and early 2000s. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films were hokey and way over the top; every action movie had the mindset that more was more. The two Bond movies that came out before this, The World is Not Enough (1999) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) are both incredibly cheesy, filled with ridiculous gadgets and implausible (or rather impossible) action sequences. This movie looks at the action sequences in those films and says, “Pfft, that’s nothing, look what I can do!” John Woo lingers on things that he thinks look cool, but now, nigh twenty years after MI2’s release, it doesn’t look cool at all. It looks stupid.
They also turn Ethan Hunt into a womanizing schmuck. Why? Ethan Hunt in the first movie wasn’t a sleazy dude. They did this to be more like James Bond, because people like James Bond. This is a stumble-step for this series. The first movie took itself too seriously, the second movie was TOO XTREME, but by the third entry, they’d started to find their ground. Since then, the series has really only gotten better; Ghost Protocol was a blast, and Rogue Nation is a fantastic action flick.
SLOW MO ACTION IS EVEN MORE X-TREME!
Slow motion is used ubiquitously in this movie, to the point where it becomes almost infuriating to watch. The first time we see Ethan he’s climbing a cliff in the middle of nowhere without a harness. The scene lasts for probably three or four minutes, and the entire time, it’s just him climbing and jumping from one rock to another in slow motion. The credits roll underneath this scene, but it feels so completely out of place, dated and cringe-worthy.
Another issue I have with this movie is the way it feels no need to justify the action. There’s a scene near the beginning of the film when Tom Cruise meets Thandie Newton (Solo: A Star Wars Story), and right after they meet they begin a car chase. As they’re racing around this curvy narrow road, barely avoiding falling off cliffs and giving no heed to the innocent bystanders they’re running off the road, they keep laughing and joking as if this is some fun experience. The car chase ends when they both spin around repeatedly (in slow motion, for over thirty seconds), and almost careen off a five hundred foot cliff. Cruise of course saves Thandie, and there are no repercussions for anything that happens.
That’s another issue with this movie too: there are no repercussions at all. Tom Cruise is the Six-Million Dollar Man in this film; he’s utterly invincible. There’s a scene when Cruise and unmemorable bad guy, Thandie’s Evil Boyfriend (Dougray Scott, My Week With Marilyn) speed towards each other on motorcycles, then, at the last moment, they jump off their motorcycles and both cycles explode in midair, hurtling Hunt and Thandie’s Evil Boyfriend off a forty-foot cliff. They survive the fall, then proceed to kick the ever-living daylights out of each other, but neither seems to be in any pain at all. If our protagonist can survive hitting someone at a hundred miles an hour, falling from a forty foot cliff, and still get up and kick the crap out of someone, then how are we supposed to feel any sort of tension? The man is apparently made of adamantium. Cruise and Evil Boyfriend exchange so many kicks that one of my roommates quipped that this film could’ve been called Kick: The Movie.
There are also a lot of slow motion doves in this movie (like, A LOT), and if that doesn’t scream cheesy, I don’t know what does.
When I was starting the review for this movie, I did a smidge of research and found that the original cut for this movie was three hours and fifteen minutes long. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thank God for studio meddling; that would’ve been unbearable. John Woo is a director that I enjoy (sometimes), even though his movies are hokey and ridiculous. With movies like Face/Off and Hardboiled, Woo struck a sweet spot of extreme action and a fun plot. This movie missed the mark by a lot; it’s easily the worst Mission Impossible film. If you miss this, don’t worry; you haven’t missed much.
Like the Mission: Impossible series? So do we! Check out our all of our reviews for Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible 2, Mission: Impossible 3, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, and Mission: Impossible: Fallout.
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