Rewind Reviews – Mission: Impossible 2 – Slow-motion thrills

Posted on 16 June 2020
By Andrew Siddall
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The Mission: Impossible movie franchise has gone from strength to strength since it began in 1996, but in 2000, the series hit a slight bump. In this Rewind Review, we take a look at the weakest of the series, Mission: Impossible II.

Ethan Hunt is back in a new mission that sees him teaming up with a thief called Nyah Hall, as he attempts to stop a renegade agent from releasing a new viral terror, called Chimera, on an unsuspecting world.

Tom Cruise (Rain Man) makes his return as Ethan Hunt, a role that has defined his career. Ethan feels cheekier and more carefree than usual, with a few new tricks up his sleeve too. He’s more physically active this time around, flipping about wielding dual pistols. There are some odd choices taken for what Ethan can do, especially when looking at the whole franchise. He’s still good, and Cruise does an excellent job.

Making her one and only appearance is Thandie Newton (Westworld) as Nyah Hall. Thandie is a brilliant actress and a good choice for the role, but Nyah feels more like a plot device than an actual character. She feels underutilised, with most of her development focused on her romance with Ethan. Perhaps if she was treated similar to Ilsa from MI – Rogue Nation (2015), with her allegiances being questioned, she could have been better.

Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) returns as Luther Stickell, the only other person to appear in all of the films. Rhames is great in the role, and it’s been great to see his and Ethan’s friendship develop over the franchise. He’s good in this film and, like Ethan, is more physically active, helping out more during the missions rather than just staying behind a computer and working with tech.

On villain duties is Dougray Scott (Deep Impact). He plays Sean Ambrose, a disavowed I.M.F. agent who goes rogue and steals the virus. Scott is okay in the role. He’s creepy and certainly has a sinister look in his eye. The character though is not so good. There isn’t much to him to make him much of a challenge for the team, aside from one scene where he shows how well he knows Hunt’s methods.

The supporting cast is as impressive as ever, with people like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzija, John Polson and Richard Roxburgh all making an appearance.

The story for MI2 is much simpler than before, with Ethan sent to recover a virus from Ambrose. The story is certainly interesting with some good twists along the way, and it helps separate this film from the rest. However, the emotional investment just isn’t there.

The movie takes a lot of inspiration from other franchises, such as 007. There are even scenes directly from GoldenEye (1995), such as the car chase. It does feel at times that the filmmakers wanted Ethan to be like Bond, or at least make him feel like Bond, which doesn’t really work.

Under the direction of John Woo (Face/Off), the action scenes in this movie are loads of fun. They feel much bigger than before and feature more variety, from a brutal scrap on a beach to a high-speed motorbike chase. The scenes are edited oddly however, with one too many cuts, zooms and slow-motion shots, which can drag out the scenes a bit too long.

MI2 also came out not too long after The Matrix (1999), which featured a lot of heavily stylised action sequences. This film does borrow some elements from that, such as costumes and the increased use of slow-motion scenes. It worked well for The Matrix, but feels is too excessive here, even though some shots are, admittedly, cool.

There’s also a bigger focus on a romantic story this time around. And while this is an interesting direction to take, the pace is quite sudden and feels like it was inserted to just up the runtime. Unlike the plot for Mission: Impossible III, the love story just feels unnecessarily placed to up the stakes, which the movie already has lots of.

One aspect that separates the Mission franchise from other action series, are the stunts. This is the one where people started to take notice, with a breath-taking introduction for Ethan as he scales the side of a mountain without wires. The stunts throughout are great and done well, but sometimes the editing can be a little distracting.

Of course, there are a few scenes that utilise special effects, and for the most part they look fine. They aren’t distracting and fit well into the film.

Lending his talents to the music this time is Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight), who has created a very different sound. The music is nothing like Zimmer’s usual scores, nor is it like any of the other Mission films. It’s much more rock than orchestral, and it works really well and sounds awesome.

Overall, this is the weakest entry to the MI franchise, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. The acting is fine and the action is fun with a rocking soundtrack. This isn’t essential viewing, but fans of the franchise will want to give this a look.

Purple Revolver rating: 3/5. “The Impossible Mission”