Mission Impossible Retrospective Part 2


John Woo has been and will always be one of the action directors that I genuflect to. His movies are hyperkinetic extravaganzas with dollops of elegiac poetry (the dove trademark, the slow-motion theatrics, etc.). This is the cardinal reason I was eagerly anticipating this sequel and for what it’s worth, Mission: Impossible 2 is a jaw-dropping, flashy Heroic Bloodshed masterpiece.

The terrorist takeover of the 747 is massively irreverent. When Biocyte engineer Dr. Nekhorvich (Rade Serbedzija) is pummeled in the jugular by “Ethan” and it is revealed to be arch-nemesis Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in a latex mask, it’s a shattering shock-to-the-system. This gimmick is reiterated again later and once again it swiftly pulls out the rug from under the audience.

Of the remixes of Lalo Schifrin’s immortal main theme, Limp Bizkit’s thrashing version might be my favorite. It quickens the pulse immediately once the data-encrypted sunglasses explode. This is first installment to introduce the hair-raising mainstay of Cruise performing his own perilous stunts such as the mountain solo climbing without a safety net below him. While certainly awe-inspiring, the motorcycle finale is a nail-biter with a casually cool Cruise sidling next to his bike at top speed and firing with expert marksmanship via his rearview mirror.

Thandie Newton’s cat burglar, Nyah, is a sultry femme fatale and she can be aptly described as a more adroit Bond girl. Her cat-and-mouse car chase in Seville is coyly hormonal and her erogenous relationship with Ethan is a cue to Hitchcock’s 1946 Notorious. The chemistry between Cruise and Newton is high-wattage and it anchors the film with an impassioned conflict-of-interest when Nyah is inoculated with the Chimera virus.

Chinatown author Robert Towne isn’t a doltish hack in terms of banter and his screenplay for Mission: Impossible 2 is replete with sly witticisms (“This isn’t Mission: Difficult Mr. Hunt. This is Mission: Impossible. Difficult should be a walk in the park for you.”). Due to this reason, I’ve never been craving wanton destruction during the midpoint stretch where Nyah is infiltrating Ambrose’s compound.

It’s a satisfyingly slow-burn build-up to an absolutely propulsive ending where Cruise and Scott leap from their bikes to pulverize each other to near smithereens on a sandy beach dune. For these eclectic positive qualities, I always found this second enterprise to be the excitingly scorching black sheep of the series with dynamism to spare.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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