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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II, 2000
Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt, this time battling wits with rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott). Hunt is ordered to recruit Ambrose's former lover, Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton), to infiltrate his hideout. But Hunt never expected to fall for the lovely young thief he must use for bait. The romantic triangle that ensues gives the film a unique emotional balance that is unusual (and most welcome) for an action picture. Ambrose is after the killer Chimera virus and its antidote, Bellerophon.
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There is a serious break in franchise tone here. Less subtlety and more ka-boom. But what can you say, thereís a different style of directors and this is the finest examples of contrast in that column. John Woo is a poetic action film maker. Which makes as much sense an electronic cereal chef. Some things should be left separate.
The Story: Action. There is very little twist in this film. Everything is out in the open and straight forward. Good guys, bad guys and the chick the main character just so happens to be in love with in this episode. Now, is it a horrible story? Not entirely. The idea of manufacturing a virus and a cure to make money in the medical profession is not far off. Itís just not the best format for a spy movie. And thatís where the problem lies. There is very little spying in this movie. I mean, itís there, but itís just as dramatically interesting as buying a toy out of toys R us to bug my friends room.
Acting: Tom Cruise isnít as solid in this film as he was the first. I liked Ethan Hunt when he had short hair and actually seemed to be on the fritz end. This Ethan is a lot more controlled, precise and the majority of the time well on top of his feelings. Last time we had a main character who was jumpy, made mistakes but was clever enough to work his way around them. This time? Not so much. Ving Rhames does his witty hacker thing again. Thereís a bunch of Australians and Scots in here but none of them really steal the show. Even Dougray. His villain just doesnít make me hate him much. As a former IMF agent, I donít really feel like he can best Ethan Hunt from the first time we meet him Ė and thatís kind of important. But I will give them credit for doing their own stunts.
Cinematography: Like I said earlier, John Woo is action poetry Ė and his films have shot design and lighting that convey that. However Ė ľ of the movie is in slow motion. Iím sorry, but in my personal opinion the artistry of martial arts is best conveyed fast in editing and through sound design. Let the moves speak for themselves Ė donít show case it. But, on a plus sideÖI like the color palette.
Production Design: It kind of feels like if the O.C. was turned into an action movie, this is the production design that they would have had. Everything looks brand freaking new. Even the caves and the houses. Fresh as a daisy. Maybe itís just Australia takes great care of their country, but one way or the other Ė for a spy movie, Iíd like to see a little more grit and grime.
Editing: Like I pointed out in the cinematography area Ė Iím somewhat upset at the slow pacing of the action sequences and the post-production design decision to make some shots slow motion when they werenít shot for it. A distinct choppiness occurs during these shots and itís quite amateur to me. But I guess the majority of the film still maintains a solid pacing and structure. Nothing to hate there.
Special Effects: The explosions and fight sequences, while I complain about them Ė Iím really just nitpicking. Theyíre well done and shot practically in camera. No CGI. All of the stunts look believable and hard hitting and realistic. This is the greatest aspect of this movie and really all they were trying to sell Ė action. The film delivers on that promise. Martial arts, explosions and chase scenes. They have it all.
In closing: This is a really great action movie if thatís what youíre looking for. If you wanted a spy thriller like the first film you may be somewhat disappointed. But the man-focus marketing aspects of the film will still make you enjoy it somewhat on a level but as part of a franchise itís a negative departure. I felt the first film worked and a change in format wasnít really necessary. But again, I nitpick on this film.