So I watched Mission Impossible II…
One of the biggest problems I have with the Mission Impossible franchise, could be counted as one of its biggest strengths – a lack of consistency. Each installment in the franchise has come with a new director and a significant shift in the focus and style of the movie. If I had to describe the Mission Impossible movies in a sentence, I don’t think I could. They’re all so different and lack cohesion. Now as I said, this can be a good thing because Mission Impossible is essentially the American version of James Bond and each movie feeling different illustrates the unstable nature of ever-changing missions.
Okay, basic plot: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back but this time he isn’t trying to clear his name or break into The CIA, this time he’s falling in love with Thandie Newton (I mean, who wouldn’t?) who plays a thief called Nyah Nordoff-Hall. Watch as these two embark on a a rather dull and forced romance that steals focus away from the fact that the two are actually supposed to be preventing the spread of a deadly Influenza virus called Chimera.
I was watching the ‘behind the scenes’ special for this movie and Tom Cruise (who also produced this movie) was explaining how director – Ang Lee – wanted to make a action adventure movie that focused on romance. Why? I don’t know. I feel romance is an inherent part of movies like this either way and there wasn’t really a need to make it the focus. I mean, I came to watch a spy movie and you’re shoving the plot of a romcom – a terrible romcom, at that – down my throat. I love romcoms, don’t get me wrong but if I popped When Harry Met Sally in the dvd player and Harry and Sally go on a killing spree, I’d be a little disappointed.
I would have been more inclined to this movie’s heavy emphasis on romance if it had paid off in later movies in the franchise. Nyah isn’t in Mission Impossible 3 or 4, so what was the point of the devoting the majority of this movie’s runtime to establishing the romance between her and Ethan? I understand that Newton declined to reprise her role as Nyah but then recast or at least mention what happened to the character. I’ve said this before, Mission Impossible is James Bond for America. In all the Bond movies, James falls for the Bond girl, even makes us believe that he loves her but by the time the closing credits start, he’s already moved on to the next mission and the next girl that comes with it. And Bond’s fleeting love for these women is superior to the apparent love that Nyah and Ethan have. So if you’re going to give us a sub-par love story that ends in the same way as a Bond love story, why devote so much time to it. That’s time you could have used for character development or cool action sequences.
This movie also has some pretty dull characters and even duller acting. Dougray Scott who plays Sean Ambrose – the villain in this movie is about as intimidating and menacing as a box full of kittens wrapped in cotton wool. It feels like if he had gotten more screentime or a bigger portion of the script, he could have been a really worthwhile adversary to Ethan but you never feel like he’s going to beat Ethan; you never feel like his plan is going to succeed. He’s a nothing villain and he’s just there because the script called for a villain to be there. He’s completely pointless.
But this movie isn’t all bad. When it gets down to the action and remembers that it’s a spy movie, it’s actually very entertaining. The fight scenes in this movie are superbly choreographed and staged. There’s certain parts of this movie that remind me of Ang Lee’s action hit Face/Off. The action feels very raw and pragmatic.These are two characters who hate each other and want to take each other down by any means possible and that really uplifts the quality of the movie. It’s a shame that these action sequences are separated by gratuitous and unnecessary love scenes. This movie feels like – someone put the engine of a station-wagon in a ferrari – it looks powerful and engaging on the surface but once you look under the hood, you’re left wanting more…much more.
As with a lot of Ang Lee movies, this film has a lot of oddly-placed slow motion, bizzarely scored action sequences and overly dramatic introspective shots with birds that have no place in an action movie. I think I could have been more accepting of this if there wasn’t a terrible love story being forced down my throat. Honestly, I can’t let the fact that this movie wasted so much of its runtime on romance go. But I guess, you need to hit rock-bottom so you can bounce up and the next two movies were definite bounces up.
Overall, this movie is…odd. It’s an action movie desperately trying to be a romantic comedy and it fails in both respects. It doesn’t affect the plot of the next installments in the series so there’s really no need to watch it. 4/10