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The job of the IMF agent
Before he or she needs a coffin
Is mounting impossible missions
For heroes no danger can soften,
Yet lately the best of the bravest
Have been going rogue far too often.

I can’t speak to why these trained agents
Are letting their loyalty lapse,
More focused on garnering riches
Than keeping the world from collapse,
But IMF might try improving
Their benefits package perhaps.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Now for the second Mission: Impossible film, the one that seems to be widely considered the most inferior of the bunch. I can see why. Mission: Impossible II isn’t necessarily awful, but it’s highly inconsistent, only sometimes feeling like an actual M: I installment as opposed to a rip-off of ‘90s James Bond.

In this entry, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise in his thankfully brief long-haired phase) must vie against a rogue IMF agent (Dougray Scott) who aims to steal a deadly bio-engineered virus called Chimera.  I could tell early that this entry would have problems. We first see Ethan free-climbing a high rock formation in the Utah desert, and while it shows off Cruise’s impressive strength for stunts, it also inadvertently echoes that other worst-movie-in-its-series, Star Trek V, which also features Kirk free-climbing in Yosemite. After that, Ethan recruits a thief named Nyah (Thandie Newton) for his team and engages in some awkward scenes of innuendo and seduction that strengthen the James Bond comparison I made earlier and just don’t feel like Mission: Impossible.

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It’s not these faults that drag down M:I 2 the most; that can be summed up in two words: slow motion. I don’t know if this is a trademark of director John Woo or what, but the slow-mo scenes are distractingly frequent, from the long sultry looks exchanged when Ethan first sees Nyah to the mid-action interludes that are thrown in as if to say to the audience, “Look at this! Isn’t it cool?” Sometimes it is admittedly very cool, but there are plenty of other movies that have used slow-mo more judiciously. Except for The Matrix, it’s best when such scenes don’t draw attention to themselves.

I don’t mean to sound like I hated it. Around the midpoint, it does hit its stride with another spy heist that is even more like the one in National Treasure than the first M:I film. And the slow motion aside, the action scenes are still thrilling, while the face mask tactics are even more entertainingly clever, though I’m starting to wonder how those convincing face masks can be applied so quickly.

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There’s extra epicness to the music this time around, and the cast is strong as well, especially the returning uber-competence of Cruise and Ving Rhames and a surprising uncredited role for Anthony Hopkins; plus, I must mention a Lost alert for William Mapother (whose island role was named Ethan, oddly enough) as one of the villain’s henchmen. Despite the world-threatening perils, though, the plot feels strangely shallow, thanks mainly to the short-term chemistry of Thandie Newton, who I don’t believe is in the rest of the sequels. M:I 2 is a good effort, but it ultimately takes the series in a less interesting direction that I sincerely hope the other films will rectify.

Best line: (Mission Commander Swanbeck) “Mr. Hunt, this isn’t mission difficult, it’s mission impossible. ‘Difficult’ should be a walk in the park for you.”


Rank: Honorable Mention


© 2018 S.G. Liput
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