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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Rade Sherbedgia, Ving Rhames
Director: John Woo
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: November 7, 2000

Film ****

When Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible was released to theaters more than four years ago, I had discovered a possible successful substitute for the James Bond series. Don’t get me wrong, I still admire Bond on all accounts, but there was something distinctive about the style, plotting, and execution of M: I that felt strangely new to me, while at the same time entertaining me at a high energy level. That film, with superstar Tom Cruise at the helm, went on to be one of the highest grossing movies of 1996, so it was clear that a sequel had to be in the works. Three years had past, and when I heard that the sequel was being directed by no less than John Woo, I immediately flipped. Plus, when word got around that Mr. Cruise was going to be doing all of his own stunts in the film, I flipped again. The result was a sequel that I found not only greater than the original, but one of this year’s best entertainment packages, and truly illustrating that Cruise’s agent is the James Bond for the new millennium.

Cruise returns as super agent Ethan Hunt, who as the movie opens is seen dangling from a cliff on his supposed vacation, which is soon interrupted when IMF needs him for a new assignment. A renegade agent named Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) has hijacked a deadly virus known as Chimera, which he intends on unleashing upon the world, unless a heavy ransom is paid. Hunt enlists the help of the beautiful Naya Hall (Thandie Newton), who had a relationship with Ambrose. Hunt does fall in love with Naya, as is the case for every suave secret agent, though his primary goal is to use her to resume her love affair with Ambrose in order to find out his next move. This is a story element that strangely resembles that of Hitchcock’s Notorious. It’s a tough and complicated task, but Naya eventually agrees, in exchange for the wiping out of her criminal record, and because she is in love with Ethan. And so the mission begins, this time around in the land down under; Sydney, Australia to be precise.

Other than Hunt, the only other character returning from the first Mission: Impossible is computer hacker extraordinaire Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). Hunt’s other agent included in the assignment is aussie Billy Baird (John Polson), who’s good with a helicopter. Their techniques definitely do come in handy when helping Ethan break into a laboratory, in a sequence that mercilessly tries to outdo the CIA vault break-in from the first movie, and for providing a heavy dosage of back up during the film’s action-packed climax, which ranks among the greatest action sequences I’ve ever seen.

One surprising element that M:I-2 harbors is the level of character development. Here, Woo gives the audience time to invest in the characters, much like he did with his previous masterpiece Face/Off. By giving that kind of maneuver, when the action does roll around, it becomes more intense because you care about the characters, even though M:I-2 is clearly eye candy, but brilliantly done. Dougray Scott, who you might recall as the Prince in Ever After, makes a totally credible villain. He has a remarkable menacing presence that I felt just by glancing at his face. Thandie Newton is a beauty, indeed, and is perfect for the somewhat damsel-in-distress role.

The idea behind the Chimera virus is intriguing. Once someone is exposed to the virus, they then have twenty-four hours to be cured. If not, numerous cells will begin to deteriorate, and your face will certainly looked like a flattened cherry pie. This element is played off very well in the film’s dynamite climatic showdown between Ethan, Ambrose, and Naya.

It all leads to a climatic showdown that includes a chase sequence involving dueling motorcycles, between Hunt and Ambrose. That chase ends in a most expected manner, which is one of Woo’s finest moments as a director. Once the chase ends, Hunt and Ambrose engage in a knockout fight sequence that should no doubt be recognized at next year’s MTV Movie Awards for the Best Fight. Woo’s choreography, and Cruise’s unbelievable execution blend together to make brilliant perfect popcorn entertainment.

I loved the first M:I movie, but this one exceeds its predecessor in a way that I have never seen a sequel do. Watching Cruise performing his own footwork, and witnessing all the glorious feasts of action before my eyes from one of the world’s greatest action movie directors was definitely worth all the hype, which is hard to believe with most big movie releases these days.

Video ****

Your mission is to be blown away by the awesome video transfer that has been provided by the folks at Paramount. This very much ranks among their best transfers ever. Where as the first Mission: Impossible movie was not anamorphically enhanced, M: I-2 is. The picture is 100% crisp, clear and sharp throughout the entire viewing. Not a single inch of grain in sight.

Audio ****

As ferocious as the kind of action that you find in a John Woo movie, the audio quality on M: I-2 is about the same, and then some. Even in non-action scenes, the musical score is heard with a masterful presence in the 5.1 Dolby Digital. A quick tip: when the action finale kicks in, turn your system up as loud as you can. You will not regret it, fellow reader!!

Features ****

Paramount had initially intended to make this release their most loaded disc to date, and they have made their most brilliant use for extras for any of their releases. To start off with, there are 3 featurettes, including individual looks at 11 different stunt sequences, a commentary from John Woo, a very entertaining music video by Metallica for their song “I Disappear”, from the M: I-2 soundtrack, an alternate title sequence, and to top it all off, a parody skit called “Mission: Improbable”, which was featured at this year’s MTV Movie Awards, featuring Ben Stiller as Mr. Cruise’s stuntman, Tom Crooze. This hilarious skit also features Cruise and Woo, and it’s very funny to watch the two spoof themselves, as well as Stiller’s Cruise impression. To those who have seen the movie already, when you pop the disc in, go directly to this feature. It is that funny!!!

Summary:

Although I know a lot of people aren’t going to rate this movie at the level I have, but I truly find Mission: Impossible 2 to be one of the best sequels ever made. It’s a movie that is bound to entertain and surprise you with its raw action, and this disc is truly a keeper, which makes the movie even better.