There was a time in the mid to late-90s when John Woo could do no wrong, and if you’ve seen Broken Arrow and Face Off you know the lack of wrong to which I speak. I was too young to be following what the world was saying when John Woo was announced to helm Mission Impossible: 2, but according to a friend of mine, people were excited, and compared to the two previously mentioned films, they were let down. (I say this because Face Off is a classic, no matter what anyone says.)
Four years and two days past the release of Mission Impossible, the movie that really ran with all the great concepts of James Bond, MI:2 released. It had been awhile since we had seen Tom Cruise duke it out as Ethan Hunt, but he returned with a sweaty opening montage, featuring the most hilarious hair I’ve ever seen. It was wavy, so wavy. Here’s the skinny: IMF is back. Hunt is kind of in charge, in a way that spies always seem to be. Deadly disease, Chimera, which kills people at a fast pace (< 37 hours). There’s a love interest, Nyah Knordoff-Hall, involved with the antagonist (of course). Everyone’s after these vials of the disease. The hero destroys most of them. Love interest injects the last vial of it. Antidote is only effective within 20 hours, and as expected the hero saves the day with an epic beach fight scene to boot!
Look, it’s a great 90’s action movie at its finest, but please don’t expect a ton if you seek out this movie before Thursday night’s release of the fifth installment in the franchise, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. When the first movie came out, it seemed to change the game a bit, with a great plot twist and all the interesting ways they kept you on the edge of your seat, but only a bit of that carried over to this movie.
In the first movie there’s this great concept introduced where Hunt wears a mask that makes him look like another character, and this voice augmenter that makes him sound like that same guy. In the second movie, they realize how well that went over and use this same bit four more times. I remember the first time watching this movie as a kid, just losing my stuff every time someone pulled off the mask, but as an adult it feels a bit played out by the end. Woo was on top of his game at this point, creatively pushing things forward, and this movie just felt like a bit of a step back.
Apart from some of those gimmicks, the story is pretty good, and seems to hold up well. With Nyah making the huge sacrifice by putting her life on the line instead of Hunt, it shifts some of the expected Tropes in these types of spy thrillers. Her character ends up being more developed than Hunt’s by the end of the movie, as someone who is trying to get out from under a troubled dating past with the antagonist. Tom Cruise is great, as he tends to be, but the hair just kept me laughing the whole time. (Wind everywhere!) If you’re looking for a solid night watching a straight-shooter of an action film, check this out, but if you’re not feeling a bit reminiscent or don’t enjoy a little campy-ness in your action movies, you might want to skip this one. Alas, I love these movies for all their little quirks. Along with other series, like Bourne and Bond, these movies all have their flaws, but still keep me coming back.