Mission: Impossible 2
Directed by John Woo
Written by Robert Towne

Starring Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Dougray Scott


Mission: Impossible 2

"Mission: Impossible 2" is more accurately Movie: Unbearable 1, 2, 3...n, and at first it's hard to figure out why. With a script by Robert Towne ("Chinatown," "Shampoo," "Personal Best," and more), direction by the great Hong Kong action master John Woo, stars like Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, and (uncredited) Anthony Hopkins, what could go wrong?

1. The plot.

This must be a landmark in movie villainy, as the bad guys, in a great if unintentionally hilarious scene, finally reveal what they want:

CEO (tied up and at the point of a gun): What do you want? Our cash?

Chief villain: We don't want your cash!

CEO: What do you want?

Chief villain: What do we want?

CEO: Yes, what do you want?

Chief villain: We want stock!

CEO: Stock?

Chief villain: Stock options, to be more precise.

2. The dialogue.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to Nyah (Thandie Newton): You've got nineteen hours and fifty-eight minutes. Stay alive! I'm not going to lose you!

3. The disguises.

Remember peel-off face masks, where villains and heroes alike put on not only the face but the voice and mannerisms of their opposites? You'll have four chances to like them here, usually when the script has painted itself into a corner and can't get out.

4. The props.

This is a first for John Woo, because he stages a climactic car-and-motorcycle chase that has not one moment of tension in it. Since Woo has proven that he can put tension into anything from a quilting bee to a tortoise race, somebody must have taken the sequence away from him in the editing, and the audience pays the price.

5. The actors.

Cruise still has that killer smile, and he knows how to read a witty line, but someone forgot to write him any. Newton is gorgeous, and does have a couple of decent lines, but that's as far as anything resembling acting goes in the film. If someone in Cruise's organization (he owns the rights) had stopped to think about the films as an ongoing series, they would have focused on giving his character a personality rather than on outdoing the previous film's stunts.

A herd of critics, including me, have trashed the John Travolta film "Battlefield Earth" as an example of a quintessentially stupid, unbelievable, and laughably improbable film, without plot or character. Let us now add "M:I 2" to that group.    

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