Film Reviews:

Mission: Impossible II

(John Woo, US, 2000)

Suspension of one's critical faculties is the only way to really enjoy a dumb action movie, and such an approach is required here - in bucket loads. I fully expected John Woo's follow-up to Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible to take the path of 'less-complex plot' and to deliver the action with his usual amount of bravura and indeed this is what he does. If you thought Face/Off was OTT then you'll just love some of the moments in this.

The film suffers from a slow first forty minutes but the opening sequence with Cruise as special agent Ethan Hunt relaxing by rock climbing (what appears to be) thousands of feet above the ground is at the same time astonishing and hilarious. Astonishing because it looks so real - flawless special effects, and hilarious because Woo is at the helm and insists upon having Hunt treat the death-defying climb like a stroll in the park. So we have Cruise casually pushing both legs into a crevasse so he can rest his aching arms by letting them hang by his side, and then blithely skipping from one two-inch ledge across a cavernous gap to another two-inch ledge with the ease that most of us climb stairs.

The eclectic international cast helps, as does the Australian location filming where much of the film is set. But the characters are the standard one-dimensional types we've all seen far too many times before and if the characters aren't going to drive the plot then one has to rely upon the plot itself. Which, as you might expect, is pretty old hat too. British actress Thandie Newton's Nyah Nordolf-Hall (what a name!) does an unconvincing personality U-turn, switching from enterprising thief to damsel in distress without so much as a blink of an eye. The action sequences and special effects are one of the few things about Mission: Impossible 2 that are top-notch, whilst Woo goes pretty overboard, even by his standards, in the cool, slow-mo image stakes. I've never had too much time for Cruise but he is perfectly cast here and Woo makes him look the coolest dude you've seen on screen in a long time (even if the film is dangerously close to a male shampoo advert just once too often). Oh, and thank God for global positioning satellites, because without them hardly any of this film's daffy plot would have been possible.

Rob Dyer

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