Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Unremarkable Sequel: Mission: Impossible 2 Is Entirely Unimpressive

The Good: Adequately performed, Moments of concept/character
The Bad: Absolutely dull protagonists, Painfully predictable, Horrible dialogue, Ridiculous action sequences
The Basics: Playing one trick over and over and over and over again, Mission: Impossible 2 feels like exactly what it is: a cheap sequel.

As a movie reviewer, there are any number of films that I watch based on its newness, potential popularity and the likely interest of my readers. There are, as an unfortunate offshoot of that, movies that I watch then somewhat out of rote; to complete the gaps in a film series I once began or saw later sequels to. When I sat down to Mission: Impossible 2, it was certainly one of those movies; I saw the two most recent sequels and a few months ago, I saw the first film in the series with Tom Cruise. I saw Mission: Impossible 2 as a nice break from going through the James Bond films (I only have the Dalton and Brosnon years left!), but honestly, I did not “miss” the movie when I did not go see it in theaters fourteen years ago.

My initial antipathy toward Mission: Impossible 2 was certainly appropriate; I cannot think of a sequel in recent memory that was less exciting or interesting than Mission: Impossible 2. Mission: Impossible 2 feels like exactly what it is: a blasé sequel that is more designed for the spectacle of Summer Blockbuster Season than a viewing that evaluates substance. From heavily-choreographed car chases to the opening rock climbing scene to generic long-shots of Ethan Hunt standing on an Australian prairie, everything about Mission: Impossible 2 screams “look, don’t think!”

A plane carrying a Russian scientist, Dr. Nekhorvich, and his bag with a deadly genetically-engineered disease (Chimera) and its cure (Bellerophon) crashes after Nekhorvich believes he has met with agent Ethan Hunt (using the alias Dmitri). The real Ethan Hunt’s vacation is interrupted when he is tasked with recruiting the brilliant thief, Nyah Nordoff-Hall for the mission to recover the Chimera virus. Hunt tracks Hall to a swanky villa where she is attempting to steal a necklace that is going to come up for auction days later. Hunt tests Hall and offers her immunity from international prosecution for her many past crimes in exchange for helping him on his mission. After a protracted race, Hall reluctantly agrees and Ethan Hunt gets his mission: Hunt is tasked with getting Hall close to Sean Ambrose, the man who impersonated Hunt on the plane, so they may recover Chimera.

When the Impossible Missions Forces put out a bulletin that Hunt has been imprisoned in Seville, Nyah is rescued by her old beau, Ambrose. Nyah and Hunt’s Impossible Missions team converge on Sydney, Australia, where Ambrose and his team have taken up residence. But Ambrose is not stupid; his deputy, Hugh Stamp, is suspicious of the timing of her return and performs surveillance on her. Using Nyah, Ethan and his team learn just how lethal the Chimera virus is. They track the CEO of Biocyte, who is trying to buy back the virus and its cure. Ambrose has the cure, but not the virus; so Ethan Hunt ends up in the Biocyte facility at the same time as Ambrose, with both attempting to get the virus. In a game of cat and mouse, Hunt works to destroy all of the virus, while Ambrose tries to get the final sample to sell on the black market.

Mission: Impossible 2 lacks iconic scenes and moments that make it into widespread pop culture. The bungey jumping scene in Mission: Impossible 2 has the feeling of being a cheap retread of the scene from Mission: Impossible where Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt does acrobatics that prevent him from touching a pressure-sensitive floor after rappelling into an otherwise secure room. While there are plenty of movies that do not have big moments that make it into the collective consciousness, the fact that Mission: Impossible 2 has nothing that comes close when the first film in the franchise only accents how mundane the movie is.

Fans of spy thrillers will be utterly unsurprised by Mission: Impossible 2. The reversals are telegraphed so far ahead that it is astonishing the writers even bothered with the direction they went. In the Mission: Impossible world, latex masks may be made so precisely that they completely fool intimate inspection. In Mission: Impossible 2, that is established in the first scene and so many characters use that same technology, so when director John Woo continues to use that conceit to “surprise” viewers, it is anything but surprising.

The writing in Mission: Impossible 2 is disappointing in that it attempts to disguise characterization and themes as dialogue in such a clunky way that it makes the viewer wince. When Nyah is rescued by Hunt within the Biocyte facility, there is a particularly horrible line that tries to nail home how the first impression of Nyah is not accurate (or the character has evolved) and it is so inorganic that it feels utterly contrived. Ironically, the character of Nyah is one of the few worthwhile ones in Mission: Impossible 2. I like characters who do not shy away from acts of sacrifice and Nyah rises to the occasion at a key moment, making a somewhat droll film watchable at the very least.

The villains in Mission: Impossible 2 are unfortunately generic. John McCloy is a greedy CEO whose business is built on creating viruses and cures, Hugh Stamp is the ultimate generic psychopath sidekick to the villain. Sean Ambrose is basically a thug who has exceptional knowledge of his adversary, which makes him interesting for about five minutes out of his entire time on screen. The most impressive aspect of Ambrose is his ultimate plan; instead of a diabolical plan to rule to world or kill a lot of people, he wants to make money the way rich people do: executing stock options. He just needs the seed money to buy Biocyte before the Chimera virus makes the stock price skyrocket.

The generic quality of the adversaries mirrors the blandness of the heroes. Ethan Hunt is granted no distinguishing characteristics in Mission: Impossible 2. He is a standard super spy the likes of which has been seen in every James Bond film ever and virtually every other spy film that prioritizes spectacle over reality in its storytelling. Tom Cruise does an adequate job of running, jumping and shooting guns in Mission: Impossible 2, but he and his co-stars are playing archetypes as opposed to actual characters.

Mission: Impossible 2 is a dull way to waste two hours, but it is not a movie that is in any way painful to watch (wincing from the bad dialogue aside). But when the biggest moment of the film is recognizing that Ethan Hunt’s boss is played by Sir Anthony Hopkins (who is not credited as one of the film’s big stars), as opposed to any of the action sequences, it is hard to say one has a spy film that is successful in any way.

For other Mission: Impossible movies, check out my reviews of:
Mission: Impossible
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol


Check out how this movie stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where the films are rated from best to worst!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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