The original Mission Impossible directed by Brian De Palma was a huge success, and would naturally get a sequel. Instead of the original director being in charge of it, it’s John Woo who directs this movie. Woo known for his over the top action movies like Broken Arrow and Face/Off, so you can expect the kind of movie that we got with Mission Impossible 2. It’s known by pretty much everyone as being by far the worst in the series and for very good reason. However, the biggest problem with the movie isn’t necessarily that it’s cheesy and stupid, its that it tries to do that while still having a rather dull plot, it’s a rather mixed bag.
From the very beginning you can tell that something is off. By the time we cut to Tom Cruise rock climbing, you begin to notice that this movie seems like it’s very much an 80s movie, whether it be the music, the slow motion, the cheesy dialogue, Tom Cruise wearing sunglasses (it’s not surprise that The Matrix game out the previous year) or Tom Cruise’s hair. In order to enjoy it, you have to know that it’s not really a Mission Impossible movie. Even the ridiculous aspects of the other films are amplified, for example there are at least 4 face mask reveals over the course of the movie with no explanation or showing of characters even creating them. This is very much a standard Tom Cruise action movie, not a Mission Impossible movie. At first one would think “okay, it’s not a Mission Impossible movie or a good movie, but at least it could be an entertaining movie”. However this movie is really dull and has such a mediocre story. On top of that, this movie has so much exposition dumps and ironically it tries way too hard to be serious. While this movie is very over the top with its action scenes, we don’t get many of them until over an hour into the movie, and no that first hour isn’t entertaining or intriguing in the slightest. If this movie was consistently cheesy and over the top at least this movie would work on some way. But here we have a really by the numbers and average action movie that just has some moments of enjoyable ridiculousness.
None of the cast do that great here. Tom Cruise is not Ethan Hunt here. He is trying to play an American James Bond (Brosnan era), it’s actually rather jarring how goofy he is here. He has a lot of charm, says one liners and acts like a playboy. Even the villain notes that he “grins like an idiot every 15 minutes”. While Ethan Hunt in the first Mission Impossible wasn’t particularly deep and had some moments where he was just invincible (the character improved in MI3), he still had some vulnerable moments and wasn’t a James Bond sort of character. For whatever reason that wasn’t present in the second film. Tom Cruise tries his best here though, to his credit he does go all in with whatever he was told to do, he does have genuine charisma and is very dedicated. Also all his stunts are great and he is worth all the praise for it, from rock climbing in Utah to having a knife nearly touch his eye halfway through a very intense fight scene near the end. Thandie Newton is a great actress but here she’s got really nothing to work with and doesn’t leave any kind of impression. The ‘relationship’ between her character and Cruise is so unbelievable and hilarious. Ethan Hunt has the smallest team here out of all the movies, with only 2 people. The first is Ving Rhames who returns as Luther Stickell, having appeared in every Mission Impossible movie, he’s one of the best characters of the series. Unfortunately it seems that all the personality and humour was sucked from him and I have no idea why. Despite this he still fared better than the second team member Bill Baird played by John Polson who was completely forgettable. The villain played by Dougray Scott is really silly, cliché and over the top, and not in an enjoyable way. He’s also really boring and dull, and he gets quite a bit of screentime so when he was on screen he was just kind of annoying. He’s really hard to take seriously and is by far the worst villain in the series. Richard Roxburgh plays another villain but he is a little better than Scott. Brendan Gleeson is in this movie for some reason, he plays such a small role it makes you wonder why he was in there to begin with. Anthony Hopkins is also in this movie in one scene for some reason, he just comes and he goes quickly.
John Woo is the most prominent person in the entire movie, his style is everywhere. There is an awful lots of slow-mo, even in non action scenes, there are people flipping and flying everywhere, and there are doves flying in front of the camera. To Woo’s credit, the action scenes, for as over the top as they are, are pretty good and entertaining for what they are. In the third act, John Woo dials up the craziness to 11 and is filled with explosions, motorcycles, slow-motion, people jousting with motorcycles and jumping in mid air to collide with each other, it’s absolutely wild. The third act is so ridiculously stupid and filled with so many action clichés that it’s actually entertaining, and you stop caring about the dull plot. Also the end fight features some pretty good stunts, in fact the fight scenes are all done pretty well, even if it does feel out of place from other Mission Impossible movies. The CGI is quite bad, and doesn’t really hold up today but its far from being the main problem with the movie. Hans Zimmer’s score is pretty good.
If you plan on watching the Mission Impossible movies, you don’t need to watch this one. There’s not really anything you’re missing. It really has a dull plot with not much of substance, and despite all the entertainment factors, it’s still not enough to make this a completely entertaining movie. With that said, there is some fun to be had with Mission Impossible 2. Tom Cruise despite not being Ethan Hunt here is very dedicated, some of the action is entertaining (especially in the third act) and it features so many silly moments that end up being hilarious. Just don’t treat it as a Mission Impossible movie, be aware that it’s not like the other Mission Impossible movies (and I mean that in a bad way).