When I was an angsty teenager, I used to write reviews with all kinds of foul language. I haven't been tempted to break out the foul language more than writing the review for Mission: Impossible II. I was a junior in high school when this movie came out and I probably thought I was so cool. Maybe I was in my early 20s, who knows? Regardless, this movie is trying so hard to be rebellious. It's PG-13 for just all the gunplay and sexual frustration in the world. There's some language, because this isn't your dad's Mission: Impossible. Wait a minute! My graduating seniors were born in 2000! It literally is your dad's Mission: Impossible. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: John Woo
I'm stealing Jeff Davis's gag. Every time I see John Woo's name on screen, I'm going to hoot "Woo!" It made this movie more fun. It's so funny to think how much movies like The Matrix, Dark City, and Equilibrium affected pop culture. Thank God we didn't stay in this angsty period of film. Can you imagine if every movie was filled with guys with long hair who wore sunglasses and all black. They would just slow-mo every action sequence. Every line delivered would just be saturated with all of the drama. Think about Avengers: Infinity War, but everyone was gun-fuing everything and everything was super duper serious? Man alive, Mission: Impossible II just brought me back guys. While I never really cared for Mission: Impossible II, those other movies seemed to be absolutely genius. I don't even really love the first Matrix movie anymore. But Mission: Impossible II may have caused us all to wake up and smell the teen spirit. There's just too much crap going on in this series. Like, I'm genuinely surprised that there are other movies in this franchise after this garbage.
Okay, I've seen way worse movies. I've even seen way worse movies this year. But as a sequel to a very nuanced spy thriller, Mission: Impossible II just doesn't make a lick of sense. The one thing it gets right --and the only thing that makes this true is a bit of distance --is that it is a wise choice to bring in new directors for each film. My biggest criticisms of Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation is that Christopher McQuarrie copies Brad Bird's direction style too closely. I like that the individual movies in the franchise all seem to stand out with the exception of those two. But John Woo is just way into himself in this movie. Okay, there's a lot that I'm going to complain about and a lot of this begins and ends with John Woo. But I have theories about why this movie ended up the way it did. John Woo is known for his Hong Kong gun-fu films. I've never been insanely into his stuff, but I don't mind The Killer and that kind of stuff. It isn't great, but it is pretty fun. What's really noticeable is that it is remarkably violent. Like, that's the entertaining part. The movies get to be so violent that they blow your mind with how insane these choices really are. Porting Woo to American films, especially film franchises, is silly. Remember, 2000 isn't exactly the era of artistic integrity. This is the height of the contemporary studio system. Indie films were relegated to Miramax and Paramount wanted none of that niche stuff unless it was going to win them an Oscar. John Woo ain't winnin' anyone an Oscar, folks. So they reined him in. They tried to make super-R rated, ultraviolence John Woo appeal to families. They shot for a PG-13 movie when John Woo only kind of works when he's allowed to do whatever he wants to do. Honestly, I was watching the movie and I kept on seeing him trying to copy himself. That's a bummer. It felt like he had nothing original to add because this wasn't his movie. I know that people give John Woo nonsense about doves and fire and slow-mo. He totally does. That is what he does. But the firs two thirds of the movie are an attempt to make a movie that works. The last act is just constant doves and fire. It's such a problem when it comes to balance. I'm going to talk about the first two-thirds of the movie, but completely tonally changing the last act is weird. It's not unique for a movie to pull out all of the stops in the third act, but the third act also feels like these are totally different characters with totally different abilities than have been advertised, with the exception of Ethan Hunt suicidal rock climbing. There is totally a motorcycle doing wire-fu at one point. I watched that shot twice in the third act. The motorcycle floats when it should be flying. There are so many moments where I just kept saying that it was ridiculous. The weird thing is that I don't mind that kind of action sometimes. But the first parts of the movie make Ethan Hunt kind of fallible. The first movie establishes how much he can actually do. But then the final third of the movie makes him a Mary Sue. He can't be touched except by his double. That's ridiculous. SPOILER: Ethan Hunt beats the bad guy by kicking a gun lying in sand. It flies into his hand and he spins around and shoots the bad guy, who just misses because. How am I supposed to root for that? That isn't supposed to work. It can't work. Why would I say that is satisfying? Establish that physics and action don't play by normal rules in the first act and I could kind of get behind it.
The first two thirds of the movie are an okay Mission: Impossible movie. They are still the worst of the group. I can't stress that enough. The plot for the movie is pretty threadbare. When I saw who did the story (not the script), I was disappointed. Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga did the script. Moore was the Battlestar Galactica guy, but when he was working with Braga, it was on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That's one of my favorite shows of all time. I think it took my liking of Star Trek to a love of Star Trek. I do have to blame the screenplay a bit because the dialogue is just atrocious at times. Everything said is the most dramatic thing that could be said. There's nothing fun about this movie because it takes a goofy serious nature to everything. I like that there's comic relief in the other movies. I guess Luther was more comedic in the first one. Well, Luther still has jokes. Those jokes are okay, but they don't contextually fit or even give a bit of background. I know that Luther has money in this one, but his running gag is that he's wearing expensive clothing that gets ruined. Okay, that's mildly funny. But Ethan Hunt is marvelously intense for a lot of this film. There is a hint that this movie could have gotten the tone right and that's right at the beginning when he meets Thandie Newton. There's this playful (but slightly antiquated) section when he's testing out her skills that I enjoyed. For a very small part of this movie, I thought I just misremembered it. Maybe I thought I thought that I confused angstiness for style, because the movie definitely has that late '90s feel to action movies. It has dramatic transitions and that over the top lighting. You know the thing that we make fun of Michael Bay for? Not the explosions or the nearly naked ladies, although it does have that. I'm talking about the tinting of the film. Those bright oranges and deep greens over everything. (Man, The Matrix really did a number on our culture, didn't it?) I suppose that I could handle a decent spy movie with that stylizing. I mean, I like The Rock and that movie has all that nonsense over it. But I want to redirect to why this stylization doesn't work more than normal. You know when a comedy parodies a spy movie? I'm talking about the Austin Powers movies. I'm talking about Johnny English movies. There are so many examples. I forget the name of the Sacha Baron Cohen movie, but that's the one I'm thinking about right now. The actual villain's threat is always really kind of lame. It doesn't need to be deep or nuanced because it ultimately doesn't matter. The plot is a vehicle to tell jokes. Mission: Impossible II's plot is one of these plots. A disease by the name of Chimera is about to be released somewhere in the world and Ethan Hunt is the man to stop it. There are a few monkey wrenches in the plot. There's an antidote. Someone can survive with it for 20 hours. Someone wants to sell it. Okay, but this is pretty standard stuff. This isn't Mission: Impossible. I'm thinking about how contained the first movie's plot is. The result of Ethan failing the first movie is the death of IMF agents. While terrible, it is cemented within the world of Mission: Impossible. The other movies sometimes ignore what Mission: Impossible is about with its main plan, but then come back to it. This could honestly just be a Bond movie. Ethan Hunt is just a stand in for an action spy hero.
There's also the relationship between Hunt and Hall. The first movie only really teases a relationship between Claire and Ethan. It's fine, but you find out that they are sussing each other out for loyalty. It's really interesting what is going on in the first movie. Hunt and Hall fall for each other head over heels (alliteration!) for ultimately no reason outside of sexual attraction. This is James Bond, not Ethan Hunt. It's kind of why I love the third movie. The relationship seems human and honest. This feels like sexuality and violence combined. There's a scene in GoldenEye where Bond races Xenia Onatopp (Onatopp? Onatopp.) that is remarkably dangerous. It's that flirting with violence element that makes absolutely no sense outside of the action movie. Look at Ethan in Part III and how he's not about meeting his match. He's about what they add to each other. Ethan and Nyah are forced into this relationship so he has stakes to deal with when her life is threatened. It takes this powerful, self-actualized, deep character and makes her a princess to be rescued. That's a bad decision. Nyah Hall is super cool. She makes this sacrificial choice, but she is ultimately taken off the board as a character in the third act so Ethan can save her. She could have been this cool character. Honestly, Ilsa Faust (groan!) is the character, only done better. I wanted to like that relationship because I really like Thandie Newton post-Westworld. (Anthony Hopkins in this movie is ultimately a cameo.) I don't know. It just doesn't work.
Did I hate watching it though? No, but it definitely became really groan-worthy. It is a very cringy movie to watch. This is an awful thing to watch, but you really should be able to laugh at this movie. It's still got some action movie chops, but the movie really begs you to just sit back and enjoy. If you use your brain for a half-second, it becomes ruined. Probably the worst thing I could have done was to go into this movie with a critical eye because there's just too much that is wrong. John Woo kind of works because he makes the ultimate popcorn flick for the action addict. He's a talented filmmaker, but Mission: Impossible is supposed to be about smart action. Every time this movie needed to be smart, it just used another facemask. There are so many facemasks in this movie that the following films had to establish new rules that it is actually quite hard to make a facemask, especially in the field. I wouldn't even hate watching this movie again, but there needs to be a social occasion where everyone has low stakes. Regardless, I now own this. Sorry, Lauren. But I got paid for it!
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.