In commemoration of the release of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT, I will be reviewing the previous films in the franchise because I’m bored and I need a project in my down time! Besides, it’s a fun way to catch up on movies that I haven’t seen in awhile. So if isn’t obvious, I’m implying that I have indeed seen all of these films before. But I’ve decided to go back in time and lay down my opinion for each and every one of them, with the notable exception of ROGUE NATION, as I already have a review for that one:
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996)
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006)
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (2011)
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (2015)
And now we have the one considered to be the worst of the franchise, and weirdly enough, the one directed by John Woo. What in blazes went wrong here?
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Tom Cruise (AMERICAN MADE , JACK REACHER 2 , and the upcoming TOP GUN: MAVERICK ), Thandie Newton (STAR WARS: SOLO ), Dougray Scott (EVER AFTER ), and Ving Rhames (FATHER FIGURES ). In support, we have Brendan Gleeson (PADDINGTON 2 , LIVE BY NIGHT , IN THE HEART OF THE SEA , STONEHEARST ASYLUM , and the upcoming CAPTAIN MORTEN AND THE SPIDER QUEEN ), Dominic Purcell (BLADE TRINITY  and EQUILIBRIUM ), Richard Roxburgh (HACKSAW RIDGE ), William Mapother (LOST [2004 – 2010]), and Anthony Hopkins (THOR: RAGNAROK , and the upcoming THE POPE ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have the legendary John Woo, known for FACE/OFF (1997) and HARD BOILED (1992). Penning the screenplay is Robert Towne, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of. Composing the score is living legend Hans Zimmer, known for BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), KUNG FU PANDA 3 (2016), and upcoming films WIDOWS (2018) and X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX (2019). The cinematographer is Jeffrey L. Kimball, known for THE EXPENDABLES (2010), TOP GUN (1986), and the upcoming A DOLL’S HOUSE (2018). Finally, the co-editors are Steven Kemper (THE PUNISHER , THE RELIC , and the upcoming THE MEG ) and Christian Wagner (F8 OF THE FURIOUS , and the upcoming Men in Black spin-off).
This is my honest opinion of: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II
Dr. Nekhorvich (Rade Serbedzija) has recently engineered a terrible virus and has injected himself with it, fully intending to use his vaccine for it later. Aboard a plane, he is joined by his old friend, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), but things are not as they seem. Turns out, Ethan was a disguised rogue IMF agent named Seann Ambrose (Dougray Scott), kills Nekhorvich, steals the cure, and causes the plane to crash, going on the hunt for another strain of the Chimera virus to sell on the black market. Ethan is quickly recruited to hunt down Ambrose, despite enjoying his vacation, and is first tasked with recruiting expert thief Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton). They share a passionate romance, but things turn sideways when Ethan is informed by his superior, Commander Swanbeck (Anthony Hopkins), that she was to be recruited because she’s Ambrose’s ex-girlfriend and is the only one who can get near him and report on his activities to Ethan and his crew.
Well, I never thought I’d say this, but this is the ATTACK OF THE CLONES of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a mostly dull and semi-unbearable movie only to be saved by the final half hour.
For me, it’s so true. The movie’s central draw is the romance between Ethan and Nyah, which no one really buys because it’s so forced and quick in the beginning with nearly zero chemistry between the characters. I’m not kidding. Like, their very first interaction of any kind is a long, slow-mo stare through a bonfire. Literally, it’s the “love at first sight” cliché. Then, it’s him catching her in the middle of stealing a necklace, then an awkward “on top, on bottom” tub moment, and basically within the five minutes, they’re bumping uglies and I’d swear to God, he was about to propose. I would have been angrier, but this was paced so damn quickly that by the time my brain processed an emotion, I was on the next scene and I’d forget to be angry or annoyed.
Regardless, because so much of Ethan and Nyah’s motivations are tied to each other’s relationship, which is unbelievably shallow and contrived, you never really care if she lives or dies. It doesn’t help that she has very little development. Give Padmé some credit, despite the fact that she ends up marrying a dude that slaughters Sand People women and children, she at least has a character that we can understand. She wants to fight against those that would try to assassinate her and see her political ideas, which are so close to being ratified, or whatever, and is able to legitimately hold her own in a fight, arguably more capable than her own romantic interest. But Nyah… she’s literally just a chick for Ethan to save. I couldn’t tell you one thing about Nyah, other than… she’s pretty. And British. Which is a huge disservice to Newton, who is an otherwise good actress, and yet she’s relegated to a role that one would find in an 80’s action film. Misogyny, gotta love it. Oh, and don’t get me started on blatantly sexist line from Swanbeck, “To go to bed with a man and lie to him? She’s a woman – she’s got all the training she needs.” Wow… just wow. I may have given the first film crap about dumb mistakes, but this is a face-palm of epic proportions.
Ambrose is also a pretty lame villain, more akin to a child who doesn’t like other kids playing with his toys and in serious need of a spanking, rather than a dude who is essentially an evil version of Ethan. He basically does evil things for no practical reason other than to show the audience that he’s evil. It also doesn’t help that the movie opens on a monologue that says, “Every hero needs a villain.” Screen-writing 101, kids, unless you’re writing an animated comedy or a campy superhero movie, or both, the word “villain” should never be in the dialog. It’s a highly old-fashioned term nowadays where the demand for more complex and morally gray antagonists is higher than ever. The only reason why he’s arguably one of the more memorable villains of the franchise isn’t for positive reasons. It’s because Scott’s acting, whether it’s because he himself is a bad actor, or Woo couldn’t give him direction worth a damn, is so hammy and bad.
And yes, let’s talk about Woo’s style of direction here. Depending on how you look at it, his style either absolutely doesn’t fit, or fits almost too perfectly within Mission: Impossible, especially when you consider how over-the-top awesome the franchise gets later on. Not that I’m any particular expert on Woo’s body of work, as I’ve only seen HARD BOILED (1992) and THE KILLER (1989), but his use of slow-mo in this movie is beyond obnoxious. In fact, there’s really only a handful of moments in the entire movie where I thought it worked: the epic dove flying through the flaming doorway with Ethan walking by, staring at Ambrose with a “f**k you” look, and most of the over-the-top stunts during the motorcycle chase scene in the third act, but even that overstays its welcome during the the climactic fist fight between Ethan and Ambrose. Beyond that, it’s mostly useless. Also, seriously, since when was Ethan a kung fu guy? I mean, he’s kicking and flipping, and shit. He didn’t do that in the last flick, he’s never done it since. Dumb, but entertaining.
But like I said, I highly enjoyed the final act. I mean, you’ve got everything. Dual-wielding guns, explosions, kung fu, slow-mo, just a whole lot of over-the-top nonsense, but big heaping dose of awesome. It’s ridiculous, but I enjoy the final act with absolutely no irony in my tone. Really, the actions are the best parts. It’s everything in between that’s a chore to get through.
By the way, I wanted to share a pointless story, so if you want to skip ahead, just scroll past this paragraph and my review will close out. Also, spoilers ahead. Anyway, boring story. Has anyone heard of the Mandela Effect? It’s the effect when you remember something one way, but in reality, it’s completely different. Like, remembering Curious George had a tail, even though he never did, or remembering Captain Kirk saying “Beam me up, Scottie,” even though he never said it in the show. Anyway, this movie gave me that. In 1996, Sandra Bullock starred in a movie called THE NET.
A remarkably forgettable film with the only exception being that Sandra Bullock looked amazingly hot in a bikini. But for whatever reason, I remember this movie’s climax. Specifically, there’s a bit where Bullock’s character is being pursued by the bad guy of the movie and is hunting her in a dark area. He thinks he sees her and shoots her, but inadvertently kills his female partner. Whenever this memory used to creep up on me, I would remember the bad guy screaming when he realized his foolish mistake. However, I rewatched THE NET some recent years ago, and when this moment came up, I was stunned to realize that the bad guy’s only reaction is saying, “Shit.” To this day, I was convinced that he screamed in an over-the-top way and wondered to myself how the hell I remembered it the way I did. But guess what? This scene does happen, just not in THE NET. It happens in this movie when Ambrose accidentally killed his partner Hugh Stamp (Richard Roxburgh) wearing an Ethan-mask. Some freakin’ how, I mixed these movies up big time and I have no idea how. They were made four years apart, are wildly different movies, with the only thing in common being the bad guy killing the wrong person.
Overall, this was not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. But give it some credit, it’s probably what inspired a perfect mesh of the first film and this one down the line, as the franchise does get over-the-top, like this movie, but with more effort put into the stories and plots, like in the first one. So maybe this is the worst of the franchise, but you gotta appreciate what it ultimately lead to, and you gotta have fun with that insane climax. I can’t say that I would ever rewatch the movie as a whole, but the action’s worth revisiting on Youtube, I’d say. Not written very well, not always the best directed, but hardly the worst thing to come out of Hollywood. I’d say it’s only worth seeing once, just to see what it would later inspire.
My honest rating for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II: a weak 3/5