*. Though promoted as M:I – 2, in the title as it appears on screen they use Roman numerals. Why? I don’t know. A touch of class? It’s a movie thing.
*. Brian De Palma out, John Woo in. I’m sure they knew exactly what they were getting from Woo, and they got it. Tom Cruise told Woo that all he wanted was his “style,” so if Mission: Impossible was a De Palma film, and it was, Part II is pure Woo. There are slow motion action scenes. There are people firing two guns at once. There are people jumping through the air firing their gun. There are people jumping through the air firing two guns at once. There are people firing guns out of cars, out of helicopters, off of motorcycles. He even brought his damn pigeons with him. You can’t get any more Woo than that.
*. Whatever happened to John Woo? I guess by this time his routine was wearing thin and, from the evidence, he didn’t have any other tricks up his sleeve. He was a bit of a hot property in action films in the ’90s, but after that things seem to have petered out, at least in Hollywood.
*. I don’t like this movie as much as the first Mission: Impossible, but I don’t blame Woo. The action isn’t bad, in its far-fetched way. If you don’t mind all the rubber face masks being pulled off like people removing a jacket I don’t see any reason to object to the jousting on motorbikes. Or the guys firing two guns at once. I think I’ve mentioned before about how unrealistic this is. Has anyone, ever, in any sort of a tactical situation, fired two pistols at once? What would be the point?
*. The real blame lies elsewhere. The usually reliable Robert Towne mailed it in with the script. In his defence, apparently he was just told to come up with some thread to hang the action sequences on. Even so, the plot, characters, and situations are all generic. Similarities to Notorious were frequently pointed out. The dialogue is awful. I don’t think the villain has one good line. Ethan Hunt has a love interest (Thandie Newton) who is basically just a Bond girl. The bad guy, played by Dougray Scott, is totally forgettable but for his honest expression of thinking with his cock. Hunt has a couple of sidekicks: Ving Rhames, who would stick around for the rest of the series working with computers, and John Polson. who . . . can fly a helicopter? Honestly, why is he even in this movie?
*. Also taking some share of blame is Tom Cruise. I liked him in the first movie, but here he is back playing Tom Cruise. He’s grinning and smirking (to the point where the villain even has to criticize him for it), and tossing about his gorgeous long locks like he’s in a shampoo commercial. He is also, as usual, incapable of providing any romantic chemistry. What is it about this guy that he projects so little sexuality? Antonia Quirke: “Cruise is flavourless, frictionless, a vacuum. His Hunt has no characteristics whatsoever, not even recently divorced or giving up smoking. Trying to grasp him, or even root for him, the mind skitters like a spider in a sink.”
*. Apparently Woo’s first cut ran three-and-a-half hours. I can’t imagine. Did they leave out more things blowing up? More pigeons? As it is, this is a dull movie that just sort of moves from one set-piece scene to the next with very little connecting tissue. Much of it is overblown, even operatic, which is fine as far as the stunts and explosions go but is silly elsewhere. Thandie Newton standing on a cliff just made me roll my eyes. So thanks very much Mr. De Palma and Mr. Woo. You at least delivered as promised. Next up, that hot new kid from television, J. J. Abrams.