In Which Tom Cruise Appears to Grin Mischievously for 2 Hours Straight.
I had dinner with fellow author Dan Krokos the other night. As usual, dinner with Dan always ends in horror, hangover, and humiliation. This time the horror, as it so often does, came courtesy of Tom Cruise. Dan insisted that Mission Impossible 2 was a good – nay! Great! – movie, and resisted all attempts to talk sense to him. I haven’t seen MI2 since it came out in theaters in 2000. As with just about everything else from 2000, I have very little memory of it. Just a vague sense of the ridiculous, lingering shots of fire and doves and the long-haired version of Tom The Cruise which we have all tried to forget so very hard.
So, being a basically fair and decent human being, I offered to re-watch MI2 and write a little something about it, good or bad. To see if perhaps my memories of it were skewed, if it was a better movie than I remember. To be frank, it’s a little difficult to get past Tom Cruise’s hair. WHY IS IT SO LONG AND GIRLISH?
And, to be honest it isn’t as terrible as I remember. There’s a decent action movie buried in there. It’s just suffering from Attempted Awesome Failure. There are soooo many things in this movie that are just ridiculous. If you take one second to think about aspects of the plot or the action sequences, they start to fall apart, even though the basic premise of the movie isn’t a bad one.
This is a movie, after all, that is guilty of a plethora of style-obsessed sins. Everybody taps at their keyboards when “hacking”! Every action scene has extended slow-motion takes, often repeated as if the film editor had some sort of nervous tic (so we can marvel at teh AWESOMENESS over and over, I suppose)! The ridiculous MI masks that make you look exactly like someone else, right down to sweat level and beard growth, are used so often it’s actually a comic effect by the end. Those masks were super dumb in the series, in the first movie, and forever. This movie uses them as plot points no less than three times. Maybe more. There was some flicker-related epilepsy while watching this movie.
On a larger scale, sense is sacrificed on the altar of AWESOME a few times as well. There’s a scene towards the end when Ethan Hunt has to break into a secure office building in order to destroy the horrible virus. It’s an awful scene, because Woo keeps cutting between the Bad Guy, who is predicting exactly what Hunt will do, and Hunt actually doing it, and it plods. Now, to show that the Bad Guy, a former IMF agent, is smart and knows Hunt well enough to predict his moves isn’t a bad plot idea, but the scene is so badly edited we keep stopping in our tracks for the Bad Guy to tell us what we’re about to see. Jebus.
And then, despite predicting exactly what his enemy will do … the Bad Guy allows him to do it anyway.
And then, when Hunt is attempting to break into the building by diving into an airshaft his teammates are trying to open for him, he dives before they have actually opened the airshaft, for no apparent reason.
And then, once inside, hunt moves with an elephantine slowness while trying to destroy every trace of a horrible virus that could kill everyone in the world. He moves like he’s wading through Jello, which Woo apparently thinks escalates the drama.
And then, in order to get a momentary advantage after being pinned down by the Bad Guys, Hunt sets off several powerful explosions in a laboratory that houses deadly viruses. My god, he just killed us all and we won’t even know it for a few weeks.
This sequence alone should have killed this film series.
The ending, of course, gets a lot of negative attention, but really isn’t the worst thing about the movie. Sure, there’s a lot of unnecessary slow motion. And pigeons, because doves would have been ridiculous somehow. And fire. And motorcycles. And yes, that final kick where Ethan Hunt, like Neo in The Matrix, learns how to manipulate the fundamental laws of physics and somehow kick a gun out of the sand into the air so he can catch it and shoot the Bad Guy a few times.
For that kick alone, John Woo should be mocked wherever he goes. It’s the sort of move little kids make up when playing cops and robbers: Now I kick the gun into the air and catch it!
So: Mission Impossible 2: Not a good movie, but you can see the decent movie it’s hiding under its bloated, awful carcass, I think. Something tells me there’s a good script version 1.0 somewhere, ruined by several layers of AWESOMEING. Which is now a word, for truth.