Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)

Rating: C

Dir: John Woo
Star: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames

I think it’s safe to say Cruise and the other makers wanted to go in a different direction for the sequel. That’s the only reason to explain why they replaced the relatively grounded style of Brian De Palma with the batshit insanity of John Woo. Reportedly, Woo chose not to speak English on the set, which maybe explains why the performances here feel more arduous than last time around, and secondary to the action. On the plus side, the plot is considerably easier to follow, and the excess of the final half-hour is undeniably memorable. On the other hand, not much between that and the opening rock-climbing might stick in your mind. Also: Thandie Newton.

On reading our original review, I winced: surely she couldn’t be that bad, could she? Oh, yes. Yes, she is. If you’re familiar with her mostly from an excellent performance in Westworld, this will probably come as a shock, because she’s terrible here. Her top-shelf thief Nyah Nordoff-Hall is supposed to have both hero Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and villain Sean Ambrose (Scott) falling for her, but there’s nothing there to explain why they would. Nyah’s personality is abrasive, Newton is shot in a way which does her no favours, and after a reasonable enough introduction, the character serves precious little purpose except to act as a human incubator for the bioweapon at the centre of proceedings. I guess she might also help assure the audience Hunt isn’t gay. Just like Cruise isn’t, of course.

The early stages show some promise, setting her up like one of the more independent Bond girls. However, any further development is sidelined, replaced by Hawk and Ambrose tussling over the lethal virus, Chimera, and the antidote for it, Bellerophon. Both items were developed by a company called Biocyte, with the aim of profiting from having the cure for their disease. Ambrose plans to steal  Chimera from Biocyte HQ and release it in Sydney, having previously shorted the company’s stock. Hunt intends to get there first and destroy the virus, leading to what feels like a knock-off of the vault heist from part one. Although this being a John Woo film, with considerably more sliding across the floor, holding a gun in each hand.

Problem is, up until then, there’s very little of note. We get a sequence at a race-course which feels like it runs on for ever without going anywhere in particular, and Sir Anthony Hopkins showing up for a few minutes, to collect a likely sizeable cheque. Outside of checking off Woo’s trademarks – and there is an amusing moment involving Hunt and a white dove – there’s not much to distinguish it from any similarly vacuous Hollywood action film, such as Gone in Sixty Seconds, which followed it at the top of the North American box-office. The longer Woo stayed in Hollywood, the more generic his output became, and the first three-quarters of this definitely continue that unfortunate trend.