Summer has arrived. “Mission Impossible 2” is the essence of a summer movie: gorgeous stars, sensational stunts, nerve-wracking chases, steamy romance, some “gotcha” plot twists, and lots of explosions. And this time, the story makes sense!
The first one was a huge success, but most viewers thought that the real mission impossible was trying to understand the plot. This time, they make it simple so we can just sit back and enjoy.
Alfred Hitchock used the term “McGuffin” to stand for whatever it was that the hero and heroine were after — the stolen jewels, the secret formula, the Ark of the Covenant, or the map of the hidden treasure. He said it did not matter what it was. All you had to do was establish that it was important, and then get out of the way.
This time, the McGuffin is a secret formula – a monster virus somewhere between the Hong Kong flu and Ebola. And our hero, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has to retrieve it, even though it is really, really hard to get because it has been stolen by one of Hunt’s former colleagues who knows all his tricks. As Hunt’s boss (an unbilled Anthony Hopkins) says, “It’s not Mission Difficult; it’s Mission Impossible.”
As in one of Hitchcock’s best, “Notorious,” the hero has to persuade the heroine to get romantically involved with an ex-flame. Thandie Newton plays Nyah, a brave and beautiful jewel thief who just happens to be the bad guy’s former girlfriend and our hero’s current love interest, providing lots of tense moment and a couple of opportunities for Cruise to show some emotion between karate kicks.
Director John Woo makes the whirl of a flamenco dancer’s skirt, the flutter of birds taking off, and the smoke from an explosion mesmerizing to watch. His trademarks are all here — the hero sliding across the floor in slow motion, firing two guns at once, the balletic combat, the villain’s streak of sadism (just two words of warning: “cigar cutter”), and an engaging willingness to tweak, even spoof, his own conventions. The bad guy (“Ever After’s” Dougray Scott) explains that Hunt will “undoubtedly engage in some acrobatic insanity” to retrieve the virus, and even mocks Cruise’s inimitable grin.
My one quarrel with the movie is that it leaves out the best part of the original “Mission Impossible” concept, back in the days of the TV show, and that was teamwork. It was a lot of fun to see how the special expertise of each of the MI team members was going to come in handy. Ving Rhames returns as the world’s least geeky computer genius, but aside from a couple of great lines, impeccably delivered (“Punk put a hole in my Versace!”), he never gets a chance to show us what he can do. Hunt is more like loner James Bond than he is like MI’s Jim Phelps.
But that’s a small point. It is a terrific thrill ride of a movie, just the way to start the summer. Cruise just keeps getting better, and I can’t wait for MI3.
Parents should know that the movie has intense scenes of peril and a lot of violence and sexual situations (not graphic).
Families who see the movie should talk about the statement by the scientist that “every search for a hero must begin with something every hero needs – a villain.” A corporate CEO applies this in very literal terms of supply and demand. Older kids may want to talk about the controversy over biotechnology and the risks of scientific inquiry. Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy James Bond classics like “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” and “Goldeneye.”