Mission: Impossible II

USA/Germany 2000

Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir

Synopsis

Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

The present. Dr Nekhorvich is flying from Australia to Atlanta carrying Chimera, a man-made virus, and its antidote known as Bellerophon. Sean Ambrose, a renegade agent from the Impossible Missions Force, steals Nekhorvich's briefcase, then escapes. IMF agent Ethan Hunt is instructed to recover the stolen virus. In Seville, he recruits Nyah, Ambrose's ex-lover, to help him. Ethan and Nyah fall in love.

Nyah agrees to return to Ambrose in Australia to pass on information to Ethan. Realising that all he stole from Nekhorvich was Bellerophon, Ambrose attempts to sell the antidote to McCloy, a pharmaceutical tycoon who owns the only supplies of Chimera. Ambrose becomes suspicious of Nyah. Ethan breaks into McCloy's Sydney headquarters to destroy the last of the Chimera. Ambrose anticipates this and corners Ethan, holding Nyah hostage. Nyah injects herself with the last syringe of Chimera. Ambrose must keep her alive to hold on to the virus, but she will die if not injected with Bellerophon within 20 hours. Ethan and Ambrose both escape a shootout in McCloy's building. Ambrose plans to take over McCloy's company, use Nyah to start a Chimera epidemic in Sydney and profit from selling Bellerophon to the afflicted. Ethan breaks into Ambrose's island compound and escapes with Bellerophon. Ambrose pursues him; Ethan kills him in hand-to-hand combat, finds Nyah before she kills herself and injects her with the remedy.

Review

During one of Mission: Impossible II's typically elaborate action sequences, someone at the back of the Manhattan theatre where I saw the film called out: "These guys have been watching too much Matrix." I don't know whether the heckler was ignorant of the historical relationship between John Woo and the Wachowski brothers, or was making an ironic wisecrack about the confusing state of contemporary Hollywood action cinema. It's a telling remark either way. To paraphrase what Manohla Dargis wrote about Face/Off (S&S September 1997), as Woo's sensibility has conquered Hollywood, so Hollywood's sensibility has seemed to conquer him.

By any reasonable measure Mission: Impossible II is a successful action-adventure film, and even a casual fan of Woo's work will recognise his trademark flourishes: slow-motion firearm callisthenics, overblown emotion and enough motor-vehicle eroticism to make J. G. Ballard blush. There are also a few of the surpassingly beautiful moments only he can provide, when something enormous seems to stir in the lives of apparently superficial characters. There's a meditative, almost mystical sequence as Nyah approaches Ambrose's waterfront compound outside Sydney - as ever, Woo lovingly fetishises the lifestyles of the evil rich - that ranks with anything in his Hong Kong movies. Thandie Newton strides up the pier in slow motion, her olive features and raven hair framed by the preternatural blue of Sydney harbour. Dougray Scott meets her with a purposeful gleam in his eye, and as the scarf around her neck is about to slip away, he reaches out and catches it. You can argue that this is clich├ęd symbolism - Beauty captured by the Beast - but at least it's wonderfully executed.

But viewed in the context of Woo's other films, Mission: Impossible II looks like a muddy, compromised film. The director seems hemmed in by his star, by a lacklustre script and by a franchise that has abandoned its Cold War origins for generic action-adventure formula. If our waggish friend in the back row contends that this is not quite as good a Woo film as The Matrix, one could retort that it's no worse a Bond film than The World Is Not Enough. Our hero favours the casual look and motorbike leathers rather than immaculately pressed dinner jackets, but the lovely girl, the smooth-operator villain and the tangled, unconvincing doomsday plot are all in place.

Tom Cruise as agent Ethan certainly comes off as a game, athletic performer (or at least his stunt double does), but his disarmingly low-key acting style is most effective when he's given time to steep in the role. His early scenes with Newton have the appealing tenderness of two inscrutable characters who have found each other, and their giddy seduction ritual, a Porsche-vs-Audi motor race through the Spanish mountains, provides the film's sexiest thrills. But as Mission: Impossible II shifts its focus to Ethan's battle with Ambrose, Cruise increasingly seems like a good-natured guy going through the motions. Similarly, while Woo makes good use of Dougray Scott's handsome visage as a design element, Ambrose is never more than a collection of villainous mannerisms; neither of these actors is capable of the meaty excess Nicolas Cage and John Travolta brought to Face/Off.

Like all Woo films, Mission: Impossible II concludes with an extended action sequence of almost hallucinatory intensity. The finale - where Cruise and Scott face each other alone - is probably enough to ensure that mass audiences will go home sated. But Woo's fans may see the climax as an almost desperate litany of images and ideas downloaded from his earlier films. Is he trying to convince himself, or us, that he is still capable of things his imitators - almost everyone working in action cinema - are not? Or did his western admirers, snobbishly seduced by the subtitles, exotic locations and seemingly antiquated moral codes of his Hong Kong films, see something in John Woo that was never there?

Credits

Director
John Woo
Producers
Tom Cruise
Paula Wagner
Screenplay
Robert Towne
Story
Ronald D. Moore
Brannon Braga
Based on the TV series created by
Bruce Geller
Director of Photography
Jeffrey L. Kimball
Editors
Christian Wagner
Steven Kemper
Production Designer
Tom Sanders
Music
Hans Zimmer
©MFP Munich Film Partners GmbH Co. MI 2 Productions KG
Production Companies
Paramount Pictures presents a Cruise/Wagner production in association with MFP Munich Film Partners GmbH Co. MI 2 Productions KG
Executive Producers
Terence Chang
Paul Hitchcock
Associate Producer
Michael Doven
Executive in Charge of Production
US Crew:
Jonathan Sanger
Production Supervisor
Susan Towner
Production Co-ordinators
Australia:
Silla Childs
Paula Jensen
Australian Crew:
Megan Worthy
US Crew:
Zita Mazzola
2nd Unit Australia:
Lil Heyman
Unit Production Managers
Kevin De La Noy
Australia:
Anne Bruning
2nd Unit Australia:
Deuel Droogan
Unit Managers
Australian Crew:
Will Matthews
2nd Unit Australia:
Wil Milne
US Crew Supervising Location Manager
David Israel
Location Managers
Australian Crew:
Robin Clifton
US Crew:
Brad Bemis
2nd Unit Director
Billy Burton
Assistant Directors
Arthur Anderson
Joan Cunningham
Australian Crew:
Guy Campbell
Julian Ryan
Fiona Winning
Paul Sullivan
Sophy Robertson
US Crew:
Randol Perelman-Taylor
2nd Unit Australia:
Albert Cho
Bob Donaldson
Simon Warnock
David Arnold
Jamie Platt
Claire Richardson
Jo Pearce
Script Supervisors
Kristin Voumard
US Crew:
Alex Kreuzwieser
Judy Townsend
2nd Unit Australia:
Judy Whitehead
Casting
Deborah Aquila
Greg Apps
Sarah Halley Finn
Associate:
Barbara Fiorentino
Australian:
Prototype Casting
Voice:
Barbara Harris
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Gary Capo
US Splinter Crew Director of Photography
Fleming Olsen
Aerial Director of Photography
Phil Pastuhov
Camera Operators
Greg Lundsgaard
Australian Crew:
Brad Shield
Marc Spicer
US Crew:
Michael St. Hilaire
2nd Unit Australia:
Calum McFarlane
Ian Thorburn
Darrin Keough
Steadicam Operators
Greg Lundsgaard
Australian Crew:
Brad Shield
Visual Effects Supervisor
Richard Yuricich
Visual Effects
MVFX
Double Negative
Cinesite
Cinesite - Los Angeles
Digiscope
Digital Visual Effects
Computer Film Company
Digital Visual Effects/Animation
Cinesite (Europe)
Pacific Date Images
Digital Film Service
Cinesite
Digital Matte Paintings
MatteWorld Digital
Computer Graphics/ Animation
Bionic Digital
Special Effects Supervisor
US Crew:
David Kelsey
Conceptual Model Maker
Australian Crew:
Lewis Morley
Model Making Supervisor
Australian Crew:
Tom Davies
Miniatures Creation/ Photography
The Magic Camera Company
Miniatures Creation
David B. Sharp Productions, Inc
Graphic Artist
Australian Crew:
Karen Harborow
Additional Editors
Tony Ciccone
Eric Strand
Supervising Art Director
Dan Dorrance
Art Directors
Australian Crew:
Nathan Crowley
Michelle McGahey
US Crew:
Kevin Kavanaugh
2nd Unit Australia:
Mark Dawson
US Crew Set Designer
Thomas F. Betts
Set Decorators
Australian Crew:
Kerrie Brown
US Crew:
Lauri Gaffin
Draftspeople
Australian Crew:
Godric Cole
Edward Cotton
Peter Milton
Louise Rooney
Amanda Le Guay
Storyboard Artists
Australian Crew:
Robert Consing
Mark Sexton
US Crew:
Michael Jackson
Rick Buoen
Trevor Goring
Costume Designer
Lizzy Gardiner
Costume Supervisors
Australian Crew:
Kenny Crouch
Kerrie Thompson
US Crew:
Carolyn Dessert
Chief Make-up Artists
Robert McCann
Australian Crew:
Paul Pattison
US Crew:
Mary Burton
Make-up Artist/ Hairstylists
Australian Crew:
Kate Birch
Annnette Hardy
Zeljka Stanin
Carolyn Nott
Special Make-up Effects Creation
Kevin Yagher
Special Make-up Effects Creation/Design
Kevin Yagher Productions, Inc
Special Effects Make-up
Australian Crew:
Mitchell Coughlin
Mark Garbarino
Chief Hairdresser
Kerry Warn
Chief Hairstylists
Australian Crew:
Paul Pattison
US Crew:
Peter Tothpal
Kathrine Gordon
2nd Unit Australia:
Samantha Pattison
Main Title Sequence Design/Execution
yU+co
Garson Yu
Title Design
Greenberg/Schluter
Titles/Opticals
Pacific Title
Additional Optical Effects
Cinema Research Corporation
'Mission: Impossible' Theme
Lalo Schifrin
The Mission: Impossible II Band
Klaus Badelt
Michael Brook
Dave Gamson
Lisa Gerrard
Nick Glennie-Smith
Oliver Leiber
Heitor Pereira
Jeff Rona
Martin Tillman
Mel Wesson
Hans Zimmer
Music Score Supervisor
Adam Milo Smalley
Music Production Co-ordinator
Gretchen O'Neal
Music Editors
Marc Streitenfeld
Zigmund Gron
Music Recordist/Mixer
Alan Meyerson
Supervising Music Technical Adviser
Slamm Andrews
Soundtrack
"Take a Look Around (Theme from 'M:I-2')" - Limp Bizkit; "I Disappear" - Metallica; "Iko-Iko" - Zap Mama; "Don Toribio Carambola" - Peret; "Alba y Camino" - Jose Manuel Lopez; "Danza de Ibio" - The Dancers of Cabezon de la Fuente; "Viva la Virgen del Carmen" - Joaquine Lagar and Chorus
Flamenco Choreographer
Antonio Vargas
Sound Recordists
Bob Renga
Craig 'Pup' Heath
Sound Mixers
Australian Crew:
Paul Brincat
US Crew:
Arthur Rochester
2nd Unit Australia:
Chris Alderton
Additional Audio
Mark Ormandy
Peter Sullivan
Carey Andrews
Re-recording Mixers
Andy Nelson
Anna Behlmer
Additional:
Jim Bolt
Paul Massey
Supervising Sound Editor
Mark P. Stoeckinger
Sound Editors
Bryan Bowen
Tony Lamberti
Alan Rankin
Geoff Rubay
Scott Wolf
Supervising Dialogue Editor
Dave Williams
Dialogue Editors
Susan Kurtz
J.H. Arrufat
Noah Blough
Simon Coke
ADR
Mixers:
Bob Baron
Charleen Richards
Mixer, Soundfirm:
Andrew Neil
Supervising Editor:
Robert Ulrich
Editors:
Kerry Dean Williams
David Giammarco
Zack Davis
Michelle Perrone
Foley
Artists:
Sarah Monat
Robin Harlan
Mixer:
Randy K. Singer
Supervising Editor:
Thomas Small
Editors:
Tammy Fearing
Scott Curtis
Glenn T. Morgan
Dino DiMuro
Special Consultant
William Mapother
Marine Co-ordinator
Australian Crew:
Jack Ellison
Technical Advisers
US Crew:
William C. Patrick III
Harry Humphries
Aerial Co-ordinator
Bruce Benson
Stunt Co-ordinators
Brian Smrz
Australian Crew:
Rocky McDonald
2nd Unit Australia:
Bob Hicks
Bob Brown
Armourers
Robert 'Rock' Galotti
Australian Crew:
John Bowring
Helicopter Pilot
Craig Hosking
Pilots
Corkey Fornof
Peter McKernan
Helicopter Pilots
Australian Crew:
Gary Ticehurst
Terry Lee
Roger Corbin
Cast
Tom Cruise
Ethan Hunt
Dougray Scott
Sean Ambrose
Thandie Newton
Nyah Nordoff-Hall
Ving Rhames
Luther Strickell
Richard Roxburgh
Hugh Stamp
John Polson
Billy Baird
Brendan Gleeson
McCloy
Rade Sherbedgia
Doctor Nekhorvich
William Mapother
Wallis
Dominic Purcell
Ulrich
Matthew Wilkinson
Michael
Nicholas Bell
McCloy's accountant
Cristina Brogeras
flamenco dancer 4
Kee Chan
McCloy's chemist
Kim Fleming
Larrabee
Alan Lovell
Biocyte security guard 2
Dan Luxton
relief pilot
Christian Manon
Doctor Gradsky
Karl McMillan
Biocyte security guard 1
Lester Morris
bookie
Kelly Ons
flamenco dancer 1
Nicholas Papademetriou
prison guard 2
Brett Partridge
Biocyte security guard 3
Candice Partridge
flamenco dancer 7
Natalie Reis
flamenco dancer 2
Daniel Roberts
co-pilot
Adriana Rodriguez
flamenco dancer 5
Sandra Rodriguez
flamenco dancer 6
Nada Rogic
flamenco dancer 3
Antonio Vargas
Senor De L'Arena
[uncredited]
Anthony Hopkins
Swanbeck
Certificate
tbc
Distributor
United International Pictures (UK) Ltd
tbc feet
tbc minutes
Dolby Digital/Digital DTS Sound/SDDS
Colour by
DeLuxe
Anamorphic [Panavision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011