If the idea of this movie was to create a mission that was at least as
impossible as the one in the previous MI outing, it serves the purpose--it's
more than difficult. If it was to display high action and well choreographed
fight sequences, it does this with style and panache with John Woo's
signature airborne acrobatics. If it was to convince us that Tom Cruise is
not just a pretty face but an accomplished athlete capable of many of his own
stunts and a convincing degree of mountain climbing, you have to see it for
yourself to believe.
Producer Cruise did say, in an interview, that he acquired a few scratches
and bruises from doing a lot of his own stunts, and you can see what he was
talking about. When an actor has such capability, far more complex and
convincing action shots can be made, even though they're enhanced by clever
and quick editing. So, a pat on the back to a gymnastic Cruise.
Another pat to director John Woo for casting Thandie Newton. Since the plot,
and Mission Specialist Ethan Hunt's (Cruise) preoccupying motivation is to
rescue this tough maiden of silky skin, Newton easily convinces us of the
possibility that he'd put his life on the line so daringly and dementedly for
her. Not seen by this reviewer since Bernardo Bertolucci's 1998 "Besieged"
with John Malkovich, she surely has to rank among the top ten or so film
beauties. She's a sparkling jewel with a matching personality.
Born Thandiwe Newton in Zambia of a Zimbabwean mother in November, 1972, we
think she's destined for future roles off the star list. Her prior credits
include Sally Hemings in "Jefferson in Paris", "Journey of August King"
(1995), and the disastrous "Beloved" in 1998.
Cruise's initial courtship of her by catching her as a cat-burglar attempting
to steal a valuable necklace, letting her go in order to recruit her, car
chasing her on a hairy mountain road in a signature Woo automobile ballet,
and finally bedding her with a fine morning-after pillow-talk moment, is fun
as well as cinematic. As his agent, he then sets her into the vil-lion's den
only to have to extract her after she injects the virus into her arm.
The crashes, action sequences and effects are all accomplished pretty much
seamlessly and professionally though one criticism of this movie is
overabundance. But, it will work for the action audience despite director
Woo's inclination to overdo a good thing. In this deparment, he's not a
master of the subtle. His decision to repeat the hung-from-a-cable stunt in
Mission Impossible 1 (though this time fast instead of slow) is cute, but I
would have advised something different enough to remind us of that unique
feat while bringing something new to the stunt lexicon.
The mission concerns the retrieval of a new virus against which there's no
known cure, and the antidote for it that will make a fortune for the chemical
company that's developed it. Trouble is, the CEO of the company (Brendan
Gleeson -- another unique casting) is a bad guy who'll wipe out one of his
scientists to prove the effectiveness of the virus. Small wonder that he'd
get into business with an archvillain or two who might top his villainy.
Actually, he doesn't have too many options once the virus and the antidote
fall into the hands of former mission specialist Dougray Scott, the primary
villain of the piece.
The cross-current between who has what at any particular time and who is
wearing who's face (Woo borrowing and overdoing his effect from his prior
"Face Off") gets confusing at moments in the film, but this won't bother
those who are coming to the theater for Cruise and/or the action. To this
audience, momentary confusion is a minor irritant.
Robert Towne, the screenwriter and Academy Award winner for the 1974
"Chinatown", offers this guideline: "...it is not the characters who have
been complex in 'Mission: Impossible,' it's the mission".
Anthony Hopkins plays the mission advisor in typically brilliant, if brief,
fashion. Ving Rhames is present as the computer expert backing agent
Though I've said above that subtlety is not part of the John Woo action
mentality, in fairness I'd like to add that he does occasionally take the
time to convey a thought or feeling in a look between characters. These
moments work especially well in the context of otherwise frenzied pacing.
Rated G, for Gymnastic.
Estimated cost: $100,000,000. Projected U.S. boxoffice: $210,000,000.
Paramount, 126 minutes, Rated PG-13
~~ Jules Brenner