Hi there, and welcome to my inaugural post on my new blog. Glad you could join us. Today, we’ll be looking at the 2000 action epic, Mission: Impossible II. As always, minor spoilers ahead.
Mission: Impossible II is an action movie from 2000. It was directed by John Woo and stars Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Thandie Newton (Nyah Hall), and Dougray Scott (Sean Ambrose). The movie picks up after the original Mission Impossible film from 1996 with Tom Cruise reprising the role of IMF (impossible mission force) agent Ethan Hunt. When a dangerous bioweapon is stolen by a rogue IMF agent, Ethan must travel with thief and partner-in-crime Nyah to root out the baddie and stop a biological apocalypse.
So, in preparation of writing this post, I re-watched this movie, literally filling out an entire page in a standard-sized notebook with notes for yay’s, no’s, and aww yiss’s. To no one’s great surprise, the yay’s and aww yiss’s vastly outnumbered the no’s. The reason for this, as anyone who knows me is well aware, is because I am very easily sold by cool things, and this movie goes very, very hard on being cool.
Excerpted and expanded from my notes:
- “the climbing music,” referring to the fact that the re-introduction to Ethan involves him climbing up a cliff at Dead Horse Point in Utah to the extremely 2000’s song Iko-Iko by Zap Mama (yes, I see it came out in 1999, not 2000. Relax). This scene not only involves him jumping what appears to be 15 feet from the side of a cliff to another portion of cliff without ropes (Tom did have security cables while filming), but subsequently involves him hanging by only one hand for no apparent reason, getting a rocket fired at him (which he is completely unphased by, of course), and then opening said rocket to find a pair of sunglasses that, after briefing him on his next mission, promptly explode. A strong start.
- “Luther! Luther’s coat! Luther’s shoes!” A reference to the return of fan favorite Luther Stickell and his $800 shoes. Related: Anthony Hopkins’ cameo, because this movie literally has a bit part for humanity favorite Anthony Hopkins.
- “sneaky kick boy” Soooo many jumps, jump kicks, spin kicks, etc. Literally one of my favorite parts of the movie.
- Hugh Stamp. Hugh, to be perfectly honest, is the secret champion of this movie. Not only is he always on the ball in protecting his boy Sean, but also, they were literally making this movie up as a fiction piece, could have named Sean’s lieutenant anything, and decided to go with “Hugh Stamp.” If that doesn’t make him the evil lieutenant we need, I’m not sure what would.
While this movie is (perhaps not without a certain sense of irony) a marvel, there are just a few negatives as well. For the record, I only came up with eight during the entire movie, one of which I didn’t even write down. For the sake of ease, I’ll list them all here.
- “Weird boob shots in the bathtub,” referring to the camera angles that are clearing looking down Nyah’s shirt when she and Ethan first meet in the bathtub of one of her marks.
- Complete disregard for traffic safety, written down during the scene where Ethan and Nyah have a wild chase on narrow roads, though really it applies to anytime anyone gets in a vehicle in this movie. And yes, this one is tongue in cheek.
- Weird neck touching (post sex). I’m just saying, it was weird.
- Wallace’s hat. Whole lotta nope going on there.
- Ambrose’ creepy stare/arm grab.
- Wallace in general (sorry, bro).
- Nyah looking dead/sick at the end. For the record, she is very close to being very sick at the end, I just think I forget that by the time we get to those shots every time and can’t help but wonder what her problem is.
- Ethan and Nyah’s romance. Personally, I just don’t think they have great chemistry. Shrug.
The secret sauce
Okay, so, we’ve covered a handful of the goods and bads of this movie, but I wanted to finish us off by pointing to what really puts this movie over the top for me. I had it listed under the yays, and it is, simply put, John Woo’s unrelenting dedication to all things cool.
This movie is, arguably, not the best, even within its own franchise (that slot of course goes to MI3, and yes, I will fight you about that). It’s got a ridiculous affection for slow motion, some fashion choices that look a little dated in retrospect (tiny sunglasses, black turtle neck shirt with suit coat, black denim jacket on the main villain), and, I’ll say it again, Wallace’s hat.
That being said, there are also some things in this movie that just push the throttle up to 1,000 on the cool factor and do so without apology. For example:
- The fact that the bad guys’ final hideout is riddled with doves, the sole purpose of which seems to be so they can show up in cool or funny shots.
- The fact that at one point there’s a shot of Tom Cruise walking past a flaming doorway as doves fly away in slow motion because of said dove infestation.
- The fact that there’s so many sparks and fires.
- Tom Cruise doing a rotating wheelie to kill some dudes.
- Tom Cruise getting partway off his motorcycle to skate alongside it like some kid in roller blades holding onto the side of a car.
- Above and beyond every other thing in this entire movie, the moto-jousting, wherein Tom and Dougray play motorcycle wheelie chicken before both simultaneously jumping off to collide and fight mid-air while both motorcycles explode. Yes, that is a real thing that happens in this movie, and if you don’t think that’s cool, I don’t think I can help you.
The center of all of these lies in the fact that, from what I can tell, John Woo or Tom Cruise or anyone else who was making decisions in this movie just thinks that they’re cool. There’s no metaphor, it doesn’t tie back to a theme, it’s just awesome. And I love it.
For me, the late 1990s/early 2000s seemed like a time of great optimism. We hadn’t all died in Y2K, we were on the brink of exciting new frontiers in technology (the first blackberry came out in 1999, the first iPod came out in 2001), and in general, it just felt like the future was mostly bright. And while, of course, that wasn’t true in all areas of life (9/11 happened in 2001, bringing about significant change in nearly every sphere), it is an attitude that I think of frequently when I go back to watch movies from this time period. There’s a sense of freedom and excitement there, particularly towards new types of technology, (even in movies that seemed to have foreboding things to say about it: Gattaca came out in 1997, The Matrix came out in 1999, and Minority Report came out in 2002), and I tend to find that this was reflected in the movies of the time. So many of these movies weren’t focused on being gritty or depressing to reflect the real world. They weren’t pushing messages of distrust and dread. They were just cool, edgy, over the top movies that did cool things for the sake of being cool (example: both MI2 and The Matrix have cool sunglasses shots, wherein the characters are reflected in the lenses. And yes, I know The Matrix was not solely a cool, edgy movie. Relax). And in a world where technology (or governments, corporations, or authority figures of any kind) now often feels like something to be mistrusted and the general abiding emotion seems to be dread or hopelessness, it’s nice to go back and watch a movie that doesn’t seem to care much about anything beyond its own epic radness, to see a movie that was dedicated soley to creating something over the top and fun (a hallmark of MI movies at large). It’s action, you know the good guys are going to win (usually right as the clock runs out), and you know you’re going to have fun along the way. As someone who wants to create stories with a lot of those elements herself, this movie is a win.
So, what do you think? Did you like MI2? Which MI movie is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more content like this, be sure to join my newsletter and subscribe.