Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is back, tasked with saving the world from a dastardly villain intent on unleashing a deadly virus – cackle, preen. The “this time it’s personal” angle comes from the fact that the villain is a former Impossible-ist himself, and also the former lover of the woman Mr Hunt is now in love with.
You’d have thought it a mission impossible to make a duff sequel to Brian De Palma’s all-action 1996 movie with the fine ingredients assembled here. For starters there’s the $125m budget and Cruise, still one of the biggest stars in the world (he earned $60m+ for this). Then there’s the damsel in distress, Thandie Newton, a woman so beautiful that she could make a pope cry. And Dougray Scott as a Bond-style uber-baddie, malevolent as a man can be in designer gear. But there’s something not quite right. Perhaps Anthony Hopkins is symptomatic. Why hire the boombastic Hopkins only to throw him away in a minor role as Cruise’s control? And what of the contribution of Chinatown writer Robert Towne, forced to write around John Woo’s spectacular set pieces? And by “write around” I mean “join the dots”. M:I2 is lean, it’s efficient, it zips about the globe in much the same way as Woo’s camera zips about Cruise – way above him, circling about, swooping, and that’s just the pre-titles sequence set on a spectacular rock face. Suspense isn’t Woo’s thing, spectacle is, which is why, between rock faces and the peeling off of latex masks and helicopters and explosions the film just kind of hangs there, inert. Plus there’s the love subplot with Newton to be factored in. If there is one thing to be learned from the Bond movies that Cruise is so clearly is setting out to surpass, it’s that the minute Bond falls in love, the films fall apart.