Mission Impossible II

as reviewed by Skylaire Alfvegren

In the four years since we first met secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tome Cruise), he's grown his hair out and mastered martial arts. And he gets to open up that giant can of whoop-ass that never quite materialized in the Brian De Palma-directed original.

Although MI:2 begins with a bang, director John Woo doesn't assault us with his signature two-gun shoot-em-up until a good hour into the movie. Blame that on iconic '70s script writer Robert Towne, who filled the first Mission: Impossible with so many intricacies you could barely follow it, let alone call it an action movie. But the sequel is action with a capital A. It's got the most aggro action sequences EVER. And a story you can not only follow, but predict.

Instead of dealing with the convoluted triple crossings of agents gone bad (as in the first MI), Hunt's new mission involves tracking down one ex-agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), who has hijacked a plane and stolen a scientist's top secret project: an Ebola-like super virus capable of killing those infected with it within a day. To find Ambrose, Hunt must recruit Ambrose's ex-girlfriend, sexy super-thief Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton).

No matter which angle you attack from, this sequel surpasses the original. The only movie to address the very real terrors of biological warfare (besides Terry Gilliam's excellent 12 Monkeys), MI:2 is the best advertisement for martial arts and sexy European motorcycles you'll ever see. And only in the sequel does Cruise become an American James Bond, chivalrously romancing the babe, engaging in hand to hand combat and stunning us with explosions, gadgets and seriously dangerous escapes. Although Woo has nicked a few moves from The Matrix (or is it vice-versa?), MI:2 melds the best of his Hong Kong insanity with good ole' American execution. You've seen these moves in Hard Boiled. But this time it's Tom Cruise on cinematic steroids only manufactured in the US of A.

Elements from the first film carry over to the sequel, including promoted hacker Luther Strickell (Ving Rhames), the infiltration of air shafts and a fastidious inclination towards detail. The whole affair is somehow much more stylish. If only Cruise's yang was balanced by more of Newton's yin we'd have a perfect action thriller. The major international baddie of the first MI was a chick named Max. In the sequel, Newton's character does a bit of heisting, but really acts as an accessory to the work of Hunt and Ambrose. On the whole, MI:2 is as suspenseful and heart-flutteringly action packed as one could hope for. And instead of focusing on super spy technology that only affects secret agents, it introduces an evil that threatens the general populace. Now, if it had threatened the male libido as well, we'd be in business.

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