A Mission to Woo You
Whilst the first "Mission: Impossible" was very similar to a James Bond Movie, "Mission: Impossible II" pretty much goes all out to emulate them. We have a much simpler storyline featuring Ethan Hunt after a villain, an ex IMF agent who has turned bad, a deadly virus which is the object of the mission and he is also accompanied by a beautiful woman. But with director John Woo taking the helm "Mission: Impossible II" is filled full of his trademark styling, slow motion almost artsy camera shots merged with more slow motion, as well as high octane action to create what is frankly a visual treat. Think what he did with "Face/Off" and place it with a James Bond style set up and you get "Mission: Impossible II".
Having being called back from his vacation rock climbing, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - A Few Good Men) is given the mission to stop one time IMF agent now turned bad guy Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) from getting his hands on a deadly virus called Chimera. With the aid of his old friend Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames - Entrapment) and expert thief Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton - 2012), Ethan heads to Sidney Australia to stop Ambrose. But with a race against time Ethan's job becomes not only business but personal when Nyah becomes infected by the virus.
Gone are all the twists and deception with filled Brian De Palma's original "Mission: Impossible" instead "Mission: Impossible II" is far more straight forward with the only really convoluted element being the action. This time "Mission: Impossible II" is pretty much a straight forward action filled movie fuelled by scene after scene of heavily stylized adrenalin packed action. There is rarely a scene which doesn't feature some form of action be it big or small. Although saying that the intensity of the action as well as the drama is slowly ramped up as the movie edges closer to the ending and the much expected big action climax.
Whether you like the way John Woo stylizes his movies or not it's hard not admit that "Mission: Impossible II" is visually impressive. The slow motion adds an extra element to what could have been a straight forward action bore and although at times it borders on the too artsy, causing the momentum to drop in places, it does give the movie a different feel to many similar movies and more importantly makes it feel different to a James Bond movie.
What is noticeable is that this time round Ethan Hunt is no longer such an intense man, who frantically lives on the edge, although the intro rock climbing scene is impressive enough to establish that he is still a thrill seeker. But this time around he's cooler, even slightly suave and Tom Cruise pulls it off quite remarkably. The choreographed scenes where he first acquaints himself with Nyah establish this new character trait perfectly, a man completely in control and confident almost smug in his own ability and attraction. It's not quite a charismatic character but is a huge improvement on Ethan of the first movie.
Aside from Tom Cruise, and to be frank "Mission: Impossible II" is mainly about him, there is Thandie Newton as thief and love interest Nyah Nordoff-Hall. It's a good choice as there is some serious chemistry going on between Cruise and Newton almost a constant flirtation which gives the movie a few sort of semi erotic scenes, although nothing is ever revealed it just feels steamy. Plus there is also Dougray Scott who although is effective ends up with a character which for the most is a straight forward stereotypical bad guy who is accompanied by his second in command Hugh played by Richard Roxburgh. Adding to the movie in what ends up nothing more than a cameo is Anthony Hopkins as Ethan's new superior, although his voice adds something special to the movie.
As for returning faces well Ving Rhames shows up again as Luther Stickell and again adds plenty of lighter humorous moments to the proceedings to give it that fun element, stopping it from taking itself too seriously.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Mission: Impossible II" is an effective sequel it is also quite a different movie from the first in the series. Gone is all the contrived double crosses and replacing them is a much simpler storyline. But it is the change in its visual look with director John Woo stamping his trademark styling all over the movie. At times it feels a little heavy handed with too much slow motion and arty camera shots interrupting the natural flow but not to the extent that it spoils the movie.