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'M:I-2': Mission Accomplished

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 26, 2000


    'Mission Impossible 2' Tom Cruise's mission: reprising his role as the daring and dashing Ethan Hunt. (Paramount)
I have seen the mega-monster of the summer. It is here. It has arrived. It is "M:I-2," which is hype-English for "Mission: Impossible 2." It will out-chomp "Dinosaur." It will beat up "Gladiator." And frankly, it will deserve every dollar.

Of course, the movie steal – and turbocharges – the central DNA of the James Bond flicks. But these are the times in which we live: High-energy sampling is the new originality.

Speaking of high energy, this movie's a rampant ego trip for Tom Cruise, who reprises his Ethan Hunt character from the 1996 "Mission: Impossible." I can just imagine him "recommending" that director John Woo print take seven of a shot because, well, the light catches Cruise's face and 'pecs just right.

The unofficial word is that scenes were rewritten and rewritten until Cruise was penned into a virtual demigod. But then, who's paying to see a normal guy? And if you can't let Cruise be Cruise, I guess you shouldn't invite him to the party.

And demigod he is: I refer to Ethan Hunt's iron-man mountain-scaling, martial air-obics, motorbike wizardry and dead-eye target-shooting. Improbable? How about: Not a bloomin' chance. As Hunt's mystery mission-assigner (an uncredited Anthony Hopkins) puts it: "This isn't 'Mission: Difficult.' It's 'Mission: Impossible.'"

In the movie, written for Tom by Robert Towne, Hunt's former fellow agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), has turned bad – real bad. And he's on the verge of scoring a bio-engineered virus that is being made in Australia.

Hunt, who's called from holiday (cue excuse for Cruise to scale enormous Moab, Utah, mountain sans equipment), has to track him down with the help of Sean's old squeeze, the sensual, beautiful professional thief (who basically follows the course of the main Bond Girl) Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton).

Ethan falls in love immediately with Nyah (whose name should be pronounced with two syllables, as opposed to the nyuk-nyuk-nyuk of the Three Stooges), which makes it real hard to serve her up as bait for the psycho-Scottish Sean, who's conveniently still hot for Nyah. But then, a demigod's gotta do what – you know.

Actually, the real deity of the movie is director Woo, who takes complete command of the latest technology – hyperspeed editing, breathtaking cinematography, 10-out-of-10 stunt work – to create brilliant action sequences.

A scene at Sydney's Royal Randwick Race Track – in which Nyah must steal a vital computer disc from Sean's jacket pocket while Ethan whispers instructions in to her secret earpiece, a nasty South African heavy called Hugh (Richard Roxburgh) watches her suspiciously and Ethan's computer-wiz pal Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) runs the plays in a nearby surveillance truck – is wonderfully engineered suspense.

And a climactic scene, in which Ethan and Sean get medieval on each other by motorbike, is Woo at his push-the-envelope best.

For the Hong Kong director, it's all cartoonish, CD-rom-subtle opera, caught in slow motion or dry-iced with apocalyptic rings of smoke and fire.: the fisticuffs and aerial kicks; Cruise sliding across the floor with two guns blazing (a Woo signature); and the vehicular mayhem. Even crashing cars turn majestic pirouettes for Woo. And like a kid-maestro with the biggest computer joystick in the world, Woo clicks overtime.

I can see most people leaving this movie hungry for human activity. I mean, there are Limp Bizkit videos with more emotional depth than the "love" between Ethan and Nyah. And Dougray Scott's portrayal of Sean Ambrose is just a few nuances shy of Michael Myers's Dr. Evil of the "Austin Powers" movies. But I can't imagine anyone starving for action as they file, whooping, out of the crowded theater.

M:I-2 (PG-13, 126 minutes) – Contains action-movie violence and gory fingertip trimming.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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