A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 357 – Mission: Impossible II

Mission Impossible II – February 20th, 2011

I am so very conflicted about this movie. On one hand I appreciate a lot of what it did with poking at the conventions introduced in the first movie and on the other hand I want to slap it so very hard for being full of crap. On one hand it doesn’t make the same mistakes the first movie did, but on the other hand it makes all sorts of new mistakes! On one hand I enjoyed the action and effects and on the other hand I just wanted that last fight scene to end because oh my god it felt like they’d been fighting for hours.

You know the original cut of this movie was over three hours long? It’s directed by John Woo (which is oh so obvious in a few scenes near the end) and apparently had a lot more action. Started out with an R rating and cut/softened the action to bring it down to a PG-13. Just the thought of there being longer action scenes makes me boggle a bit. They already feel like they take a year each. And while for some of them that’s fine – they’re fast-paced and move a lot – others just feel a little much. I don’t need my fight scenes to be in real time, okay? I get that John Woo does some gorgeous action, I just think maybe sometimes the slow motion causes said action to feel less actiony. Only slow-mo pads the film.

That being said, I do think this movie is largely a step up from the first one. Andy gave me a little insight into the television show formula this morning and having heard it, I can see where the first movie went wrong. It tried too hard to keep the basic formula while at the same time making everything more dangerous and serious and it just didn’t work out the way they needed it to. This movie seems to be a little less split, and if it doesn’t quite have the right formula or mood for the show, well, personally I’m willing to cope since it’s far more cohesive in terms of its tone. And while I did itch to slap Ethan a few times in the beginning, I found his anger and determination far more believable in this one. He smiles less, which is good because the grin doesn’t suit the majority of the movie’s scenes. And while he’s still somewhat cocky, he’s also down and dirty, so it’s balanced. I like his team (yay Ving Rhames!) and I like the plot too, even if it is full of holes.

The basic story is that a rogue agent (another rogue agent! don’t they vet these people?) has absconded with a top secret antidote to a super virus named Chimera, but he doesn’t have the virus, so he’s trying to get a hold of someone who does. In obtaining it he killed an associate of Ethan’s as well as a whole plane full of people. Ethan is called in to assemble a team and get the antidote back. Enter Nyah, a thief whom Ethan is told he must recruit onto his team. Turns out Nyah is the rogue’s ex-girlfriend and they’re going to use her as bait. And what follows is pretty much action scene after action scene as Ethan and the rogue (Sean) are pitted against each other not just in the fight for the virus and antidote and whatnot, but for Nyah. Now, I have some issues with the virus, since it apparently has an incubation period of 20 hours, during which it’s not communicable, but after those 20 hours apparently it is? It’s not entirely clear and while I suppose the doctor who created it and infected himself with it to carry it to the CDC in Atlanta, GA from Sydney, Australia could have dosed himself with the cure if, you know, the flight got delayed or heaven forbid had to circle while waiting for a gate, that seems a little, I don’t know, ridiculous. But that’s me bringing pesky reality to the table (Andy had some things to say about wire transfers, so really I think this whole movie is making some very low estimates about the amount of time things take).

My other major issue with the movie is the treatment of Nyah. So says Ethan’s boss when Ethan questions using an untrained civilian to infiltrate Sean’s gang: “To get into bed with a man and lie to him? She’s a woman, she’s got all the training she needs.” Um. Ow. That right there is a nasty little bit of writing. Womanhood reduced to sex and lies. That’s not insulting at all! It instantly made me hate the scriptwriter for this movie with a fiery passion. Andy got my hopes up by telling me the romantic interest in this movie was played by Thandie Newton. And I like Thandie Newton. And then the movie basically makes her bait and has her reduced to walking sex. Her role isn’t one of competence. It’s one of seduction. While the first movie had this too, it also had several very competent female agents who only got killed because one of their teammates set them up. And I appreciated that. And they teased me! She starts off so well, giving Ethan some attitude and kneeing him in the chest and getting her job done. All to be reduced to a sexy damsel in distress. Very disappointing.

There’s an awareness here of the problems in the movie. Ethan himself is incredulous and pissed off that he’s been set up by his superiors to recruit Nyah on false assumptions. He thought they needed her skills as a thief but no, she’s just there to be sex bait for the bad guy. And Ethan knows that’s total bullshit and he calls his superiors on it. And he goes through with it anyhow because it’s how he’s been set up to do the job but it’s clear that he hates it. And while the superior who set it up clearly thinks little of Nyah overall, otherwise the bad guys are the ones badmouthing her and treating her like crap. Ethan gets to be righteously angry and vengeful for the way Nyah’s treated. So, yeah. The movie seems to get that there’s a problem here. And yet it set the problem up in the first place and it doesn’t follow through on calling it out. Then again, the whole movie seems to be winking a little at the audience, from jokes about Ethan’s cocky smile to mentions of his penchant for wire work.

Like I said, I’m extremely conflicted. The nasty attitude towards Nyah made me cringe, but aside from that one hideous line from Ethan’s superior, it’s all Sean and his gang. The movie knows it’s setting its female lead up for a crap role. And it knows that its hero can stand to be prodded a bit. It’s still massively over-the-top, which is fun to a point, and it’s got some great effects and fights. The plot is full of holes and I can only imagine what the full length cut was like, but for all that, I’ve got to say I enjoyed it. Once I accepted that Nyah wasn’t going to be allowed to be a badass, that is. Still disappointed by that, but hey, she got to slap Sean, so that’s a point in the movie’s favor.

February 20, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Mission Impossible II

February 20, 2011

Mission Impossible 2

For the second Mission Impossible movie Cruise and company managed to get John Woo to direct. This astonished me, since I’m a fan of John Woo, but I’ve never really pictured him making somebody else’s movie. Why would he agree to make a sequel to a Brian De Palma film? The truth is that he doesn’t really. This is every bit a John Woo movie – filled with slow motion gunfights and over-the-top action. It just happens to star Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt and features some of the tricks familiar from the Mission Impossible universe. Indeed it is my favorite John Woo movie since he left China.

Today’s movie finds Ethan Hunt back in the good graces of the IM team. When a Russian geneticist tries to get in touch with him with an urgent plea that has to do with a virus called “Chimera” Ethan is the only one who can track down the rogue agent who has stolen the cure. Along the way he recruits an expert thief named Nyah who has some kind of sordid past with the rogue agent, Sean. In spite of the fact that Nyah and Ethan have fallen into desperate lust with each other Ethan is ordered by his handler (Sir Anthony Hopkins) to use her to get to Sean.

It’s a paper-thin plot which is draped over a bunch of completely silly action scenes. But John Woo has never really been known for deep plots. He’s been known for fantastic shoot-outs, explosions, and guys with deep grudges trying to kill each other. Once all the plot stuff is taken care of and we get into the action this movie delivers exactly what I expect from it. There is a lengthy gunfight in a secure biomed lab. There is a scene where Ethan takes out anonymous henchmen one by one while infiltrating a storage facility to try and steal back the virus and its cure. There’s a car chase where Ethan flees on a motorcycle and every car that dares pursue or block him implausibly explodes. It all culminates in motorcycle jousting and a lenghty martial arts throwdown between Ethan and Sean.

At times it seems like almost a self parody. There are so many trademark John Woo bits thrown in here. Ethan diving for cover while shooting two pistols simultaneously. The gunfight with a million bullets fired. The slow-mo dove that singles the final showdown. It’s as though all the action from The Killer, Hard Boiled, Hard Target, Face/Off and Broken Arrow have been distilled into their basic components for a single film.

This movie also pokes fun at both Mission Impossible tropes and at the first movie to an extent. Sean complains that it is difficult to impersonate Ethan because of his insipid grin (which I found so irritating in yesterday’s movie.) There’s a segment near the middle of the film where Ethan and his band need to extract some information from the head of a pharmaceutical company with which Sean has dealings and so they perform a sting which would have worked perfectly as a part of the classic Mission Impossible television show. I appreciated that. And the tear-away facial disguises used in the first movie are used several times here to great effect.

I really feel that this movie accomplishes everything it sets out to do. I find Tom Cruise much less irritating here than I did in the first movie. I enjoy the silly action and the fun Mission Impossible spy bits. I do wish that they had found more for Thandie Newton to do than be an imperiled damsel in distress because her character seems so self assured and confident at the start of the film, but that would be my only complaint. In general I find that I still enjoy this movie.

February 20, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment