Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mission: Impossible 2 -- The Movie

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Sean Ambrose, a rogue IMF agent, impersonates Ethan Hunt and steals the antidote to a deadly virus. In response, Hunt recruits Nyah Nordoff-Hall, a professional thief and Ambrose's ex-girlfriend, to get close to him and find out what he's up to. After Nyah intentionally injects herself with the virus, Ethan must retrieve the antidote to save her, and he must stop Ambrose from causing an outbreak in Sydney.

Memorable Quote:
And Mr. Hunt, the next time you go on holiday, please be good enough to let us know where you're going.  ~Swanbeck
If I let you know where I'm going, I won't be on holiday.   ~Ethan Hunt

The score is phenomenal. The composer is none other than Hans Zimmer, who has scored countless other movies including The Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean, and the soundtrack sparkles from beginning to end (links and more detail below).

The fight scene at the end is five minutes too long. It's also way too convenient for a gun to be right at Hunt's feet at the moment when Ambrose gets one up on him.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Dougray Scott is awesome as Ambrose.  The only movie I recall seeing him in is Ever After with Drew Barrymore and so I can't speak for the rest of his career, but he really makes for a great villain here.
  • Ambrose's crew includes William Mapother who happens to be a first cousin of Tom Cruise and a Notre Dame graduate like myself. He also made a recent appearance in the ill-fated MacGyver reboot. Also on the crew: a young Dominic Purcell, aka Lincoln Burrows from Prison Break (who I'm glad to see survived the hit on tonight's finale).
  • Next we get to one of my favorite sequences of the movie, the rock climb. It's a fun and creative re-introduction to the Ethan Hunt character, it's incredibly filmed (apparently Cruise did all of the climbing with just a harness -- of course he did), and includes a joyfully random Iko Iko rendition. Is it a little ridiculous when Hunt hangs by his fingertips (pictured above) and then assumes a Jesus-on-the-cross pose while staring intensely into the camera? Of course, but when you have Tom Cruise in your movie, you gotta own it and let Cruise be Cruise. One question -- how did he get down from the mountain? Unlike MacGyver in the Pilot, he didn't think to bring a parachute. 
  • Speaking of Cruise, when I first saw this movie back in 2000, I thought Tom Cruise's hairstyle was super cool and I wanted to imitate it. I'm not kidding. I tried to grow it out but unfortunately my hair is thick, naturally curly, and not nearly straight enough to pull off the "Ethan Hunt MI2" look.
  • Some more great music in the Flamenco scene.  Some of it (including the beating heart sound) is ridiculously overdramatic, but I'm all in. 
  • Now we get to the car chase between Ethan and Nyah, which is amusing for Cruise's rapid vacillation between a serious face and hilarious laughter. When the cars were spinning around, we hear the Celtic-style vocals that appear throughout the movie -- actually I'm not sure if it's Celtic style but that's what came to mind because it reminds me of Enya. And it also reminds me of the music from Gladiator, which Zimmer also scored and which came out just a few weeks before MI2. And the way Cruise's hair was spinning around in the car, that's what I wanted my hair to do.  I can't believe I'm telling you all this.
  • How did they get Anthony Hopkins for an uncredited cameo?
  • Hopkins tells Hunt that the IMF couldn't find Cruise (because he was on vacation) to meet with the Russian scientist, and so they got Ambrose to replace him. But how would Ambrose have been able to put this entire plan together if he was only asked at the last minute to replace Hunt?
  • Great Cruise moment at the 32:21 mark:
    • "Would it make you feel any better if I didn't want you to do this?"  ~Ethan
    • "Yeah, much!"  ~Nyah
    • "Then feel better!!!"  ~Ethan
  • Oooh, it's the cigar cutter scene!  Almost as hard to watch as MacGyver stepping in a bear trap. If I were Ambrose's lieutenant, I would find that getting the tip of my pinky cut off would be somewhat of a demotivator.
  • More fun Cruise dialogue at 51:55:
    • "Don't turn around."  ~Ethan
    • "I managed."  ~Nyah
    • "You turned around."  ~Ethan
  • Great delivery by Dougray at 55:27: "In the envelope in my jacket pocket....my RIGHT jacket pocket."
  • "You know that was the hardest part of having to portray you: grinning like an idiot every 15 minutes." ~Ambrose.  That seems like a shot at Cruise -- was that in the script?!
  • The shootout in the chem lab is a fantastic scene, punctuated by the great Ambrose/Hunt dialogue and Zimmer's incredible score. Once again, it's way beyond overdramatic, but I'm still all in. Though I will say that the connection here between Ethan and Nyah is somewhat dampened by the fact that Nyah is never mentioned again after MI2. 
  • And what was the point of Nyah injecting herself?  The bad guys can just get the virus from her blood, so her action didn't really serve any practical purpose.
  • Cruise's "Just stay alive!" speech surely was modeled after Daniel Day Lewis's "I will find you" speech in The Last of the Mohicans. Daniel Day also says "Just stay alive" and jumps off a cliff into a waterfall, whereas Cruise jumps off a building.
  • The stuff with the birds flying around the cave and Ethan Hunt as some kind of "Dove Messenger" is a little kooky but in keeping with the intense yet endearing theme of the movie.
  • How come none of the guards at the compound see the IMF helicopter hovering overhead?

Final Analysis:
Love this movie!  It's very different from the first movie in that it's much more action oriented, but it still has a clever plot with several surprising twists involving the masks.  And while the acting and cinematography are great, it's the Zimmer soundtrack that takes it to the next level.  All in all it's a totally fun and rewatchable movie, and while I rank it a hair below the first one, it's very close.

I should also mention that it doesn't bother me that there is barely any connection to the original series (other than the IMF organization, the masks, and the opening disk briefing).  But why do I feel nonplussed about this when I was so put off by the new MacGyver's failure to adhere to the original?  Because I have barely any history with the original MI and am not overly impressed with the episodes I've seen so far, whereas the original MacGyver was my favorite show of all time and a sign of God's work.  There you have it.


  1. Did you prefer the first one or the second one? I've only seen the first and that was 20 years ago. Should try to get acquainted. I'm guessing I'd at least like the first two.

    1. It's very close, the first one is a better movie, but the second one is a ton of fun with great music. I'd go with the first one by a hair. And then each one gets worse from here, but the third one is still pretty good. The 4th and 5th ones are weak.

  2. I remember watching this at the cinema. That's... quite a long time ago ;-)

    I'm not a big fan of Tom Cruise and I've never seen the Mission Impossible Series on TV either, but I remember liking the movie.