From The Shame Files: Mission: Impossible 2

We are celebrating the Christmas in July that is the release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout all week long! Click on the image for all of the entries:

With the release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, I took it upon myself (with some proding from others) to watch the films in the series that I missed. Up to this point, I was only familiar with the most recent output in the franchise, the gloriously fun Ghost Protocol, and the scary sinister Rogue Nation. This Shame Files entry isn’t about all three of the first Missions: Impossible films, but it is about the second, and from what I understand, the most harangued entry in the series. I won’t say I disagree, but there’s a lot of fun to be had watching 2.

What I appreciate most about this series is the lack of consistency with regards to tone, aesthetics, and continuity. Usually, I love relishing in each character’s backstory, or the nuances of the made-up world the filmmakers created, with each film adding more layers that build on those that came before. But this franchise is so good at what it does, I don’t care that we don’t get to see Ethan Hunt meet his wife, or understand what made Luther a disavowed agent (no lie though, I’m sure that movie would be awesome!). I’m here to watch really cool characters do impossible things, in action set pieces that are strung together with a plot that’s barely coherent the first time you watch it. Mission: Impossible 2 delivers on all these accounts, and while I did laugh out loud multiple times, I hardly see why that’s a problem with these movies. I’m watching Tom Cruise free-climb a mountain, not cure cancer.

John Woo’s Mission: Impossible is equal parts cheesy-artistic flair and 90s action thrill ride. But flying doves and dramatic slow-mo aside, this is the first film in the franchise that really explores the sexier aspects of being a spy, namely, going to “exotic” places and hooking up with attractive people. I’m referring to the scene when Ethan Hunt first meets Thandie Newton’s character, Valerie. Their eyes lock across a dance floor in a club in Spain. With Flamenco dancers pounding the floor around them, you can feel the heat and the rhymic heartbeat that is the center of this lusty scene. Outside the club, Seville is in the middle of a fiery religious festival, with processions crowding the streets. The symbolism is a little on the nose (did I mention flying doves?), but no less effective.

In addition to his artistic flourishes, Woo’s eye for action had me wondering whether or not he ever directed a film in the Fast and Furious franchise, because what a missed opportunity for all! When Ethan Hunt grapples the big bad in a mid-air bear hug after soaring off his motorcycle, well, that was just pure, unadulterated machismo right there. Doesn’t Vin Diesel do the same thing with Michelle Rodriguez in one of those movies? I mean the motives are different for sure, but regardless, it’s effective. Yes, this sequence is silly–and compared with the action we’ll see later in Rogue Nation and Fallout it looks even sillier–but there is most definitely a place for that kind of action sequence, and it fits in perfectly with the tone of this film. Again, why hasn’t this guy directed a Fast and Furious movie? I can see Vin Diesel emerging god-like from a dark, dove infested tunnel right now.

So yes, I had a lot of fun with this movie. I may have even liked the experience of watching it more than the first, although I do agree it is a worse movie overall. But I’m going to continue to enjoy the variety pack that is the Mission: Impossible franchise, and wonder what crazy stunts Mr. Cruise will tempt fate with once more.

Author: Jill Malcolm

Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.

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