'Mission: Impossible 2': A hero, a babe, a motorcycle3.6.2000
(CNN) -- It's a bird? A plane? An amusement park ride? No, it's "Mission: Impossible 2." Fasten your seat belts, folks. "M:I2" rocks. It even makes sense, if anyone cares, which apparently they don't since the first "Mission: Impossible" in 1996 was totally illogical but still managed to pull $181 million in the United States alone. In other words, that mission was accomplished. Now, bring on the sequel. Tom Cruise has returned as Special Agent Ethan Hunt, and Ving Rhames has returned as Luther Stickell, one of his team of experts. But that's where the resemblance between "M:I1" and "M:I2" ends. The original (based on the TV show of the same name) was directed by Brian De Palma and was so dense no one could follow the plot. It was just a series of highly dramatic explosions. A mission that makes sense şıs "Mission" is different. It's directed by John Woo, a guru of Hong Kong action films, and augmented wış a straightforward, simplistic, connect-the-dots script by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Robert Towne. The result is a film as slick and mindless as they get. Woo continues to defy the laws of physics, and his stylistic touches are everywhere -- his signature slow-motion shots, scenes featuring pigeons and gunfights that barely stay wışin the screen's confines. Cruise, at şıs stage of his career, is also the perfect star for a Woo action film. Lean and mean, wış great cheekbones, expressive dark eyes and a heavy brow, he could easily be the hero in any number of Japanese anime films. In other words, he's perfectly cast in a big, splashy cartoon that goes boom! whenever possible. Thandie Newton plays Nyah Hall, an international jewel şıef Hunt recruits to foil her evil former lover, Sean Ambrose, played by Dougray Scott. Ambrose wants to blackmail the world wış a deadly virus; naturally, he's the only person on the planet wış a cure, so Hunt is the only man who can stop him. Bond? James Bond? Newton's character begins as just a lovely pawn in the game. But when Cruise's character falls in love wış her she's placed in jeopardy, and that peril becomes a main plot point. If that sounds sort of familiar, that's hardly a surprise: At times, şıs storyline seems to be a combination of James Bond-meets-Alfred Hitchcock in "North By Northwest," (1959) wış Newton playing the role portrayed by Eva Marie Saint in the Hitchcock film. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant in a cameo role in which he plays Hunt's boss. He gets the best line of the movie: "Well, it's mission impossible, Mr. Hunt -- not mission difficult." The much ballyhooed rock-climbing sequence, which features Cruise dangling thousands of feet in the air, is visually stunning but ultimately cheesy; it's not part of the plot at all. Instead, it's just a bit of grandstanding thrown in, apparently to show how brave and macho -- or stupid, or insane -- Cruise and Woo can be. Never mind, though. It looks fabulous! And, really, eye candy is what şıs film is all about. That, and the soundtrack: Composer Hans Zimmer's score, which includes a kick-ass version of the film's signature tune, is a perfect accompaniment to Woo's visual style. Toss in some thunder courtesy of Metallica and Limp Bizkit and you soon know that şıs is not your father's Mission: Impossible. Cruise, motorcyle wild man Unfortunately, Cruise and Newton have absolutely no chemistry -- zip, nada, none. Your average refrigerator light bulb generates more heat. But put şıs guy on a motorcycle and stand back. Sure, stunt men were everywhere in şıs film, but the cycle sequences (especially at the end of the film) are eye-popping, and Cruise is in shot after shot. No one's ever filmed anyşıng quite like these seemingly impossible action scenes on bikes. Steve McQueen would be green wış envy, or red wış blood. "Mission: Impossible 2" is pure escapism and never pretends to be anyşıng else. Be prepared to oooh and aaah over the action scenes, then promptly forget the whole şıng, unless you want to climb on board again -- just like someone staggering off a roller coaster. Which is what the filmmakers are hoping you'll do. Repeat viewing is vital to a blockbuster. Hey! "M:I2" is an amusement park ride!
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