Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Joie' De Vivre On Celluloid: M:I 2

This is one of the movies that are cool, just fr the sake of simply being cool, and nothing else (save grabbing a boat load of B.O.) There's not much else you can find in this movie, besides the ever-used adjective "cool", and that being simply used for coolness sake. Which that was the real "mission" of Mission Impossible 2. And it worked. Turning the 125 million dollar budget into a 546 million dollar box office juggernaut in 2000. It was easily was the highest grossing film of the year. 

Things go boom in this movie. Things get kissed hard and spoken to sometimes softly, sometimes harshly over the sound of bullets. Or even as Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is going one punch at a time against a guard in an armed fortress (a borrowed 007 staple), only breaking his punches to speak into his ear piece to Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). That one, punch-speak-punch scene was enough to tell me, in itself, this movie was a fuckin' silly as it was action heavy-tech-supplied therefore good. I mean, when someone jumps out of a hole blown in a building, falls, then executes a back flip before opening their parachute, you sorta have to wonder, "What am I really watching?" Or, "Is this the director, or the only-my-third-time-producing producer (Cruise)?" Let's find out.

John Woo was brought in by Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, who make the production company, C/W Productions, which I'm not even sure still exists. But they together with Woo, embarked on the second journey of the Mission Impossible Force (yes I understand how silly that sounds, hence IMF sounding way cooler).To and John reportedly clashed and fought for a few different things, and I'd like to hope it was because I can see the reality Cruise wanted to bring to things, and the, uh... "Woo" John wanted to bring to things. And they both won. Cruise had the lighter/heavier character moments, and Woo had the intensely cheezy zoom-in's, bad slo-mo, and plot holes. Robert Towne, who is a go-to script doctor around town and regular for Cruise to use, could only do some much, when writing AROUND action sequences Woo had already written and wouldn't budge on either. Hence, the clashing? In a quote from a Variety writer I happen to agree with, Dennis Harvey goes on to say perfectly, "Woo lays on his own particular high-octane stylishness so thick the results edge perilously toward self-parody." I do have to say, that this entire film is like a TV commercial for 1080 HD sets. But be that as it may, it has it's good points.

As we open the film, after a plane hijacking sequence and an identity theft for Ethan (via those wonderful masks) Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) downs the plane with his eveil crew, including Cruise's cousin Will Mapother (Cruise's original last name) and steal a briefcase after killing a confidant who thought he was really Ethan, Nope! This is a Mission Impossible movie, think again sucka! We then cut to Ethan's introduction to the film, and yet another argument for Cruise who is NOTORIOUS for playing hard ball, we see Ethan Hunt Free climbing with nothing but chalk on his hands. And yes,  Cruise really did this. He even tore his shoulder when he made the big jump down to another rock for strictly film thrill purposes. He then get's spotted by low flying chopper and doesn't even get spooked he could be figured out by a shadowy villain or someone out to merk him. He simply smiles and "reads" the message on his sunglasses, throwing them at the camera. Then, cut to titles. 

The film takes us to Seville, Spain where he has to recruit Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), a pro, world class thief. They both spot each other through the crowd and passed the whirl-winding brilliant red dress of a flamenco dancer. Woo goes slow with the shot and they lock eyes, sexy beast to sexy beast. DuHe foils her plan to steal a necklace housed in the bathroom of the, uh, hall concert place, during which they both end up hiding one on top of the other in the decorative tub and exchange lascivious puns with each other. After which, he attempts to recruit her for his team. She of course drives off into a badly executed slow motion shot. 

The next day, we see him on a dusty lonely road, both driving convertibles of course (I own one, so I don't blame them for putting the top down on a nice day and cruising) and looking fabulous even though at that speed, their cheeks should be pulled behind their ears. They end up crashing their cars into each other, and engage in the second whirl wind slow-mo shot, eyes locked of course. 

Only a few shots later, they are waking from an afternoon sex romp, and flirting as Hunt tells her what he needs her to do. But little does he know, with the best part of the film being Anthony Hopkins surprise cameo (wonder what he charged for it) as Commander Swanbeck, he tells Hunt Nyah is resume a relationship with the impostor of Ethan's, Sean Ambrose, and of course, the world class hero and ever busy spy, who has had only sexual encounter with her, is now jealous as all fuck and offended in the highest  about it. But she does it, and they fly to Australia, cue Ving Rhames and the Australian comic relief pilot! This movie rolls on, with cuts and slashes and slow-mo editing, and pounding but unique and intriguing music by Hans Zimmer.

But the action that rolled in it's box office numbers doesn't come--and doesn't stop by the way--till Act III (save for the end of Act II with the introduction of an action script staple: plot-change-up-and-rescue-mission-let's-wrap-this-up-final-game-and-kill-the-villain-kiss-the-girl). In those parenthesis, you have the entire third act, and it's as cool as it sounds, with Cruise, who has one hell of an insurance agent, doing a lot of his own stunts very visibly and vibrantly, which is nice to see, that, to steal a quote earlier in the film from Nyah, "You're not just a pretty face after all."

The romance between these two, was as I remember it from watching the cut in 2000, and having just revisited it now, realistic and palpable. Yes, it's all based off near ridiculous circumstances (a single mid-day sex encounter after a car chase, cheesy lines and a few winks at the camera) but they do go the distance in this film to make you believe they are falling in love, and desperately need each other. More so than Michelle Monaghan as his fiancé/wife in M:I 3. I'm sorry they booted Nyah out of the third installment. 

In it's entire reason for being, this movie succeeds in three major areas: summer box office behemoth, romantic-in-between-the-action epic, and action magnum opus. I firmly believe they set out to hit all three of those, and they won big time in my opinion (which is what again...? C'mon you know). Yes, this film is riddle with sill,y near parody, plot holes and scenes, lines and shots and executions of various things, but this is also the EPITOME of the action film. Black leather, motorcycle, super hot chick, evil villain, fire and bullets, fist fights, CGI. And they all hit on their marks. 

Yes, their are better ones, and more refined, less hokey and "Nolanized" if you will, films out their boasting what this film gives you. But let's be honest, in the year 2000, this film is everything things were back then, and still are today sorta. I liked this film, and I have no problem with it, if I unplug my brain before hand of course.

Munki Out.  

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