Mission Impossible II (15)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD FEATURES: 'Behind the Mission'- an in depth cast and crew interview featuring Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, John Polson, Dougray Scott, Ving Rhames, Paula Wagner and John Woo; 'Mission: Incredible'- behind-the-scenes look at the film's stunts; 'Impossible Shots'- how they created 11 amazing stunt sequences (director's storyboards and interviews with Tom Cruise, John Woo, stunt coordinator and Brian Smrz); Director's Commentary; 'I Disappear'- Metallica Music Video; Alternate Title Sequence

FACE Off director John Woo and Hollywood golden boy Tom Cruise have pulled off what many thought impossible and delivered a thrilling, blockbusting sequel to Brian De Palma’s convoluted original.

Mission Impossible 2, while by no means the perfect blockbuster, is a visually stunning triumph of style over substance, featuring some of the most outrageous stunts and set pieces this side of The Matrix. And all this despite rumours of on-set friction between movie perfectionists Woo and Cruise, a production which seemed to drag on and on and a budget which just kept growing.

Cruise reprises his role of special agent Ethan Hunt for this sequel that sees him racing across Spain and Australia to prevent a deadly virus being unleashed on the world. The virus in question, which does have a vaccine, looks set to fall into the hands of Dougray Scott’s turncoat agent unless Hunt can destroy it, so at the request of his bos (Anthony Hopkins) he enlists the help of former colleague Luther Strickell (a welcome return by Ving Rhames) and Thandie Newton’s beautiful master thief to prevent the unthinkable from happening.

Things become ever more complicated, however, when Cruise falls for Newton’s sexy charm and then has to watch as she puts her life on the line with former boyfriend Scott.

As with the original, the plot in Mission Impossible 2 plays second fiddle to the set pieces, particularly with Woo at the helm. But it is easier to follow and contains some nice asides at the expense of both Cruise and the director.

However, anyone expecting an action tour de force akin to Face Off may be disappointed, for MI:2 does take a while to get going. Indeed, there are times when proceedings become too bogged down by plot, leaving the viewer to ponder just when Woo will be let off the leash.

Early on, we’re treated to an extremely nerve-shredding encounter with Cruise scaling the Grand Canyon (not for people with a fear of heights), and there is a car chase thrown in for good measure - but much of the early action seems toned down in favour of a lower certificate. From the moment Cruise and co enter a high security building to steal the virus, however (a scene which manages to combine the hair-raising intensity of the first film’s virtually identical heist with, oddly, the Somewhere Over The Rainbow sequence from Face Off and the waterfall scene from Last Of The Mohicans), MI:2 enters a different league from most action films.

The last third of the movie is a no-holds barred, adrenalin-fuelled thrill ride guaranteed to put the broadest smile on even the most hardened movie cynic’s face. From the moment Cruise enters the villains’ terrain, we are treated to one audacious set piece after another - filled with trademark Woo moments from slow-mo fights to flying doves and culminating in one of the most jaw-dropping motorcycle sequences ever filmed. Both Cruise and Woo pull out all the stops to ensure that MI:2 demands repeat viewing - if only to figure out just how they performed that front wheel wheelie!