Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2 | Agents of Fandom

Monday Movie Club: ‘Mission: Impossible II’

MI2 is the definition of a camp action film—but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad!

I’m going to lay out one of the greatest things to come out of Mission: Impossible II right now. Start off with a bang. We all know and love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, right? An iconic character, played perfectly, in the pantheon of comic book movies.

Well, as a society, we were this close to not getting Hugh Jackman. Instead, fate would have deemed Dougray Scott, the villain of MI2, as the legendary hero. That would have been something, huh? Due to scheduling conflicts with Mission: Impossible II, Dougray Scott was unable to play Wolverine and instead passed the torch to Hugh Jackman, who is still playing the character today. So there you have it—quite probably the greatest thing to come out of MI II. Told you I was going to start with a bang.

It’s not Mission Difficult…It’s Mission Impossible!

Now, onto the rest of the less-than-stellar legacy of the second installment to the famed Mission: Impossible franchise. When preparing to write this series of reviews, I consciously realized for the very first time that I, in fact, have never seen a single Mission: Impossible movie outside the landmark first film. Not a single one.

Perhaps my deep passion for movies surfacing in 2019—the year after the latest entry of Mission Impossible: Fallout—is to blame. Perhaps my late-stage understanding of just how pivotal Tom Cruise is to the movie industry can be held partially responsible. Whatever the case, I am embarking on this mission now, and sharing my thoughts with you as I traverse the ups and, in the case of this week, downs of the franchise.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) rocks the ultimate pair of early 2000s spy sunglasses. | Agents of Fandom
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) rocks the ultimate pair of early 2000s spy sunglasses. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The first 10 minutes of Mission: Impossible II are actually pretty damn sick. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back, this time scaling a massive rock face unassisted. A helicopter approaches and shoots a canister toward him containing incredibly dated and incredibly peak early-2000s sunglasses that carry his mission message, only for him to end the intro pre-credit scene by proclaiming “If I let you know where I’m going, then I won’t be on holiday,” tossing his sunglasses (in slow motion!) toward the camera as they self-destruct.

Even writing about it, I get jacked. A hardcore Hanz Zimmer score sets the mood for a more on-the-fringes type mission and a hardball Ethan Hunt. I would even make the argument it’s one of the best opening sequences to an action movie ever (not quite as good as The Dark Knight Rises, but you get the idea).

Hunt is again called on a mission, this time in Seville, Spain, with the goal of stopping the world-ending Chimera virus from being sold and distributed by Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) and his henchmen. The best way to get to Ambrose and the Chimera virus, along with the only dose of the antivirus, is decided to be through his ex-girlfriend, Nyah (played coyly by Thandie Newton).

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton) share a moment of intimacy after a car chase. | Agents of Fandom
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton) share a moment of intimacy after a car chase. Image Credit Paramount Pictures.

The standard “seduce, distract, and steal” mission unravels, with intense scenes of finger cutting and horse racing (okay maybe not so intense) leading to one of the most unhinged motorcycle chases and final fights of a movie in recent memory. Oh, and Brendan Gleeson makes an appearance—which honestly startled me and made me giddy—only for him to play an immensely undervalued role in the story. In the end, Ethan Hunt wins and gets the girl, while following every exceptionally simplistic action-hero trope of the 80s and 90s.

Of course, I haven’t even mentioned what makes this movie such a stalwart in the Mission: Impossible history books—the slo-mo. Oh baby, that delicious, scrumptious, astonishingly overused slo-mo. Look, it’s sick the first and second time we see it. Hell, it’s even super cool the third, fourth, and fifth time it happens. But once the story suffers from pacing, character investment, and even core storyline problems, it becomes much more of a nuisance that ultimately puts the movie in a supremely dated time capsule and sinks it to the bottom of the ocean. It’s not fun.

You may think it is, or even remember it as being something different and exhilarating, but it isn’t. The introduction of Nyah does add another layer of complexity to the story and the Ethan Hunt character, but their relationship, along with her relationship with Ambrose, is so over-reliant on sexual tension that it feels like a Bond storyline done poorly. I’m also pretty sure Ambrose is the horniest villain that’s ever been on-screen. The slo-mo helps my case for this, trust me.

‘Mission: Impossible II’ fails to live up

Hugh Stamp (Richard Boxburgh, left) is yelled at by his deranged villain of a boss Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott, right) in Mission: Impossible II | Agents of Fandom
Hugh Stamp (Richard Boxburgh, left) is yelled at by his deranged villain of a boss Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott, right). Image Credit Paramount Pictures.

All of this to say, Mission: Impossible II is a significant step down from the iconic first Mission: Impossible. John Woo (fresh off of other action heavy-hitters like Hard Target and Face/Off in the 1990s) had a vision, and he executed it, but that vision wasn’t the right fit for the franchise.

This film is widely hailed as the worst Mission: Impossible film, and I’ve got no issues with that collective decision. Next time you hear someone talking about how unfortunate Mission: Impossible II was, remind them that it gave us a world in which Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. Maybe they’ll finally be able to see one good thing about it.

Be sure to tune in each Monday while we cover each Mission: Impossible film leading up to the release of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 on July 12, 2023!

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'Mission: Impossible II' Review

'Mission: Impossible II' Review
2 5 0 1
2.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • The camp!
  • If you are looking for a horny villain, this is your movie.

The Bad

  • The *CAMP*!
  • Pacing is wildly eradic.
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