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Part I (1996), directed by Brian de Palma (oh the memories… Dressed to Kill!), seems a bit old-fashioned today. It seems it is still on the wrong side of modern action cinema, more Dirty Harry than Bourne, so to speak. This is not necessarily a bad thing – but here it felt like one, because I associated Mission Impossible with stylish high tech thrillers, and part I does not really deliver on that expectation. Of course there are beautiful shots and scenery: Prague, the Aquarium restaurant that will soon spill all its fish. A classical setting with an agent (Tom Cruise) being set up, a boss of a secret service agency working for the wrong side (and who could do that better than Jon Voight),  a McGuffin to get the story moving (some list of secret service cover names – ah, the pre-Wikileaks innocence about how to create nonsense plot devices…), and a nice villain who is not really that villainous (Vanessa Redgrave). A grand finale involving the Eurotunnel train and a helicopter – and that actually does not look so good, because technology apparently was not yet ready to pull off that particular stunt. Not always the kind of tight and slick action that I would have hoped for.

Part II (2000) was directed by John Woo, and yes, you get a lot of John Woo to chew on, for better or worse. Probably the most hilarious car-motorbike chases ever, the wildest crane and helicopter shots, the strangest combination of high-tech action and fist fights – he loves his fist fights, to the point that the fight scenes are extended way beyond anything bearable. When Ethan Hawke throws away the knife he could have used to kill off the bad guy towards the end, I cringed, not only because this was the red-lettered announcement of what the last twist of this fight was about to be, but also out of sheer annoyance / boredom… on the other hand, there should be plenty of Hongkong action fans who do appreciate the more of this the better. The whole film is torn between trying to be ultra-kinetic and over the top full of action, while being stopped again and again by Woo’s mannerisms, especially his taste for slow motion and pigeons (see Face/Off for further reference). That there is some poisonous virus and some antidote and a cute master thief / eye candy girl and Ving Rhames and a lot of other stuff… nice, but overshadowed by the choreography of fighting, chasing, jumping (off planes, helicopters and buildings). More thrilling than part one, that’s for sure. And maybe the prettiest Cruise of his career, too.

One Comment

  1. haha yeah I’d have to agree with ya on both here, although I do really like these first 2 for the sake of their relentless action, even if it all is a bit over-the-top. I refuse to acknowledge the third one, and I have yet to see the most recent one. “And maybe the prettiest Cruise of his career, too.” — nice line!

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