Mission: Impossible 2

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A special agent comes up against his defected partner and now evil nemesis.


Well, well, Mr. Woo, we meet again. And this time around your mission - should, of course, you choose to accept it - is to deliver the sequel to a film directed by a (pre-blip) Brian De Palma, that boasted an eclectic cast, was based on a seminal '60s TV series and swooped $422 million at the world-wide box office. Quite a proposition, certainly. But then, this - to paraphrase the film's best line - isn't mission 'a little tricky', after all.

Although the result isn't exactly Mission: Impossible, either. Gone are the myriad characters, gloriously convoluted plot contortions and congealing mood of taut paranoia. Gone, too, is an actual team to speak of (Polson pootles about in a helicopter and Rhames does little more than tap aimlessly on his laptop), and criminally absent are gadgets of any real invention.

What we're left with is Hunt... He's up against defected Agent Ambrose (Scott) - GoldenEye's 006 springing strangely to mind - while Exotic Love Interest With The Daft Name, Nyah (Newton), flips from aloof femme fatale to infatuated girlie in a preposterously short space of time. So, it's James Bond then. A fluid, kinetic, visually impressive one admittedly, but Bond all the same.

And it starts - rather aptly, as it turns out - with more of a whimper than a bang, as a pre-credit mid-air heist (complete with prerequisite mountain-top collision clichÚ) culminates in the theft of both the crucial deadly virus and its only antidote. And so, enter he of the $taggering pay cheque (just maybe - and get this for depth - he's in fact the metaphorical cure and Scott the nasty bug) to save the day, grab the girl and look cool in sunglasses.

This, you see, is Tom Cruise's show. From scaling cliff faces to absailing into confined spaces (simply lifting its predecessor's finest hour), he looks nothing short of spectacular; flowing locks, chiselled jaw, toned muscles and glistening brow, all captured in mouthwatering slo-mo and longing, brooding close-up. Again and again.

Which inevitably throws into question who was really wearing the trousers. For, as much as he has never been one to underplay his leading men, it's an over-indulgence that smacks of the excessive, even for John Woo. Couple that with two Woo unknowns - a nigh-on tortuous mid-section (dragging on for close to an hour) of dreary plot exposition and a climax that shoots its bolt far too prematurely - and the answer seems fairly clear...

Where the film succeeds, it does so with some style. Even if the Chinese maestro, once touted by Tarantino as "the most exciting director to emerge in action cinema since Sergio Leone", overcooks his continual rubber unmasking (thus swiftly killing the 'b