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Mission: Impossible II(2000)
The world's greatest spy returns in the movie event of the year, M:I-2. This mission finds Ethan Hunt partnering up with the beautiful Nyah Hall to stop renegade agent Sean Ambrose from releasing a new kind of terror on an unsuspecting world. But before the mission is complete, they'll traverse the globe and have to choose between everything they love and everything they believe in.
For more about Mission: Impossible II and the Mission: Impossible II Blu-ray release, see Mission: Impossible II Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 18, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: John Woo
Writer: Robert Towne
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson
» See full cast & crew
Mission: Impossible II Blu-ray Review
John Woo takes the series in a new direction.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 18, 2009
Every search for a hero must begin with something that every hero requires -- a villain.
What a difference a movie makes. 1996's Mission: Impossible is a smart, crafty, and stylishly-intense Thriller that relies on brains over brawn to sell its bill of goods. The sequel, Mission: Impossible II, is absolutely nothing like the first film. In fact, it takes the completely opposite approach, offering a ho-hum plot and surrounding it with relentless, flashy, and exhilarating action. M:I II is filled with gunplay, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, and fast chases, playing in stark contrast to the deliberate yet engrossing game of espionage that defines the first entry. It's sleeker yet grittier, with a louder, more in-your-face attitude that makes it barely recognizable as the successor to the first entry. At first glance, that might be a bad thing; many fantastic films have seen the devolution of their series over time thanks to painfully inferior successors that seem to forget what made the original a quality film. Fortunately, M:I II does not succumb to that stigma. Although it is no match for the smarts of the first film, its often mesmerizing and highly entertaining action sequences make it a fun if not slightly disconcerting watch, particularly when viewed in close proximity to Mission: Impossible.
Tom Cruise (Top Gun) returns as Impossible Missions Force operative Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible II, this time charged with an assignment that could quite literally save the world from an outbreak of a deadly pathogen. When a top scientist for the Biocyte Corporation attempts to transfer the virus in his own body, rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott, Ever After) has him killed and leads an effort to secure the virus, known as "Chimera," and its antidote, "Bellerophon" for his own profit. IMF tasks Hunt with bringing the full extent of Ambrose's scheme to light, using the agent-turned-criminal's former girlfriend, Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton, Norbit) as bait. Along with quirky Australian pilot Billy Baird (John Polson) and former co-worker and computer wizard Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames, Dawn of the Dead), Hunt must use more than the guile that got him through his last mission if he is to succeed -- and survive -- an encounter with a determined and intelligent enemy.
More than any other factor, it is the presence and influence of Director John Woo (Face/Off) that makes M:I II so vastly different than its predecessor. The film marks the famed Hong Kong filmmaker's third major American motion picture, and it his unique style and eye for progressive and dazzling action -- more so than even the script -- that molds the film into the final product on display. Woo's trademark style is seen in all its glory here; M:I II sees a tremendous amount of slow-motion action sequences, punctuated by acrobatic stunts and practically impossible maneuvers that turn ordinary action into a finely-tuned ballet that is nothing short of an Action lover's delight. Actor Tom Cruise seems to fully embrace the style of the filmmaking and the approach to the series. Long gone is the svelte, clean-cut agent Hunt of the first film. Taking his place is a longer haired, more muscular, somewhat less serious, and seemingly much more deadly agent that often turns to his Beretta first and asks questions second. Granted, the story line lends itself to more gunplay, but the character is certainly a completely different animal this time around. About the only thing that connects him to the Ethan Hunt of the first film is his name and the presence of colleague Luther Stickell. Ving Rhames once again plays his under-utilized role wonderfully.
The only price that is paid by the influx of action into the film is its radical departure from the themes and style of the first entry. Not only does intellect take a back seat to the guns-blazing approach, but there is a decidedly lighter tone to parts of the movie, too. Several scenes border on comedy, with a few visual gags and several doses of lighthearted banter between the characters, particularly early on, occasionally taking the foot off the accelerator before it's floored for an explosive final act. In the midst of the action, M:I II does manage to offer viewers a bit of character development, though once again the radically different style somewhat dampens the effect. It's difficult to add to the mythos of the Ethan Hunt seen in the first film when the character is practically the same one in name only in this film. This is not a complete re-imagining of the character, but it often seems like it may as well have been. Nevertheless, Woo and Cruise make for a fine one-two punch. Although they have taken the series in a completely different direction, their dedication to making it work allows for a generally smooth transition between styles.
Mission: Impossible II Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mission: Impossible II comes to Blu-ray with an MPEG-2 encoded 1080p transfer framed in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The most striking aspect of this transfer is its level of detail that is far superior to that seen in this film's predecessor on Blu-ray disc. Up-close shots of human faces, for example, reveal fine textures and nuances that seem dull in Mission: Impossible. Colors are more vibrant and pleasing in this outing as well. The print is fairly grainy and noisy in spots, but does not see the abundance of speckles that were prevalent on the previous disc. However, a hint of edge enhancement is to be seen in places. Blacks occasionally take on a dark shade of blue in many shots with a slight bit of pixelation in some of the darker corners of the screen. Flesh tones also fluctuate in the film, ranging from a nice natural shade to featuring a slightly red tint. Overall, Mission: Impossible II offers a sharper, more pronounced image than its predecessor on Blu-ray, but it is not without its own set of drawbacks.
Mission: Impossible II Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Once again, Paramount brings a Mission: Impossible film to Blu-ray with no lossless audio option. M:I II offers a more pronounced and efficient track than that which was heard in the previous film's Blu-ray presentation. It's generally explosive and a well above-average effort in the world of lossy soundtracks on Blu-ray. The track is often dynamic, with excellent directional effects and atmosphere, those of both a subdued and aggressive nature. Quieter scenes offer impressive atmospherics; the subtle rolling waves as heard briefly in chapter eight help to create what seems like a virtual environment that places the listener in the midst of the locale. Bass is more robust and satisfying both in the presentation of the music and hard-hitting sound effects. Of course, as a more action-oriented film, M:I II features plenty of more opportunities to sparkle, and it rarely disappoints during shootouts and vehicle chases. While not quite as robust and clear as such scenes may have been with a lossless presentation, they are generally engaging and exciting. Furniture often rattles and gunfire erupts with a nice bit of punch throughout. Dialogue discernment is never a problem. M:I II delivers a fairly good listen, all things considered.
Mission: Impossible II Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mission: Impossible II offers viewers the chance to gather behind-the-scenes data on the film via several supplemental features. Headlining the package is a commentary track with Director John Woo. Woo provides an informative, engaging track where he shares the history of his involvement in the film, lending to the film a more modern appearance, the film's budget constraints, its themes of love and action and his desire to tone down the body count while keeping the level of action and excitement high, the difficulties of shooting certain scenes, his love for slow motion, and more. Woo delivers a fine track; he's occasionally difficult to understand, but context clues will fill in any gaps. Behind the Mission (480p, 14:28) is a basic making-of piece that features cast and crew interview snippets with a look at the challenges of producing the film, the contributions of Director John Woo and Screenwriter Robert Towne, the running themes of the film, a look at the characters, the action, and more. The piece relies on plenty of movie clips to move it along. Mission Incredible (480p, 5:12) looks briefly at the amazing action sequences and stunts as seen in the film. Impossible Shots (480p, 34:17) examines the ideas behind and making of 11 of the film's most important scenes. Next up is a music video by Metallica, entitled I Disappear (480p, 4:33), followed by an alternate title sequence (480p, 0:37). Concluding the supplements are two features that also appear on the first film's disc, Excellence in Film (480p, 9:15) and Generation: Cruise (480p, 3:36).
Mission: Impossible II Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
M:I II is a film that must be viewed in the proper context. Because of the radical departure of styles, fans of the first film may find this one too dramatic a change to accept, while those turned off by the first film's complexities may find the easier-to-digest plot and more relentless action more palatable. Either way, there is no denying that Mission: Impossible and Mission: Impossible II barely connect with one another; aside from the title, the familiar refrain, and the presence of Cruise and Rhames, these may as well have been completely unrelated films. If nothing else, they make for a rather intriguing study in cinematic juxtaposition. Paramount's Blu-ray release of M:I II is a cut above that of its predecessor. This disc offers a superior transfer, a much more aggressive yet still lossy soundtrack, and a decent supplemental package. Though a prime candidate for a "double-dip" down the road, Mission: Impossible II is worth picking up at the right price.
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