Mission Impossible 2
Hong Kong director John Woo has long been cinema's poet of violence, but it is only recently that his works have made it to Hollywood. Classics such as Hard Boiled feature his trademark action-choreography, with plenty of double-fisted gun moments accompanied by breaking glass and melodrama thrown in to boot. In bringing his talents to Mission Impossible 2, he far surpasses the original with satisfying, white-knuckle action. The plot involves a nasty case of the flu and its stolen cure; MI agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) pairs up with accomplished superthief (Thandie Newton) to get it back.
What makes Mission Impossible 2 so compelling is that Woo manages to portray the action romance in a way at once personal and epic. Tight face shots of Tom Cruise segue to sculpted, detailed fight scenes, which Woo suddenly cuts to waves crashing on a nearby beach, or a pigeon fluttering in slo-mo: the technique is self-knowingly manipulative, brilliant, and effective. Nature itself gets pulled into the tension (particularly, in the film, the pigeons).
Cruise and Newton deliver the windswept performances perfectly suited to a summer blockbuster. An opening scene in southern Spain thrusts the viewer into the position of looking down Newton's shirt, indicative of Woo's cinematic admiration of the leading lady throughout the film. In general, Tom Cruise often looks pained, feral, or both, but here these weaknesses are turned into strengths. Stylish, explosive fun.