Bradshaw Watch Classic – ‘Mission: Impossible 2’ (2000)

Roughly a decade ago, there was a film critic called Peter Bradshaw whose reviews for The Guardian crackled with opinionated passion and carefully-worded analysis. His full archive is available to read online, and it’s a genuine pleasure. His review of John Woo’s bizarre misfire Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) contained the following insights – leaving out basic details of the plot:

Mission_Impossible_II_38636_Medium– The film’s official title is presented as the “techno-key abbreviation” of M:i-2, which Peter suggests may reflect a sinister trend in the film – the “elision and omission of all ordinary human motivation, characterisation and, indeed, the banal requirements of physics and gravity”

– Peter notes the controversy over whether or not Tom Cruise performed his own “free-climbing” stunts which, according to the producers, were “the real thing”. He states dryly that “the production’s insurance brokers must have been very understanding” if that was the case

– Director John Woo makes “very different demands on his leading man than Stanley Kubrick or Paul Thomas Anderson,” devoting the film to pure action scenes, “devoid of the conventional solvents of thought or conversation”

– While some of the film is set in Spain, co-producer Tom Cruise ensured that most of the filming took place in Australia – possibly due to low production costs. The films makes good use of the conflicting environments offered by “glitzy urban” Sydney, and the “scrubby brush” of the wilderness

– Peter notes that the eccentric device of using latex masks as a disguise (which, he says, harks back to the original TV show) is here used “incessantly” by heroes and villains alike, almost giving the impression of watching a stage farce “from another century”. However, the gimmick “does not serve to advance or complicate the plot in any normal sense,” he says, but merely creates “little stand-alone moments of astonishment”

– Peter observes that there aren’t many actual gadgets in the film – and that even the presence of laptop computers, “a staple of the first film and of techno thrillers throughout the 90s,” is pretty subdued. He suggests this might be because “there isn’t anywhere obvious for hi-tech innovation to go” in action movies, now that audiences have become used to seeing them peppered with cutting-edge modern technology

– Peter asserts that the film’s chief appeal is Cruise himself – both his physical appearance (“swervy, bendy, agile”) and the personality he projects through his performance (“taut, genial self-possession”). Bradshaw notes that an insult aimed at Cruise by the film’s villain (accusing him of “grinning like an idiot every 15 minutes”) is a bit close to the bone, and then goes off into a tangent about Cruise’s ever-present grin – noting that it becomes “disconcerting once you see that his upper row of teeth is not quite square on his face, and the gap between his two front teeth clearly to the right of his nose”

– Peter laments that the movie takes nothing from the original Bruce Geller show except the bombastic intro and Lalo Schifrin’s theme tune, which he feels is underused on the film’s soundtrack. The screenplay is by Robert Towne, and contains “few droll moments”

– Dougray Scott plays the villain as a “cool dry Scot” whose “dark, brooding machismo” reminds Peter of Sean Connery as Bond – an association he feels was probably deliberate. Thandie Newton struck Peter as “heart-stoppingly beautiful,” and her role as an international jewel thief “wonderfully old-fashioned”

– Peter refers to Cruise and Newton’s love affair as a “tendresse,” trying to give his words a flavour of romance themselves (incidentally, it’s a word he clearly relishes – a quick Google search for “peter bradshaw tendresse” will show at least 11 separate Guardian reviews in which it is used)

– Despite his obvious enjoyment of its silliness, Bradshaw dismisses the film as a “plotless romp,” which in the final analysis is “utterly devoid of real risk, real sweat or real danger”



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