Monday, 27 July 2015

Mission: Impossible II

Based on the evidence presented by Mission: Impossible II, it's very important to Tom Cruise the Producer that Tom Cruise the Actor look beautiful at all times. The first Mission: Impossible swirled around a boyish, agitated Cruise who couldn't help but cause a bubbly physical delight in the (older) women he interacted with. For the sequel Cruise, perhaps hoping to conjure up a similar tumescence in his audience, has director John Woo endlessly swishing his camera around the star's dreamy haircut.

Alex Gibney's documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief relates a story about church leader David Miscavige's attempts to maintain Tom Cruise's sense of total entitlement, at a time when he was still married to Nicole Kidman. Upon learning that the couple dreamed of running through a meadow of wildflowers, Miscavige had his Sea Org cronies work day and night, repeatedly ploughing and sodding a section of desert until it met the Hollywood pair's expectations. That's what M:I-2 feels like, a spectacularly expensive ego trip in which everybody bends over backwards to please Cruise.

John Woo's Hong Kong films tend to have a seat-of-your-pants energy, with the director placing his lead, ideally Chow Yun-fat, in squared sets full of erupting squibs. In The Killer and Hard-Boiled Chow doesn't gracefully dance around every single encounter. He often crouches and darts, scared. Sometimes he even fumbles his weapons while leaping away from shrapnel. During A Better Tomorrow Chow's character Mark picks up a debilitating leg injury that sees him demoted from mob hitman to a lowly errand boy.

Woo's characters frequently have interior lives that are framed as disaster areas, monastic slogs with brief bubbles of apocalyptic mayhem. There's a constant sense of vulnerability in Chow's performances too, something utterly lacking in this tedious film. Cruise is perfect and invincible throughout. The Ethan Hunt seen in M:I-2 is no longer a desperate man nursing a never-ending headache. He's an impassive overseer who proceeds from a point of absolute confidence, burning holes through his companions (both in front and behind the camera) with a laser gaze that instantly supplicates them to his will.

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