Very few Mission: Impossible fans appreciate Mission: Impossible 2, and for good reason. It’s a silly film, one determined to mold its leading man after impossibly cool icons like James Bond or Bruce Lee. It’s also the most tonally dissonant installment of the franchise, and compared to more consistent efforts like (essentially Casablanca) to The Truth About Charlie, which remixed the Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn spy romp Charade with Mark Wahlberg, of all people, stepping in. Compared to those attempts, M:i-2 pulls off its love story with aplomb. And if you consider slow-motion gun fights and mask reveals sexy, then this is a positively erotic film.
Woo may very well be a romantic, but his passion is always best conveyed through a gauntlet of stylized violence. His version of a Mission: Impossible film might put a little too much emphasis on conventional romance, but he switches gears just in time for the film’s bonkers third act. Motorcycle jousting, sandy hand-to-hand combat, and a knife fight that could have taken Cruise’s eye out are what make M:i-2 so worth the ride. It’s also what allowed the franchise to continue, in spite of Cruise’s initial reluctance.
Mission: Impossible 2 had a daunting task, but its efforts, however panned, paved the way for one of the best action franchises in history. Sure, its story isn’t the best, but it more than makes up for it with plenty of balletic action. It served its purpose well, and now it deserves more credit than it gets. Revisit it as you wait the long wait for Dead Reckoning Part Two… just be ready for it to get a little weird.