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Rogue Sequel: In Defence of John Woo’s ‘Mission: Impossible II’

July 28, 2015

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In the largely homogeneous world of blockbuster franchise filmmaking (hi, Marvel Studios), the nearly 20-years old Mission: Impossible series is perhaps the only still ongoing one that can, without a doubt, be described as director-driven. Brian De Palma’s first film in the series was loosely based on the popular television series of the same name, but it saw fit to treat fan service as red herrings: all IMF squad bar members except Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt are slaughtered within the first act, while series protagonist Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) is revealed to be a traitor. Of the utmost concern to De Palma are his trademark motifs regarding voyeurism, and his spy film fits better in the company of his films like Blow Out than something like the prior year’s Bond entry, GoldenEye. He takes the basic concept of Mission: Impossible and reboots it to suit his own whims.

And so, it is that a similar approach has been carried over to each installment, where every sequel is like its own reboot in a way. There’s continuity and commonality here and there (hi, Ving Rhames), and more so of that in the most recent three films (hi, Bad Robot Productions), but the big connective tissue is always that of using Cruise as a tool, placing him in oft-incredible, elaborate cinematic spectacles — Ethan Hunt is a device, not a character. Yet, the installment that arguably made the best use of Cruise as an instrument of violence is considered the black sheep of the series. Not to say that John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II is the best of the franchise, but there’s much to appreciate here and its rhythms have only become more interesting with age…

Click for the full feature for Vague Visages

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