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Review: Mission Impossible: to sit through this diluted dud

Mission Impossible II

Starring: Tom Cruise
Running Time: 2 hours
Rating: 4 out of 10

Not that it matters much in this film of special effects and intricate gadgets, but the plot for this year's installment of Mission Impossible centres on a doomsday virus and its vaccine. A former agent turned evil has his hands on the latter, but needs the former to extort the considerable sum he desires. Enter agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), called back from vacation to save the world, or at least Australia.

"This is going to be extremely difficult," says Hunt. "That should be easy for you," replies Anthony Hopkins' character, a suave version of the James Bond Q. "You're used to mission impossible."

Cruise befriends (then beds) the bad guy's ex-girlfriend (herself a high-stakes thief) and convinces her to make up with the villain, under cover. Following a tracking device planted in her neck, Cruise discovers the evil hideaway, the evil plan, and ultimately...well, I won't spoil the ending.

An action movie first and foremost needs twists, surprises and engaging feats, and Mission Impossible certainly has plenty of those. But a really good action film - the kind that can entertain a family of five - also needs to have: a) consistent, clever logic, b) sleek style, c) a romance (or two) that doesn't get in the way, d) a villain that makes the audience, if only once or twice, experience genuine fear and loathing.

The whole premise of the virus is vague from the get go, although the details become progressively clearer. But what is this organisation Hunt works for anyway? They command satellites and top secret computers, but when they know exactly where the virus is, they can't just call in the Australian police or army! And would a thief about to unleash an apocalyptic virus really be interested in stock options?

The movie is also burdened by frequent, melodramatic sequences with heavy-handed, borderline silly use of new-age music and slow-motion filming. Generally, these scenes involve the romance between Cruise and the heroine, which is not only unwieldy, but implausible considering the time they've known each other. The villain does bad things, but has little personality and the German doctor (played by an American actor) has a poor Teutonic accent. Worst of all, the movie's only two decent lines are cheap and sexist.

It's a shame more attention wasn't paid to the details, because the camerawork in Mission Impossible is stunning and most of the acting is acceptable as well. Director John Woo is an action flick specialist responsible for Face Off and Broken Arrow. But watching his films, one imagines that Woo went to all the effects classes at film school and asked lots of questions - but was absent or asleep during the classes teaching the virtues of character and story development.

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