With a curiously similar plotline to Notorious (1946) this sequel offers much action and balletic violence and a familiar John Woo last act set piece. It's overblown, overcooked, and there is much less intrigue compared to the first mission. A descent in a vault has nowhere near as much tension as the first film. That said, Thandie Newton is winsome; Cruise is very capable as the spy trying to thwart a lethal disease outbreak; Dougray Scott is there to ensure the melodrama is maintained.
Dripping with dumb late 90s/early 2000s action movie machismo (see the nearly lethal sports car joyride, helpless female eye candy, ridiculous climactic motorcycle joust), and there isn't much to mask it (though there are like a billion uses of masking technology *eyeroll*): the plot is average action movie fare (the added cheesy romance just makes it worse, so does the repeated slow motion) and the villain's annoying. The chemistry and spy-work of the central trio keep this watchable.
This movie sucks, but it's strange how it fails.When you get down to the Mission: Impossible series, all of them are almost the exact same story told over and over again. And yet they all work despite the fact that they always have the same beats. Each one involves Ethan Hunt getting disavowed by the IMF and having to work with the barebones essentials without the safety net of the government. He always has to break in to a place before someone else does, usually involving great heights. And the climax is always an insane chase sequence. But, they all work because instead of coming to the movies for the plots, you come to it to see how each director gives his stamp to the same plot.Except for this one - for the most part. It very much has the same action beats - especially the break-in and the chase scene - but is done in such a bloated, boring, bombastic way that it kind of feels like the cinematic equivalent of television static. They trade the "we're on our own, guys. We need to find who's framing us," storyline for some sort of riff on "The Spy Who Loved Me," and in trying something new, it accidentally fails the worst.On the series' standards, there's really two big failures: one, Ethan is never disavowed, so the tension of a man left to his guns is non-existent. Two, and the far bigger sin is the fact that there's never really the big Tom Cruise stunt set-piece that we're looking forward to. The closest is the opening credits rock climb sequence, but that's not some big setpiece with stakes -- it's just the character's intro. He doesn't really have anything for the story to move forward, and in context, it's just Ethan Hunt on vacation. He does this for fun, so we're not in suspense at anything he's doing. So, if anything, this sequence actually damns the rest of the movie because there's no big stunt for him to top maybe outside of the chase at the end.Thandie Newton really is the MacGuffin, and I don't really want to put most of the blame on her, but too much of it is her fault. She's more annoying and smug that charming, and so we don't really care about this whole "Spy Who Loved Me" thing her and Ethan are going through.Dougary Scott as the villain... I actually don't remember anything about him other than how he acts when he's first introduced, and he's one of those bad guys who's more just smug and evil for the sake of being evil. He actually reminds me a lot of how horribly Rupert Everett played Doctor Claw in the "Inspector Gadget" movie. He's not as bad, but he definitely belongs in the same vein.The Mission: Impossible series actually creates an interesting timeline of blockbuster action movies at the time each was made, and this one really may just be a victim of timing. John Woo was no longer this beloved Hong Kong-action maestro; he was more of a poor man's Michael Bay who's style was really getting stale at that point. It also represents the era where script doctors were over-used. It's not like they haven't been rampant for the last 25+ years, but this era especially had this problem where it felt like every single page of the script was written by a different writer.The saddest, though, must be Hans Zimmer... my God, HOW could he make a score this boring? He decided to base it heavily in guitars, mainly electric and Spanish acoustic. The electric makes it feel like a try-hard college freshman frat-bro, the kind that blasts the loudest metal he can out of his stereo. It's the lamest, it's like Nirvana trying to be Limp Bizkit. I think he was trying to off-set the "loud, energetic, bombastic" electric with the "cool, serene, laid-back" Spanish acoustic, but it is just so boring and pretentious. It's not calming us down, it's lulling us to sleep. It might just be my musical tastes repelling that really acoustic sound - I hate it, it just sounds like a guitar being tuned - but at the same time, I should not be thinking that something by the guy who did the music to "The Lion King" is not done as well as it was in "Spy Kids." Yes. "Spy Kids," and I think that's because Robert Rodriguez is actually Mexican, and was using the guitar to compose, not as an esthetic. I always thought that maybe this series needs to stick to the same story line to keep interesting, just having the director spice it up, and for the most part that has been the case. However, Rogue Nation is basically what this movie was trying to be without abandoning the staples of the franchise and coming out at a time when not all action movies sucked. So, not only does it make this a failed experiment, but the fact that that movie exists, and succeeds, makes this movie entirely pointless, not even for curiosity's sake. I have the blu-rays of the series, but to be completely honest, I haven't used this one for anything other than a coaster.