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Tom's an all action man on a mission; MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 (15).

IT'S been a long time since Tom Cruise flashed that $20million dollar smile on screen.

For three years, the star shunned his role as action man and tried to establish a reputation as a real actor. Call it Tom's Mission: Improbable.

He spent 18 months working on the arty Eyes Wide Shut, a film that was a huge hit - with insomniacs.

Then he took a pay cut for a supporting role in Magnolia, which won him an Oscar nomination, but nobody came to see him or the picture.

So now Tom is back with the blockbusters.

Mission: Impossible 2 is a pistol-packing, fist-flying, globe-trotting romp that will knock your socks off without troubling your brain.

Back in 1996, the first Mission: Impossible had a plot no one understood. M:I2 has a plot that a duck-billed platypus could understand.

Once again, Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, who has taken over the Impossible Missions Force after killing off his bad boss Jim Phelps in the first film.

His assignment involves a deadly virus known as chimera that a former colleague, the twisted Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), wants to steal and use for his own fiendish ends.

Unless Ethan can complete his mission and get it back, it's going to be a very bad flu season.

So he recruits Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton), a talented thief and an ex-girlfriend of Ambrose.

After hiding out in a bath tub and making sheep's eyes at one another, they fall for each other.

But the assignment immediately tears them apart when Ethan's new light-fingered love is sent back into the arms of the psychopathic Sean.

He immediately suspects her of spying on him, but this is the kind of film where Nyah is so alluring, Ambrose lets her hang around anyway.

But then this is a film with the accent heavily on the action rather than character.

Still, with M:I3 already in the planning stages, there's no reason the sequels can't continue as long as Tom's knees hold out.

In M:I2, each setpiece is more over-the-top than the last. There's an amazing descent through the top of a skyscraper, a lengthy motorcycle chase where Tom crashes through a wall of fire and a climactic kickboxing brawl.

Yet sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

The last 40 minutes are crammed with non-stop acrobatic leaps, slo-mo gunfire and a series of sequences that just don't seem to know when enough is enough.

No-one outside the US army owns as many guns as Tom and he never runs out of bullets.

The result is a slam-bang, summer joyride - but it's also a sign that the franchise has now moved far away from the 60s TV series, where brains, not gunplay, always won the day.

M:I2 is big and loud, but it ain't clever.

RATING 7
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 7, 2000
Words:473
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