(Welcome to Queering the Scene, a series that explores LGBTQ themes and content in films of all kinds…especially where you least expect it.)
Queer representation in cinema has often been problematic. As a result of queer coding, the LGBTQ+ community was often portrayed as violent, threatening, and abhorrent, an active threat to civilized heteronormative society. But queer coding isn’t a new concept. In fact, its roots lay deep within film history.
Those roots will eventually take us to Mission: Impossible II of all things. But first, we need to look back. Far back.
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(Welcome to Team Leaders, a series where we explore how the directors of the Mission: Impossible movies used this franchise as a canvas to explore their pet themes and show off their unique sensibilities. In this edition: John Woo’s graceful Hong Kong transplant, Mission: Impossible II.)
18 years after the May 2000 bow of Mission: Impossible II, it’s somewhat hard to swallow that the movie made $546 million worldwide, mostly because it’s garnered such an awful reputation (with many cinephiles considering it the unqualified nadir of the franchise). Some folks flat out hate John Woo’s Tom Cruise team-up (and fourth American theatrical feature), utilizing it as the prime example in arguments regarding how the United States studio system somehow “broke” the legendary Hong Kong action auteur.
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Brian De Palma‘s first Mission: Impossible film wasn’t packed with action setpieces — there are only three, really, but those three are all top-tier action filmmaking, and one of those three defined the series for years to come. In the two decades since, the series has been tackled by a variety of directors — John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird, and now Christopher McQuarrie — each of whom bring a slightly different balance of action and espionage to their respective mix.
Paramount in all the best Mission Impossible setpieces, however, is the physicality of Tom Cruise (and, at times, his co-stars) and a direct simplicity that lets Cruise and many stunt performers shine. We’ve examined the major action concepts in the five films in the series to find the best Mission Impossible action scenes and show-off setpieces. (And, OK, we’ve highlighted a couple of the worst, too.)
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