MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 – Hans Zimmer
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Hans Zimmer’s score has come in for a lot of criticism over the last few weeks but, when you consider the film which his score accompanies, it’s a wonder it turned out this good. After everyone complained about how confusing Mission: Impossible was, it was decided to make Mission: Impossible 2 simpler. Simpler, yes. Dumber, no, but once again the Hollywood executives have pandered to the lowest common denominator of the movie-going public, and made M:I2 a stupid, albeit enjoyable movie, at least on a visceral level. After being forced to watch producer/star Tom Cruise show off his glistening biceps while hanging off a mountain during the opening credits, Mission: Impossible 2 actually turns out to be a virus movie with delusions of grandeur. Rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) has stolen the antidote to a killer virus called chimera which, when released into the atmosphere, will incapacitate anyone who encounters it within 20 hours. With the help of his nasty Australian henchman Stamp (Richard Roxburgh), Ambrose plans to steal the virus itself from the laboratory where it was made, release it, and blackmail the world into paying him for the cure. The mission, should the ubiquitous Ethan Hunt (Cruise) choose to accept it, is to travel to Australia in the company of his loyal technical whiz Luther (Ving Rhames), and thwart Ambrose’s plan – but not before he has made a diversion to Spain to elicit the help of Nyah Nordoff-Hall (the luminous Thandie Newton), Ambrose’s former lover.
People have been calling for John Woo to be given a Bond movie; I say, for God’s sake, don’t give him one, because before you know it he’ll have 007 doing kung-fu moves in slow motion while wearing a black trenchcoat surrounded by doves. That’s what he’s got Ethan Hunt doing here, as well as sliding around on a motorcycle and enduring one of the most vicious fistfights in cinema history. I’m all for directors having trademarks, and for having a certain cinematic panache, but this is just Face/Off all over again – and the moves were old hat then, especially for anyone who has seen any of Woo’s Hong Kong fare. Still, most of the rest of M:I2’s action sequences are slick and enjoyable, if a little over-elaborate, and the relationship between Ethan and Nyah sizzles with surprising sexual energy, giving the whole film an emotional edge that was not present in the first instalment.
In many ways, Mission: Impossible 2’s music is a showcase for the various soloists, who together make up the “Mission Impossible 2 Band”. Zimmer is joined by a whole host of friends and colleagues, including fellow Media Ventures stablemates Nick Glennie-Smith, Jeff Rona and Klaus Badelt; Affliction composer Michael Brook, vocalist Lisa Gerrard, and acoustic guitar specialist Heitor Pereira. The whole score is quintessential Zimmer, and is filled with the usual array of synthesisers, electronic effects, drum pads, and male voice choirs. However, the thing which elevates this score above the likes of Broken Arrow and The Peacemaker are the contributions of his fellow band members – Zimmer says he approached the score almost like an extended jam session, with each one having a go at doing their “bit”.
By far the most impressive sections of the score are the gorgeous flamenco guitar cues which accompany Ethan Hunt on his amorous adventures around the Iberian peninsula in search of the mysterious Nyah. Cues such as ‘Seville’, ‘Nyah’, and the gorgeous ‘Nyah and Ethan’ feature Pereira’s supremely expressive work, deftly picking out intoxicating rhythms and melodies which, at times, briefly recall Pat Metheny’s work on Under Fire. Equally effective are the increasingly popular human percussion effects – hand claps and foot stomps – which James Horner used to great effect in the Mask of Zorro, and which were subsequently picked up by Bill Conti in The Thomas Crown Affair.
The work of Lisa Gerrard on ‘Injection’ is pretty much an extension of sound that was heard in Gladiator, with the unique voice of the former Dead Can Dance singer weaving mysteriously in and around a thrusting, pulsating vibe. Gerrard, in future years, could be to Zimmer what Edda Dell’Orso is to Ennio Morricone: a constant, ethereal vocal sound which crops whenever the composer wants to convey something with a little more depth and passion than an orchestra alone can accomplish.
‘Bare Island’ is an especially noteworthy cue. Is it an anachronistic to mix a full-voiced choir chanting in Latin with synthesisers and electric guitars? Probably… but somehow Zimmer manages to get away with such disrespect by creating a sound that is at once contemporary and classical, and simply seethes with power. When the souped-up version of the Mission Impossible theme kicks in after 2 minutes, its difficult to know whether to laugh out loud or shake your head in dismay. Either reaction would probably be appropriate, if for no other reason than to acknowledge the sheer gall Zimmer has in creating such unapologetically over-the-top music.
Oddly, the penultimate track, ‘Mission Accomplished’, bears trace elements of Peter Best’s work on the Crocodile Dundee scores – presumably an accidental reference, but nevertheless a little suspect when one considers the fact that virtually the entire film takes place in Australia. And then there’s Lalo’s theme, which gets a full-on 38-second rendition by Black Sabbath – sorry, I mean the Mission Impossible Band – in track 5, and crops up in truncated form during the aforementioned ‘Bare Island’ and ‘The Bait’. Schifrin’s unforgettable melody is so associated with Ethan Hunt and the IMF that one could not imagine seeing the film without it. However, like Danny Elfman before him, Zimmer wisely chooses to leave it out until the last possible moment, allowing it to make the greatest impact it can when it does kick in.
Hans Zimmer has been writing music like this for the best part of a decade – winning admirers and detractors in equal measure along the way. There is no denying the immense impact Zimmer’s work has when heard in the film, but more often than not the deafening orchestrations tend to come across less successfully on CD. In the case of Mission: Impossible 2, the reverse is true. The album allows the listener to pick up on the subtler moments that were not immediately noticeable in the theatre, while the smaller, more select ensemble provides the same endorphin rush as before, but without piercing your eardrums in the process. Despite it being relatively more of the same from the German, I actually quite like this score.
- Hijack (4:09)
- Iko-Iko (written by Joe Jones, Marilyn Jones, Sharon Jones, Jessie Thomas, Barbara Ann Hawkins, Rosa Lee Hawkins and Joan Marie Johnson, performed by Zap Mama) (3:23)
- Seville (4:32)
- Nyah (Film Version) (2:20)
- Mission: Impossible Theme (0:39)
- The Heist (2:22)
- Ambrose (2:37)
- Bio-Techno (1:42)
- Injection (4:49)
- Bare Island (5:30)
- Chimera (1:42)
- The Bait (1:00)
- Mano a Mano (4:22)
- Mission: Accomplished (1:44)
- Nyah and Ethan (5:05)
Running Time: 45 minutes 46 seconds
Hollywood HR-62277-2 (2000)
Music composed and arranged by Hans Zimmer. Performed by Klaus Badelt, Michael Brook, Dave Gamson, Lisa Gerrard, Nick Glennie-Smith, Oliver Leiber, Heitor Pereira, Jeff Rona, Martin Tillman, Mel Wesson and Hans Zimmer. “Mission: Impossible Theme” by Lalo Schifrin. Choir conducted by Gavin Greenaway. Choir orchestrations by Bruce Fowler. Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson and Geoff Foster. Edited by Marcus Streitenfeld and Zigmund Gron. Mastered by Pat Sullivan. Album produced by Hans Zimmer.