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MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II
Grown-up action/suspense score from Elfman is full of thrills
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2000 Paramount Pictures; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
After the success of Mission: Impossible a sequel was inevitable, but it took a few years coming, and when it finally arrived in 2000 - well, to say it wasn't worth the wait would be something of an understatement. I suppose it was worth the wait for Paramount's executives and Tom Cruise's bank manager, but Mission: Impossible II really was one of the most pitifully poor summer blockbusters yet made, with the dumb script (screenplay credit to Robert Towne!) made even worse by the ludicrous direction of John Woo. A truly miserable motion picture.
With a wonderful score by Danny Elfman in the first film, the choice of the ever-controversial Hans Zimmer to score the sequel certainly caused a flutter amongst film music fandom, a flutter which only grew greater when people actually heard his music. Personally, I think one of Zimmer's most valuable traits is that he frequently goes against the grain, pretty much ignoring whatever the "standard" way of scoring a particular film might be, instead very much going in his own direction. And that's certainly what he did with Mission: Impossible II, ignoring the taut orchestral style employed by Lalo Schifrin on the tv show, and Elfman himself on the first movie, choosing to write for a small band dominated by guitars and drums, with solo vocals from Lisa Gerrard (this was shortly after Gladiator) and some parts for full choir.
The approach actually works perfectly well in the film, but still drew lots of criticism, with this probably ending up being one of the least popular scores in Zimmer's canon - even his (exceptionally devoted) fanbase seems to struggle to find much good to say about it. I, on the other hand, am actually rather fond of it - some of it is ludicrously over-the-top, but then so is the film, and it is a fun album to sit and listen to. The action music is very entertaining, with the soft rock style working really well, and there is some genuinely lovely guitar music, particularly in the gorgeous "Seville" and "Nyah". The other device of note is some foot-tapping, heard in a few scores in recent years; "The Heist" recalls Bill Conti's terrific Thomas Crown Affair music.
Things do start to drone on a bit after that, but then pick up in the longest track, "Bare Island", an unashamedly over-the-top piece of action music which sees the band joined by a choir doing the whole "Carmina Burana" (but not quite) routine so liked by film composers through the years before a funky electric guitar performance of Schifrin's theme. The score as a whole is undemanding, but entertaining; insubstantial, but fun.