Enter our villains. The similarities between the villains extend to the fact that both Alex (Claude Rains) and Sean (Dougray Scott) are smitten with the two ladies sent to deceive them and their love/lust for these ladies clouds their vision, unknowingly putting their missions in jeopardy.
From here both films move to the horse track. The two scenes play a bit differently, though the results remain the same as both Alicia and Nyah are asked to smuggle something from Alex and Sean to help in obtaining additional information as to what kind of naughtiness these two bad guys are up to.
In Notorious the plot is far more psychological as Devlin’s relationship with Alicia is not kept from Alex. The difference being Sean once worked for IMF so he is fully aware of what line of work Ethan is into, in the case of Notorious there is no such familiarity between the two men.
In M:I 2 Nyah obtains the SD card from a digital camera while at the race track. Notorious isn’t so quick to the point, though only a few scenes later Alicia obtains a key to Alex’s wine cellar for Devlin and while at another party Devlin gets to the bottom of Alex’s evil plot.
And our timelines converge once again. In Notorious, Devlin and Alicia are caught by Alex near the wine cellar though they aren’t caught snooping, but kissing. However, shortly after, Alex notices the missing key and evidence that he’s been discovered. At this point he realizes Alicia is working for the American government.
In M:I 2 it is, once again, more straight to the point as Sean disguises himself as Ethan and tricks Nyah into revealing her true intentions.
At this point the action in M:I 2 takes over and the subtlety in Notorious takes over, but the end result is the same.
In M:I 2 Nyah injects herself with Chimera becoming a human petri dish that Ethan must save by obtaining the cure. In Notorious, Alicia is being drugged by Alex and his mother and Devlin must save her before they end up killing her.
The effects are setting in… but both ladies are soon saved.
The two films close, M:I 2 with flying motorcycles, fire, doves and bullets before leading to a kiss in Sydney. Notorious comes to a close with the haunting image of Alex re-entering his house with his fate soon to come… sans motorcycles, doves, fire and bullets.
While Mission: Impossible II clearly stole virtually every idea from Notorious without attribution, this little exercise also shows the difference between how stories are told when you compare these two films which are separated by 55 years. Sex, violence and slow-motion dominate M:I 2, while psychological manipulation and emotional intrigue is at the core of Hitchcock’s Notorious.
Now I’m not saying one style of storytelling is better than the other, but simply comparing the difference in which the same story is being told. I love action and violence and Mission: Impossible II is a film I enjoy watching and I have no shame in saying it. That said, the comparison does make me wish today’s filmmakers would take subtlety into consideration once in a while and push aside the attempts to titillate the audience with sex and bloodshed.
The most glaring example in this comparison for me is the sexual encounter between Ethan and Nyah, something that never takes place between Devlin and Alicia and even with the physical relationship and angsty moments in M:I 2 clearly established you still believe there is far more compassion between Devlin and Alicia than you do with Ethan and Nyah.
M:I 2 is more of a blunt object, its characters walking around with the “Me want girl” and “Me kill man” attitude and while the supposed “love” appears to be the core motivation for both Ethan and Sean for most of the feature it is never as believable as it is in Notorious. I also find the villains from older films to be far more complex, the vulnerability Alex feels in Notorious is especially integral to the final moments of this film while Sean never appears to be anything more than a greedy snake with little else to him.
To me, that’s fascinating.
If you’re interested, you can pick up Notorious on Blu-ray now on Amazon.
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