Notorious: Mission Inspiration

         Both the 1946 thriller Notorious, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and the 2000 action film Mission: Impossible II, directed by John Woo, share many similarities. The heroines have similar assignments and qualities: the heroes are both United States agents, the characters Sebastian and Sean are both love struck, suspicious, and villainous, and each film has a similar balcony and racetrack scene. It is possible that Notorious inspired much of Mission: Impossible II.

         The heroines in both Notorious and Mission: Impossible II have criminal backgrounds, which inspire their missions. While Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) has a family past involving Nazi activities, Nia Hall (Thandy Newton) is a thief with a long criminal record. Both are recruited by undercover agents working for the United States Government. Alicia is asked to resume her prior relationship with Sebastian (Claude Rains) in order to uncover a Nazi plot, while Nia resumes her relationship with the villainous Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in an effort to recover the deadly disease Chimera. Both women are informed of their assignments on balconies. Alicia sets the table on the balcony in Río de Janiero, anticipating Devlin's (Cary Grant) return. Nia sets the table, waiting for Ethan (Tom Cruise), in Seville. The tables look very similar, with tall candles and white linen. There are some slight differences, though. The balcony in Río overlooks the ocean, while the one in Seville overlooks the street. Though the doorways leading out onto the balcony appear to be in similar positions, the camera in Notorious is positioned on the left side of the balcony. In Mission: Impossible II, it is on the right. Alicia and Nia are hesitant to pursue their missions, but they are enamored with their recruiting agents. They are not the only ones hesitant about the tasks at hand. The agents are not sure the women will even consent. When informed of the task, Devlin says, "I don't know if she'll do it." He justifies his response by saying that he "didn't think she was that type of woman." Ethan's response is similar. He says, "I don't think I can get her to do it." He follows up by saying she is not trained for that assignment.

         The characters Sebastian and Sean Ambrose are similar in their adoration and suspicion of Alicia and Nia. Though Sean does not ask Nia to marry him, as Sebastian asks Alicia, he moves Nia back into his home. Through the looks on both men's faces, it is apparent throughout the films that they are love struck. When they discover why the women have returned to them, both men express emotion and plan revenge. Sebastian goes to be comforted by his mother, while Sean has tears in his eyes. Sebastian and his mother poison Alicia, while Sean and his henchmen use Nia as a pawn in a deadly effort to recover the antidote to Chimera, and leave her to die once she has been infected by the disease.

         In both films, there is a scene at the racetrack. Devlin is not as conspicuous in his approach to Alicia in public as Ethan is when he comes to Nia. Devlin asks Alicia about the individuals she has seen at Sebastian's house. Shortly thereafter, Alicia looks through her binoculars, and the racehorses are depicted on the outside lenses. She remarks how Sebastian's chosen horse is winning, as Devlin cracks that Sebastian certainly knows how to pick them, meaning both horses and women. Nia looks through her binoculars while she is in the front box and tells Ethan, through an earpiece, about the men she has seen at Sean's house. When Nia comes down to place a bet, Ethan approaches her from behind and makes very subtle conversation. In this film, Nia chooses the horses and wins.

         The heroines' craftiness becomes most apparent during the scenes with the key and the envelope. Alicia secures a key from Sebastian's key ring and, while hugging Sebastian, manages to drop it behind his back and conceal it with her foot. Later, she exchanges the key with Devlin by placing it in his hand when they talk at the party. In Mission: Impossible II, Nia hugs Sean, reaching into his inner coat pocket and securing the envelope containing information about Chimera. She holds the envelope in front of her as she turns to leave. She has to turn back around, though, when Sean calls her name. As she turns, she moves her left hand down her side and behind her, allowing the envelope to gracefully slide down as well. She catches the envelope and conceals it behind her back.

         Therefore, Mission Impossible II contains scenes and characters similar to those depicted in Notorious. Alicia and Nia have criminal backgrounds and are recruited to complete assignments for the United States Government. Devlin and Ethan are both undercover agents who are uncertain that the heroines will consent to undertake their tasks. Sebastian and Sean are love struck by Alicia and Nia, and seek revenge when they discover the truth. Alicia and Nia are both crafty in obtaining and disguising the key and the envelope. Both films have very similar balcony and racetrack scenes. With so many similarities between the two films, it is possible that Notorious inspired Mission: Impossible II.

Crystal Parrish

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