Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is on yet another mission to save the world (should he choose to accept it) for the seventh time (movie time, that is) in Mission Impossible: Fallout; the good news is he does, because this latest installment in the franchise is undeniably (go ahead, try to deny it) exciting and suspenseful, with more than enough double-crosses, triple-crosses, and well-choreographed action to make this one of the best films in the series—and one of the two most enjoyable films out at your multiplexes at this moment. (More on the other one in a bit.)
This time the IMF has to atone for some past errors after the opportunity to keep some plutonium out of the hands of the bad guys (in this case, a widespread group of terrorists known as the Apostles) is compromised—the first in many tense sequences, as Cruise’s Ethan has to choose between a successful mission—or saving one human life. It’s a choice that Ethan must make several times in this Mission, and helps provide his character with much more dimension than, say, your conventional superhero. Henry Cavill “joins” the team as a CIA agent with ulterior motives, while Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson (not exactly on the team, but very much a part of things), and yes, Alec Baldwin make welcome returns.
What helps lift Mission Impossible: Fallout above other similar fare is that Christopher McQuade’s script and direction always leave time for the human element and the acknowledgement of fallibility. It also leaves plenty of breathing room for humor—and oh yes, the action setpieces are superb, from a motorcycle and car chase to a set-to in an underground nightclub (Vanessa Kirby, Princess Margaret in The Crown, is a flavorful addition), to a foot chase on the rooftops of London, and the final race against time to disarm some nuclear weapons. Until the last ten minutes (or so), most of the action scenes are, shall we say, fairly credible—if the film goes a little over the top in the last section, it still contains a satisfying payoff. Make it your mission to see this Mission in the theatres.
It’s a sequel. It’s a prequel. It’s a sequel and a prequel. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, by all that is holy, shouldn’t be any good. It doesn’t have the novelty factor of the first Mamma Mia, it lacks (most) of the catchy ABBA songs of the first one, and yes, for the most part, it lacks Meryl Streep, who did plenty to win us over in Mamma Mia. It also violates so many space and time continuums that Neil De Grasse Tyson couldn’t make sense of it,
That being said, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a delightful movie, the kind that makes you want to sing along in your heart even as your head is saying “Wait a minute…really??” Amanda Seyfried is back as Meryl/Donna’s daughter Sophie, renovating the hotel for a grand re-opening on a magical island in the middle of Greece. She’s a little downcast because two out of the three Dads are not there. Pierce Brosnan is there, but he’s a little mopey—for good reason. Luckily, Mom’s two good friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) arrive to help Sophie out of her doldrums—and there is also that extended flashback to 1978, where the young Donna (winningly played by Lily James) meets the younger versions of Dads Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard (played respectively by Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan) and makes some life-altering decisions. Did I mention the enigmatic hotel manager Fernando (Andy Garcia) who speaks of a long-ago love? And don’t count on me to share the identity of the last-minute guest. In any case, leave your logic at the door, head over to Greece, and enjoy the kind of tuneful, funny, heartwarming entertainment they rarely make any more. I bet you won’t be sorry.