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Granger at the Movies: ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout,’ ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

After 22 years, the sixth installment of the escapist spy fantasy “Mission Impossible: Fallout” continues to deliver sheer fun, thanks to charming, charismatic Tom Cruise.

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It begins as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) receives an assignment to take out the Apostles, an evil syndicate of international anarchists who are determined to terrorize the world, causing chaos by detonating three nuclear bombs in Jerusalem, Mecca and the Vatican.

At Hunt’s side are his loyal teammates, Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg). They’re joined by IMF boss Alex Hunley (Alec Baldwin), CIA director Erika Sloan (Angela Bassett) and her henchman, August Walker (Henry Cavill).

After capturing radical Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), their challenge is to obtain the plutonium cores from an arms dealer, the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), and find mysterious John Lark, who wrote the nihilistic manifesto, claiming “the greater the suffering, the greater the peace.”

Along the way, they’re joined by intrepid MI6 secret agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Ethan’s ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan).

Spun off from Bruce Geller’s TV series, it’s written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who wisely utilizes Lalo Schifrin’s familiar theme to further amp the tension.

Kudos also to stunt coordinator/second-unit director Wade Eastwood, who masterminded feats like Cruise’s racing the wrong way ‘round the Arc de Triomphe on a BMW R-nine motorcycle with 70 stunt drivers in pursuit, climbing onto an open helicopter in midflight and dangling off the side of a cliff.

FYI: For the opening HALO (high-altitude, low-opening) sky-dive over Paris, Tom Cruise jumped more than 100 times out of a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at 25,000 feet; it was actually filmed in the United Arab Emirates by a sky diver with a camera mounted on his helmet. And if you ever question 56 year-old Cruise’s daredevil authenticity, check out his hilarious sky diving challenge to late-night TV host James Cordon on the web.

Full disclosure: My son, Don Granger, is an executive producer of this film.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is a full-throttle 10, an intense action-adventure thrill ride.

While I thoroughly enjoyed “Mamma Mia!” (2008), the jukebox romp revolved around Meryl Streep as Donna, the adventurous, high-spirited ‘70s hippie who didn’t know which of her three lovers was the father of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who’s getting married on a Greek island.

Now here comes “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Since it’s revealed in the first scene — Donna’s now dead, which leaves a huge void that not even a last-minute, flamboyant appearance by Cher can fill. And, since most of the Swedish pop group ABBA’s best songs were used in the original, the soundtrack is filled with reprises of “I Have a Dream” and some lesser known tunes like “When I Kissed the Teacher,” “Waterloo,” “Fernando” and “Andante, Andante.”

Divided into two sections, one story revolves around Sophie’s preparing to reopen the picturesque hotel founded by her oft-lamented mother, despite having a serious domestic dispute with her husband, Sky (Jeremy Irvine), who’s considering a lucrative job in Manhattan.

Sophie’s comforted by one (Pierce Brosnan) of her possible fathers, since the other two (Colin Firth, Skellan Skarsgard) are otherwise occupied. Plus there are Donna’s irrepressible bandmates, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) — and her suave hotel manager, Fernando (Andy Garcia).

The second story is a prequel, an extended flashback revealing how, 25 years earlier, energetic flower child Donna (Lily James) fled to idyllic Kalokairi on the Aegean Sea and became enamored with younger, unconvincing versions of the three men (Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine).

Discarding all semblance of cohesion and reality, both casts meet and mesh during the splashy “Super Trooper” and infectious “Dancing Queen” end credits which, thankfully, include a campy glimpse of marvelous Meryl.

Written and directed by Ol Parker, it’s filled with disjointed, confusing, tormenting transitions, particularly since 72 year-old Cher is just three years older than Meryl Streep, yet plays her estranged, platinum-wigged mother.

Gulp the ouzo and pass the baklava!

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is an unfocused, frantic 5. It’s really a redundant music video.


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(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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