“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a film about women for women. When I followed my normal ritual and saw it alone, I was surrounded by a large female audience.
Though this is far from a great film, it has its own rewards. To begin with, nearly all of the adult men are functional idiots, something that I assume most women have encountered a time or two in their journey through life.
As most of you know, the original film told the story of Donna Sheridan, a woman running a small hotel for tourists on a Greek island. While she was proud of her young daughter, she acknowledged that three men were possible fathers. Though the premise seemed a bit preposterous, Meryl Streep’s role as Donna made this movie work from beginning to end.
Years later, Donna has tragically died, for unknown reasons, and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is attempting to rebuild her mother’s resort and hold a gigantic opening celebration. In the process, the film involves flashbacks to 1979, when the young Ms. Sheridan was graduating from Oxford University. The story follows her as she embarks on a solo journey toward Greece, and in the process begins three quick relationships with men that result in her pregnancy.
The strength of the film is largely found in these flashbacks, beginning with a captivating performance by Lily James as the young Donna. This is a magnetic young actress, and she displays some great singing skills as we once again hear a variety of ABBA songs. If you doubt James’ skills, then look for her starring role in “Cinderella” (2015), the zombie killer in the underrated “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (2016), her tantalizing role as a waitress in last year’s magnificent “Baby Driver,” her wonderful performance as Churchill’s secretary in the film “Darkest Hour,” the movie that won Gary Oldman his Oscar, and her largely ignored contribution to this year’s “Sorry to Bother You,” where she provided Tessa Thompson with her British white voice.
The admitted problems with the film first involve the lackluster performance by the talented actors playing the aging three fathers. Though we were fortunately spared from having to listen to Pierce Brosnan sing a lengthy solo, he, Stellan Skarsgård and Colin Firth appear to be little more than hopeless characters mesmerized by the memory of a woman that they may have impregnated years earlier. This was all the more disappointing given that the young men who played them when they first met Donna — Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan and Hugh Skinner — do a fine job as the three lads who fell in love with her both before and after they ended up in bed with her.
Additionally, the film is enormously helped by the performances of Julie Walters and Christine Baranski as Donna’s old friends, Rosie and Tanya. Rosie breaks down in tears every time she hears Donna’s name, while Tanya again is quite funny as a woman with an acerbic eye on her next male conquest. I should also note that Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn are also splendid playing Rosie and Tanya as young college cohorts of Donna, and the performance of the three of them as they sang and danced at their college graduation at the beginning of the film is a highlight that you are likely to remember.
While Seyfried’s performance as Sophie is formulistic at nearly every turn, her interaction with Streep at the end of the film will bring you to the edge of tears. As she brings her own child for a christening at the hotel, she alone sees her late adoring mother as they sing one of the movie’s best songs, “My Love, My Life.”
Furthermore, that special moment helps you quickly forget the unfortunate appearance by Cher late in the film as Sophie’s distant grandmother. Though she recreates a bit of her own legend as she sings ABBA’s “Fernando” to the hotel manager played by Andy Garcia, you are left assuming that Sophie is secretly wishing that her grandmother quickly flies back to Las Vegas, where she has been ensconced for the last several decades.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
Tom Cruise joins Denzel Washington in breaking out of a cinematic slump. Reprising his role as Ethan Hunt in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” Cruise leads his team on another trip around the world as they try to infiltrate an organization that has put his own career at risk.
This film has an emotional appeal that extends beyond its magnificent special effects. While Cruise crashes helicopters, skydives, races and wrecks on motorcycles, climbs sheer cliffs, and jumps from one tall building to the next, his character hides a secret that allows you to share his emotional torture.
Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames reappear as part of Cruise’s IMF team, and they add a comic touch that repeatedly will leave you shaking your head as you suppress a grin. In addition, Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett resume their roles as CIA operatives who find themselves struggling to see if it is possible that Hunt has crossed over to the dark side.
The film centers on an international group of terrorists known as the Apostles, who have gained access to several pods of plutonium they intend on using to construct nuclear devices and attack a world they hate. Henry Cavill, who many of you will remember from his unimpressive performances as Superman in the equally unimpressive “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) and “Justice League” (2017), plays August Walker, a CIA agent forced onto the “Mission Impossible” team. Cavill’s Walker is profoundly arrogant, and you are left wondering from the beginning if he is hiding some nefarious agenda.
However, like many recent action films, it is the performance of several actresses who make this film so appealing. It begins with Michelle Monaghan, here playing Julia Meade-Hunt. She has several captivating moments as Hunt’s ex-wife, and the reason their marriage ended will touch your heart in a fashion that you would have never expected.
And then there is the memorable performance by Vanessa Kirby, who plays a cunning villainess known as the White Widow. She is a woman on a mission, and you will have a hard time seeing any scene as beautifully horrifying as when she quickly removes a dagger from her garter belt. I encourage all of you to watch her Emmy-nominated performance as Princess Margaret in the Netflix series “The Crown.”
However, just as she served as the glue that held the last “Mission Impossible” film together, Rebecca Ferguson recreates her role as Isla Faust, an agent with a hidden agenda like nearly everyone else in this fine movie. Ironically, she saved Hunt’s life several times in the last IMF movie, and she does the same thing here. Ferguson has become one of my favorite actresses, and you movie fans should find a way to hunt down her role as the singer who nearly ruined Hugh Jackman’s life in last year’s “The Greatest Showman.”
Having watched Ethan Hunt once again repeatedly dodge death, I was reminded of Denzel Washington doing the same thing as Robert McCall in “The Equalizer 2.” Quite frankly, I wish there was a way a movie could be filmed that pitted the two of them as sworn enemies seeking the other’s destruction. It is impossible to imagine who would come out of that encounter as the winner.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.