Cert: 15 Runtime: 115 mins Director: David Leitch Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Bill Skarsgard, Til Schweiger, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella and John Goodman
You can’t un-fuck what’s been fucked
We all love a good old fashioned summer action popcorn movie, enter Charlize Theron and Atomic Blonde! Former stunt men are now getting into directing David Leitch is the latest, he is currently directing Deadpool 2 FYI. The reviews for Atomic Blonde have been pretty positive with a John Wick feel. So what is Atomic Blonde about? The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilised city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies.
Atomic Blonde is visually mesmerising with a very explosive location, time and mindset. Whenever we’re given a respite from the film’s pulse-pounding action, we can drink in the psychology, the sociology and the history of a city torn apart for generations and for which the film cheekily insists is not what it’s about. The plot is rather muddled and un-fleshed out. It can be rather confusing at points or you want to learn more about a specific situation.In all reality a movie of this stripe; i.e. a retrograde spy movie with a name actress playing a sexpot terminator, doesn’t need to do all this. Give me a few choice shootouts and a memorable villain saying. But Atomic Blonde beats out the competition by being an absolute workhorse of cinematography, stunts and tactile special effects. Everything this cast and crew does is just that much harder to pull off and as a result, scenes like the 8-9 minute long-take are just that much better.
Atomic Blonde doesn’t need to weave a web of deceit in the ballpark of a John le Carre novel. Most of the story is told in flashback by Broughton to her handlers, post-operation. Halfway through the movie it becomes apparent that everyone’s lying – she’s lying, the handlers are lying, the characters in Broughton’s story are lying and the question remains is about what and why. It at times feels perfunctory and needlessly confusing. So maybe Atomic Blonde doesn’t have the makings of a true classic. But what it does well it does incredibly, exceedingly, near-impossibly well and offers no less than some of the most punishingly intense, wildly entertaining, hand-to-hand combat sequences. Charlize Theron does carry this film a lot for me, she really gives a great action performance. James McAvoy irritated me quite a but throughout. I did enjoy Sofia Boutella also she gave the film a nice lift. The soundtrack FYI is pretty decent, it does seem like an 80’s greatest hits but that’s why I like it. Atomic Blonde is a different kind of popcorn flick but a bloody good one.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 138 mins Director: Sebastian Schipper Cast: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit and Max Mauff
One City. One Night. One Take
The one take movie has come back into fashion as of late, after Birdman specifically. With all the tricks and CGI possible any film can be flawless but not actually one take! Victoria directed by Sebastian Schipper has managed to do so! He took a team out in the early hours one morning in Berlin and filmed Victoria. It was rejected by numerous film festivals because they didn’t believe the legitimacy of the one take. Move forward to 2015 Victoria won best cinematography at the Berlin film festival. So what is Victoria about? Victoria (Laia Costa), a young woman from Madrid, meets four local guys outside a nightclub in the early hours of the morning. Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his friends are Berliners who promise to show her the real side of the city. Striking up a friendship, they take to a nearby rooftop to continue the night. But when the group are suddenly forced to repay a debt to a member of the city’s criminal underworld, the night quickly spirals out of control.
Sebastian Schipper has crafted an utter masterpiece in Victoria. I haven’t had an experience like this for some time now. Honestly I could have stayed and watched it again! It felt so organic and natural, you felt like you were the sixth person through out the film. We have no major stars here and the chemistry between Laia Costa and Frederick Lau really warms your heart, I was cheering them on for the whole run time. You are part of each choice Victoria makes, I loved the concept of each time a decision was made a cross road was there! It did feel like a lot of natural light was used through out, it really enriches the organic feel of the film. The opening scene at the club got me hooked from the start. Victoria was such an interesting character, you question why she was there by herself? why is she in Berlin? is she lonely? etc. The first hour of the film is such an old Hollywood structure, we learn about the people and we get to know them better. In all honesty if it was just us following them around Berlin I would of still enjoyed it. The dialogue between the cast is so natural, they feel like old friends sometimes.
Then you move onto the robbery and the third act, this becomes tense and thrilling. You really don’t know how it will end. Laia Costa gives a fantastic performance as the title role, her naivety gets the best of her. But you sympathize with her, as it seems her loneliness in the big city got the best of her. As mentioned her chemistry with Sonne is just great and it really does drive the film forward. You are there with her until the end and you just want her to survive the night. Frederick Lau gave a very Tom Hardy performance, he is the lovable rogue that you can empathize with. He just wanted some fun and things turn upside down very quickly. Franz Rogowski and Burak Yigit give some much needed comic relief and tension to the piece. This was some great casting of fresh young actors and I truly hope to see more of them in the coming years. Don’t let the runtime of Victoria deter you from watching it. It’s truly a gripping tale of love, crime and survival. As I wouldn’t necessarily call it a heist movie, it’s truly a thriller and probably one of the greatest thrillers of the 21st century. So far Victoria is the best film I have seen in 2016!
Cert: 12A Runtime: 141 mins Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell, Jesse Plemmons, Amy Ryan, Will Rogers and Dakin Matthews
We have to have the conversations our governments can’t
Steven Spielberg is a man that I will always refer to my first director. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s you are surrounded by his work. But for me he hasn’t been on the greatest run of form for some time, the last good Spielberg film was Munich. Bridge of Spies is his latest film and yet another collaboration with the James Stewart of our generation Tom Hanks. It has received good feedback all round so I was anticipating a return to form here. So what is Bridge of Spies about? During the Cold War, the Soviet Union captures U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers after shooting down his U-2 spy plane. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, Powers’ only hope is New York lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), recruited by a CIA operative to negotiate his release. Donovan boards a plane to Berlin, hoping to win the young man’s freedom through a prisoner exchange. If all goes well, the Russians would get Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), the convicted spy who Donovan defended in court.
Bridge of Spies has a steady focus on character and dialogue, and Spielberg never deviates from that making the movie emotionally effective.The reason why Bridge of Spies manages to work so well is largely due to Spielberg’s direction and handling of the story. This movie has a very traditional narrative style, a lot of details to cover and mostly dialogue to keep it going. So, it is a testament to Spielberg as to how he manages to make this movie so engaging. The dialogue in this movie is captivatingly written. If the dialogue in this movie were not first- rate, this movie could have been an absolute bore. But the Coen Brothers and Matt Charman support Spielberg’s near perfect direction with one of the most engaging dialogue. The dialogue is crisp, emotionally stirring and filled with humour.
Mark Rylance may be the hot contender for supporting actor during awards season. He is so magnificently restrained, lovable and understated that it is a joy to watch whenever he is on screen. He gets some of the stand-out dialogue and he delivers every single time. Now to Tom Hanks, when does he ever make a bad film? In Bridge of Spies he manages to shine through yet again Spielberg brings the best out of Hanks. What intrigued me was the genuine bond between Rylance’s character and Hank’s character. The two of them share a few scenes together and complement each other. Amy Ryan gets some limited screen time but manages to fill those with great emotional subtlety. She adds a significant amount of emotional heft to the movie. However, the movie rests a lot on the shoulders of Hanks and Rylance. This is a true return to form for Steven Spielberg it may not win many awards but I’m sure it will end up highly in his greatest hits.