Sunday, July 30, 2017

“Atomic Blonde”

     Remember Eighties spy thriller movies? The intrigue, the plots and counterplots, the betrayals, the glorious violence? Well, they’re back with a vengeance. Just a few years ago, martial arts sensation Gina Carano brought us Haywire. This weekend has brought us Charlize Theron’s star vehicle Atomic Blonde.

     The C.S.O. said we simply had to see it – “It’s going to have a really high body count, Fran” – and as I’m a major Theron fan, I concurred. So we spent yesterday watching her kick, slash, and shoot her way through the week that climaxed with the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event that would have had some significance even without Charlize’s derring-do.

     Despite all the violence, it’s a genuinely beautiful movie. Director David Leitch uses several subtle tricks of the cinematographer’s trade to chart protagonist Lorraine Broughton’s course through her pursuit of a critical list of Allied undercover agents and her agonizing discovery that she’s been misled about a great deal by her MI6 employers. Theron’s Lorraine is electrifying in every scene; I could hardly look away when she was in action. Alongside her, James McAvoy and Sofia Boutelle give splendid performances: the former as the duplicitous David Percival whose games are more than double or triple, the latter as Delphine Lasalle, fledgling French agent and Lorraine’s fleeting lover.

     Another star of the show is the selection of pop songs of the era as counterpoint to the action. There were so many brilliant juxtapositions of memorable pop with plot events that I can no longer remember them all. (One I won’t forget is when Lorraine walks into a seedy dance club to the tune of Re-Flex’s The Politics of Dancing.) Suffice it to say that it all works wonderfully well.

     However, Atomic Blonde gives us more than excellent performances, music, and cinematography. It also reminds us why we read fiction or go to the movies: we want to see good duke it out with evil. We want to root for a genuine good guy. We don’t expect him to be invulnerable or indefeasible; certainly Lorraine isn’t either of those. But we want the moral issues to be plain more or less from the outset. Nothing is more dispiriting than the John le Carre style portrayal of losers and victims embedded in a milieu in which conscience has no place because right and wrong are irrelevant.

     Highly recommended.

1 comment:

MMinWA said...

This one I have to pass on as females as action heros is a bit too much for me. I recently caught a well thought out action film called The Accountant, the kick butt hero is a man. Much more buyable. Good story too.