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By midlandsmovies, Dec 1 2017 01:16PM



Atomic Blonde (2017) Dir. David Leitch


This action thriller film stars Charlize Theron as a spy uncovering double agents in Europe during the downfall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.


Rather unoriginally, the film begins as a KGB agent steals a sensitive list of active-agents hidden in a wristwatch before cutting to a bruised and hurt Lorraine Broughton (Theron) as she proceeds to explain what happened in Berlin to her handlers. This flashback frames the story as the sarcastic agent recalls the events to the CIA (John Goodman) and her MI6 superior (Toby Jones) and what unfolds is her experience to recover the list and uncover the identity of a double agent within the ranks.


All of this sets up a series of amazingly-filmed action sequences and the comparisons to this year’s John Wick: Chapter 2 are easy to see – no less obvious as director Leitch is also a producer on that film. With Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron showed she could handle punches, kicks and bone crushing fights and we get even more here with her central performance is key to the film’s charm.


Theron’s natural allure helps the audience get behind her mission but it’s the long one-take action scenes that are the film’s selling point. From bashing battles to bullets banging, the film mixes fantastic fight choreography with running, explosions and vehicle chases in a variety of exciting sequences that will keep you entertained, even though the clichéd story line hits familiar plot points.


The Berlin background is a nice change to the usual bland American cityscapes, but it is the 80s soundtrack and extreme lighting that really gives the film a different feel to its contemporaries. Like an action-filled Neon Demon, the colours pop from the screen whilst musical hits (and covers of hits) from Bowie, George Michael, The Clash and more help establish the historical context but also give the movie a soundtrack coolness not seen since the Guardians of the Galaxy films.


Support comes from a slightly bland and broad James McAvoy as an agent who is all, well, James McAvoy-like, whilst Sofia Boutella as Delphine plays an undercover French agent who is also Lorraine's lover. It’s great the film pays no attention to this seemingly edgy choice for a lead character's sexuality in a major release which is not only honourable, but fits well into the film’s narrative perfectly.


But in the end, like John Wick (with which there’s talk of possible a cross-over film), the movie is held together by the central show from Theron herself. She gives this exciting film a much-needed bout of sultriness, strength and poise alongside expertly handling the violent and bloody punch-ups.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, May 31 2017 08:58AM



Split (2017) Dir. M. Night Shyamalan


Split begins when a group of regular teenage girls are abducted by James McAvoy’s creepy stalker “Dennis” and detained against their will in a location unknown. With Shyamalan’s penchant for dark twisty thrillers, we find all is not what it seems and soon uncover the man is merely one of 23 different personalities that inhabit his body.


These characters range from the old and the young and even women and it’s to McAvoy’s talents that he can pull off such a role. He mostly omits any subtlety but is clearly having huge amounts of fun with each extreme incarnation.


Shyamalan keeps us guessing as to what the true nature of this person is as the girls try everything from escape plans to befriending “Hedwig”, one of the younger personalities, in order to get out of their locked rooms. The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy excels as the leading girl and along with this and the Ridley Scott produced ‘Morgan’, the actress is carving quite a career in spookily dark thrillers that go beyond the natural.


With this absurd premise, the filmmaker doesn’t try too much to take the audience down the route of an accurate medical depiction – quite the opposite in fact – and he mostly keeps the transitions between each of them off screen. This keeps the stakes high as we’re never sure as to which one may re-enter the room and which of them knows information the others don't.


But this being a Shyamalan film we must talk about his inevitable favourite trick of the trade. As the film hits its emotional summit, he rounds the story off with a sense that supernatural forces may actually be a part of the kidnappers psyche but he keeps it ambiguous almost until the end.


[SPOILERS]


And it is the end that is most surprising. McAvoy’s character has a supervillain vibe about him with mental (and then a physical manifestation of) powers that go beyond the real-life affliction he is suffering from. Here I felt Shyamalan had jumped the shark as I was enjoying the authentic world created. Yet, in a world full of spoilers, trailers that give away too much and news sites covering every minutiae of productions, Shyamalan manages one of his best hoodwinks yet.


In a lingering last shot we hear a journalist report on the events and comparing them to a similar villainous occurrence involving one “Mr. Glass”. And then David Dunn (Bruce Willis) appears. That’s right folks. It’s an Unbreakable sequel. Blimey!


With this and The Visit, Shyamalan has returned to his roots and gone someway, at the least, to prove his directing capabilities after misfires like The Happening and After Earth.


I was enjoying the film on its own terms but the director’s cherry expands the universe of his much beloved super-hero second film and the fact he had kept it under wraps (with another studio no less!) should be commended. It helped an already tightly wound morbid tale of mental woe conclude in a way that linked its real-life terrors with a mystical mystery that is hopefully expanded upon further.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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