Atomic Blonde (2017)

Coming as no surprise to anyone who saw Fury Road a couple of years ago, Charlize Theron cements herself as a bona fide action hero in Atomic Blonde. Kicking ass, drinking hard and romancing a beautiful lady, Charlize ticks all the 80’s action boxes, becoming 2017’s equivalent of 1987 Bruce Willis. Just a lot better looking. 

Directed by John Wick’s David Leitch, Atomic Blonde is a taut, neon,  80’s-set noir action spy thriller. Despite the mix of genres, Leitch retains tight control over the story and we’re dragged along on a wild, twisty ride. 

I suppose I’d better talk about the plot before I go on about the soundtrack and the visuals. 

Willkommen in Berlin mein freunde! It’s November 1989 and the Berlin wall is weeks away from falling. British spy Lorraine Broughton is sent to Germany to retrieve the body of a dead agent and lands in a Web of intrigue and deceit. Who is the double agent Satchel? Where is the missing list of all of the secret agent’s real names? Along the way she encounters rogue agent David Percival, played by James “I’m having a great 2017” McAvoy, not wholly trustworthy but her key to survival. 

Look, I can’t elaborate on the story any further. I’d break my cover. Oh and I would ruin the film. Based on The Coldest City, a graphic novel written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde retains near enough the whole story, just adding a few new details and swapping a character’s gender. The book is fantastic and well worth a read, Johnston and Hart should be proud of this adaptation. 

The supporting characters are fleshed out by some incredible actors, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Til Schweiger and Eddie Marsan all showing up and bringing their pedigree to the film. Fresh off being The Mummy Sofia Boutella plays Delphine Lasalle, a French agent agent gender swapped from the books, still being bedded by Broughton, adding a new level to the story. Despite being very much the co-star McAvoy comes close to stealing the show, getting all the best lines and hamming it up gloriously. He’s always been a great actor but since Split, I feel like he’s gone to that next level. Also look out for the future Pennywise, Bill Skaarsgard! He gets a few good scenes, but all I could see was that scary clown face every time I saw him.  

David Leitch has crafted a gorgeous film, contrasting scenes bathed in neon lights with the icy blues of the debriefing room. It’s comparisons to his own John Wick are justified and I’m looking forward to his Deadpool sequel more than ever. The fight scenes and action choreography are simply stunning. There’s one 10 minute scene towards the end shot as if it’s one take. Mind blowing. Makes that legendary hallway fight from Netflix’s Daredevil show look like a schoolyard slap-fest. 

So let’s talk about the music. The soundtrack is very, very cool.  A mix of 80’s classics and, well, covers of 80’s classics, the right songs dropped at the right time. New Order, Bowie, A Flock of Seagulls, Depeche Mode. Some absolute classics and not always the obvious choices. Tyler Bates‘ score is also fantastic, acting as a heartbeat to some of the film, the pulsing electronica fitting so well to the visuals. 

A well paced, action packed spy romp, not too over the top and never too po-faced, Atomic Blonde is in cinemas now, it’s very much worth your time. 

9/10

Find my podcast interview with Antony Johnston here or search iTunes podcasts for Supernerds UK. He talks about Atomic Blonde and all of his other works!
For fans of:

John Wick 

Salt 

Skyfall 

Kingsman: The Secret Service 

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Split (2017)

M Night Shyamalan’s Split is a remarkable film. A psychological horror – thriller, darkly comic at times and frighteningly intense at others. 

The story of three girls taken captive by a man with multiple personalities, this could have been a torture porn or exploitation film in other hands, but M Night Shymalan raises the tone and crafts something special. Layering flashbacks, subplots and different characters perfectly, Split never loses track of its multiple strands, each one getting it’s time in the light. 

The unsettling opening scene sets the tone for what follows, as we see Dennis, Kevin’s bespectacled, intense personality, systemically take town three girls, whilst remaining so stoic and calm. It’s a frightening statement of intent from a writer director at the top of his game. 

Anya Taylor-Joy, star of 2016’s horror masterpiece The Witch, plays Casey, a withdrawn, damaged girl, who’s deeply upsetting backstory is revealed slowly throughout the film. One of the three girls taken by Kevin, Casey is held prisoner along with Jessica Sula as Marcia and Hayley Lu as Claire, in an unknown location. Taylor-Joy is carving out a career as a modern day horror icon, next appearing in 2018’s X Men horror film The New Mutants as Magik. 



James McAvoy, also formerly an X Man, gives the performances of his career so far here. He plays a man with 23 different identities, each one that were shown is completely distinct. I feel if this wasn’t a horror/thriller, we would be looking at an Oscar nomination for him. From Barry the fashion designer, Hedwig the dopey 9 yer old to Patricia, a stern British woman, McAvoy is unbelievable. Every single personality inside Kevin is fully realised and an individual character in it’s own right. McAvoy really gives a virtuoso performance here, showcasing his talents and proving himself as a top tier talent. What’s more, nothing ever comes across as silly. Even when he’s dressed as a woman, McAvoy commands your attention with his intensity, never appearing anything less than a fully developed character. It’s a stunning achievement. 

The rest of the cast is great too , especially Brad William Henke’s creepy uncle in the flashback scenes and veteran actress Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher is particularly great. Dr Fletcher’s character drops lots of the information about Kevin’s disorder. Other movies would use her character for exposition dumps and not much else, but Shymalan makes her so compelling and Buckley herself has such a warmth and heart that you can’t help but feel the fear and the compassion yourself.

This being an M Night Shymalan movie, there are two things you’d always expect. One is his gratuitous cameo, and the other is a plot full of twists and turns. Both are present here. Shyamalan’s career renaissance has been impressive thus far, Split only proving his ability to shock and thrill even more. The Sixth Sense was a huge bar to set for himself, so seeing him returning to that level is nice.  It’s difficult to go into detail without spoiling a lot of what makes the movie great. I do feel that while Split’s twists are why it works, that multiple viewings would only improve the film. 

Leaving spoilers out of it, both the ending and credits scene made my jaw drop. A huge talking point for sure and the recently announced sequel sounds very interesting indeed!

Split is a rare thing, a hybrid of genres and influences, ending up as strong as the sum of its parts. Rather like it’s main character. 

9/10

For Fans Of: 

Silence of the Lambs

Unbreakable 

Raising Cain 

10 Cloverfield Lane