Friday, July 28, 2017

Atomic Blonde [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (S. Abrams) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Atomic Blonde [2017] (directed by David Leitch, screenplay by Kurt Johnstad based on the graphic novel The Coldest City [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Antony Johnston [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] and Sam Hart [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) can perhaps be understood as a true contemporary successor to hard-boiled Hollywood detective stories of the past.

Set nominally (_very_ nominally) in Berlin during the week just before The Wall came down, an early credit "assures" Viewers that this film is not going to tell "that story."  Instead, it would tell a classic (and formulaic) hard-boiled tale of corruption and mayhem, set this time among the neon lit clubs, short skirts, mohawks and platinum hair of 1980s-era West Berlin and the crew-cuts, drab concrete-based architecture and Trabants (those ridiculous 2-stroke lawn-mower-engine-driven cars of the since thankfully gone and buried DDR) of East Berlin.

And this of course bothers someone like me, of Czech decent, my Czech name Zdenek given to me in honor of my uncle who had been jailed by the Communists because _there was_ A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE between the East (under the yoke an arrogant and totalitarian ideology) and the West (where ideologies no matter the loudness / arrogance and self-certainty of their proponents still had to _and still have to_ compete for their citizenry's votes).

Perhaps in the midst of the intrigues of "the spy game" the concepts of Right and Wrong "get lost." However, there's no doubt in my mind that the World's a better place that The Wall came down and that hundreds of millions of people of Central and Eastern Europe are now _free-er_ than they ever were under the Communists.

But rather than focus on the Freedom won by common people, the film _chooses_ to focus back on the "Power comes from the Barrel of a Gun" intrigues of the spy-vs-spy world of the Cold War Era where fundamental concepts like Freedom apparently become "blurred" or even "quaint."

But then, the makers of "hard-boiled spy / detective fiction" -- one thinks here of the Humphrey Bogart "Sam Spade" [wikip] [IMDb] movies of the 1930s-40s or the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" [wikip] [IMDb] movies of the 1970s-80s -- don't exactly seek to compete for "human rights awards."  Indeed, the film here spins a quite classic Noir tale with its big "unspeakable secret" being that at least among the Cold War's spy-game warriors there really wasn't much difference between the "Good Folks" and "Bad ones."

Still, it irritates me that _this tale_ was set during the Berlin Wall's final week (when to everybody the story ought to be, the Wall's coming down) rather than setting it a few years before hand, when the argument that "Evil exists on Both Sides" would seem more palatable.

Incidently, a FASCINATING COUNTERPOINT TO THE CURRENT FILM (whose point seemed still so clearly to be that "in many ways both sides were the same") is the CZECH Noir classic Alois Nebel [2011] [Amzn-Video] which ALSO originated first as a graphic novel and was set ALSO in the final months of Communism BUT with that story's "unspeakable secret" being the still largely not dealt-with sins of the Communist Era notably that (1) the Communist Regime's opponents were often _thrown into_ Psychiatric Institutions ("Electric Shock Treatments" and all...) for being unable to "appreciate" the "wonderfulness" of the Communist Regime and that (2) all kinds of people had been expelled / jailed / deported (including three million ethnic Germans out of Czechoslovakia) for all kinds of still never openly admitted-to reasons.  Alois Nebel [2011] [Amzn-Video] indeed spins truly ONE HELL OF A TALE.

All this taken into account, Charlize Theron's role in the current film as MI-6 superspy Lorraine Broughton DOES MAKE for an _utterly unforgettable_ "no nonsense" indeed _ice cold_ (she literally takes a bath in ice water ;-) "hard boiled" character WORTHY of entering into the world's collective subconscious archetype ensemble along side Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade / Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and Ian Fleming's MI-6 superspy James Bond.  Indeed, that Ms Broughton is portrayed as a Lesbian or at minimum "Bi" seems to fit the icy/piercing character -- this woman is _clearly_ "her own boss" and (as we've allowed James Bond to do similarly) "for King and Country" she's willing "to go to bed with anybody."

And so when she arrives in Berlin during those fateful days in November, 1989 to "retrieve a master list of spies" feared to be in the hands of the Soviets, while ALSO looking out for the "Mole" who may have facilitated the capture of said list by said Soviets, much mayhem has to ensue.  And yes, many / most Viewers will watch mesmerized (and probably smiling, internally, "from ear to ear") as we watch this superspy WOMAN "take-out" (usually male Agents) with her RED STILETTO HEALED SHOE, or BASH THEIR FACES IN WITH FIRST _THE DOOR OF A MICROWAVE_ AND THEN TO FINISH HIM OFF WITH THE MICROWAVE ITSELF  ;-)

Indeed, for what this film is, it is a wildly entertaining one, well shot, paced and choreographed,   I just wish that it was set in November 1985 rather than November 1989.

 So more or less good to GREAT job ;-)


Another film that would be fascinating to watch in conjunction to the current one is the recent CUBAN film (financed by crowd-sourcing, hence largely with WESTERN (Spanish) and even _some_ CUBAN EXILE money ;-) named Dark Glasses (orig. Espejuelos Oscuros) [2015].  Directed by a young female Cuban director named Jessica Rodriguez, it tells in classic "1001 Nights" fashion the stories of a variety of Cuban women over the course of Cuba's history (including during the most recent Communist Era) who cleverly outwitted the men they encountered oppressing them.  Presently unavailable _anywhere_ the film's official YouTube website can be found here (and it'd be worth pressing the film's owners to find a way to make it available on any number of streaming services, including, of course, YouTube).  It's truly _an excellent film_ and again wonderfully fits some of the thematics of the current one here.

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