Tag Archives: JamesMcAvoy

Atomic Blonde

Movie Score3 out of 5 (Good)

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Roland Møller, Sofia Boutella, & Bill Skarsgård

Director: David Leitch

Synopsis: Atomic Blonde tells a story of espionage and carnage during the final weeks of the Cold War. Set in Berlin 10 days before the fall of the wall, MI6 and the CIA have recently lost a list naming all of their undercover agents within the U.S.S.R. Both Western and Eastern spy services are scrambling to recover the list, which they believe is in the hands of a mercenary who is willing to sell it to the highest bidder. MI6 and the CIA are also looking for a double agent, known only as Satchel. MI6 sends their best agent, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), to recover the list and eliminate the traitor, Satchel. Once she arrives in Berlin, she must work with fellow agent, David Percival (James McAvoy), who has gone “native” during his time undercover in Germany. Soon the Russians show up and thrilling action ensues up till the credits roll.

The biggest let down of the movie was that I felt it was trying to emulate John Wick. It is easy compare the two films: both have beautifully choreographed fights, neon cinematography, and badass protagonists who have a penchant for double-tap head shots. Also, Atomic‘s director, David Leitch, produced John Wick and was the executive producer for John Wick 2.

Atomic Blonde‘s action, while very impressive, especially one sequence that was 7-8 minutes in length and shot in one take, could not match either of the Wick‘s bloody and often humorous fights.  The hand-to-hand combat of Atomic Blonde was entertaining, but the movie relied too heavily on it. The realistic and breathless fighting style that Atomic Blonde relies was forged by Bourne Identityhoned in Casino Royale, and taken to its peak by John Wick 2It is getting tougher and tougher for directors and choreographers to one-up previous movies. Notice how with each of these movies the fights have grown in length with fewer cuts which adds to more impressive battles. Atomic succeeds with the sequence I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph in increasing fight length while having no cuts. Yet in other sequences, Atomic Blonde lacked the umph of its predecessors. Also, there is a ceiling for how much awe a fight scene can inspire. I think, sadly, Atomic Blonde has hit that limit.

One thing I must note that I admired about Atomic‘s fights is that they showed the toll such extreme fighting takes on characters. During each sequence, we see the characters get winded and move slower as their injuries accumulate. This was a fresh idea in the genre and it made some of Lorraine’s moves more potent to viewers as she knocks out enemies while sporting visible bruises. However, I still prefer the tireless fighting that Bond or Wick exudes.

Overall, Atomic Blonde’s fight scenes were superb and fun to watch. Leitch also employed something similar to what Edgar Wright used in Baby Driver: sequencing action on the screen to music. He did not execute this to the extreme that Wright did, but there were well-timed shifts in the tone of songs or cutting off of music. My favorite happened with a flick of a lighter.

Atomic‘s soundtrack was another jewel of the film. Most of it was German or Eastern European sounding club music that complemented the pink-neon washed club scenes and gritty, lime street scenes.

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The beautiful neon scenes from Atomic Blonde

One of the movie’s premises was the search for the identity of the double-agent, Satchel. While this guessing game was fun for me during the movie, it quickly became a side note in the plot. The chief of MI6 (Toby Jones) hates Satchel. He orders Lorraine to bring back Satchel dead or alive in order to bring justice to this traitor. However, the movie never tells or shows the audience what Satchel did beyond being a double agent. Did he or she give up fellow agents to the KGB? Provide the Russians with enriched uranium? Help terrorists escape the clutches of MI6? Without any real development of this hidden enemy, the revelation of Satchel’s identity bears little impact. Leitch or his writer, Kurt Johnstad, should have increased Satchel’s villainy or good deeds (suffering to win valuable information for God and Country) to increase audience buy in.

Atomic Blonde is a fun, (fairly) mindless action flick whose lead (Theron) smolders in her smokey eye makeup and tears up the screen with her fighting skills. McAvoy’s Percival was a lot of fun to watch as he bumbles and connives his way around West and East Berlin. The acting in this movie was spot on. Kudos to these women and men.

Target Audience: Older teens and young adult males.

For the trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

Split

Split, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is a thriller in which three teenage girls are kidnapped by  Kevin (James McAvoy), a man afflicted by a multiple personality disorder (D.I.D). The girls must try to escape their part in drawing out Kevin’s 24th personality, named ‘The Beast’.

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Through Split, Shyamalan delivers his best work since Unbreakable. Split mixes the claustrophobia of Alien with the eeriness of Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill and his hellish home.

The brooding and detailed style displayed in Shyamalan’s Unbreakable has returned, seasoned by more economical cinematography that conjures dread, frustration, and more through the camera and the movie’s set. For example, when the girls arrive in Kevin’s lair, the camera runs along a tight corridor. The space shrinks further, squeezed by bundles of pipes adorning either side. We share the girls’ fear and confinement from the movement of a camera.

The cast is small, comprising of five regular characters. The film focuses upon Kevin (James McAvoy), one of his victims Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Kevin’s psychiatrist Karen (Betty Buckley).

Shyamalan exploits the confinements of Split‘s small budget to explore those characters through voyeuristic intimacy. The camera focuses upon the trio, imposing their faces onto the screen.We observe every slight emotion and cue, revealing how the three are linked through family and trauma.

Through the camera’s voyeurism, spliced with seamless flashbacks, Shyamalan excels in showing how alike Kevin and Casey are. Trauma has made them stronger, but along very different roads.

Shyamalan follows Hitchcock’s revelation and denial of information to enrapture the audience. He laces Split with glimmers of hidden details. These clues are not red herrings, but instead form questions about Kevin and the other characters, lending an excellent pace to the plot.

McAvoy is compelling as Kevin, flitting between a handful of 24 personas. Occasionally McAvoy’s voice acting falters, reverting to a dulcet Scottish. However, his best performance is given when depicting one identity masquerading as another. Often he infuses these identities with a dash of humour,  bringing levity to the more menacing characters. The darker personas even attract sympathy, as McAvoy depicts their internal struggles, suggesting who they represent to Kevin’s shattered ego.

Split is a showcase for McAvoy talents, and an advert for Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey, Kevin’s counterpoint. Taylor-Joy convincingly shows Casey turn her suffering into a will to survive. I have not seen an actress convey so convincingly such a range of emotion through her facial expressions alone. I am excited to see Taylor-Joy’s talent grow over the coming years.

The end does provide a satisfying arc to the story, completing the little questions aside the main mystery. However, the final act does buckle under its own momentum, especially when Split strays into elements of horror. The arrival of Kevin’s 24th personality is Split‘s best part, mirroring the theme of ‘becoming’ which pervades the Hannibal show and Hannibal films. The Beast initially appears in flickers, obscured by the shadows, running towards his prey. This is how The Beast should have remained, like a monster lurking in the dark until it strikes. Shyamalan reveals The Beast completely, weakening the character’s menace.

Target audience: Disillusioned Shyamalan fans, and anyone looking for a great thriller.

For the trailer, see below.

By Saul Shimmin