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Atomic Blonde

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Atomic Blonde

Two odd but interesting things have happened in an otherwise grim summer for movies. Wonder Woman, the summer’s biggest hit, gave women the comic book version of the hero they have wanted for so long. And now Atomic Blonde has given them their own action hero. Together, they are an announcement that women have arrived.

Charlize Theron doesn’t kid around. Her action figure, Lorraine Broughton, uses every part of her body to kill enemies and when that’s not quite enough she uses whatever happens to be at hand. In grand collusion with director David Leitch, she levels the field.

Theron has trained herself to such a state of fitness and strength that the movie becomes a flaming announcement that women in movies can now say, “Don’t mess with me!” They no longer have to express rage just by being mean. The only problem here is that the action is so overwhelming it’s hard to track the plot. But does that matter? No.

It is 1989. Lorraine Broughton is an MI6 agent with a new assignment: head for Berlin and recover a list of secrets hidden in a wrist watch that has been stolen. The plot, along with its various alliances, is secondary to the wallop of the sight of Lorraine dispatching every man who tries to kill her.

Three characters stand out. James McAvoy as her primary problem, Eddie Marson as a bundle of brilliance who she must protect because he has memorized the list, and Sofia Boutella, another spy, who joins Lorraine in a red hot sexual encounter that plays out in prolonged detail. Through Lorraine, Charlize Theron is eyeing the decades of female roles screened by men and with a big smile is saying “Take this, you guys.”

The bulk of the film unfolds in absolutely brutal physical violence. What is it then that lifts it to high style? It’s Lorraine who we first see bruised and battered before learning why. All during the why of it, we have the abiding pleasure of watching her stride in perfect stern grace through the city in a different outfit for every scene.

Though brutalized by fists and weapons, short minutes later she is striding across Berlin in clothes of superb simplicity – no adornments. Almost always in stark black and white, then suddenly a bright red coat – all covering perfect posture atop bright red heels that become, when required , weapons. She is looking ahead as if she weren’t in full time danger. And then in moments she will be plummeting down a staircase, hit from behind by an enemy.

In two terrific symbolic performances this year, Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot gave us a fighter for moral rectitude and Charlize Theron shows us a battler against all odds. In grand exaggeration, they have handed women the recognition they want as they fight to transcend the supporting role that has been their lot for centuries. Comic book symbols? You bet. Earned, deserved, and delivered in style.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Atomic Blonde
Word Count : 502
Running time : 1:55
Rating : R
Date : 6 August 2017

 

Dunkirk

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Dunlirk

Have you discovered, as I have, that most young people have never heard of Dunkirk? Writer/director/producer Christopher Nolan has recreated it in an inspired movie that runs just one hour, forty-six minutes, exactly the right length for a required high school history class. Nolan’s film is a tribute to the men who died and to those who rallied to rescue the allied forces trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. It couldn’t be a better lesson that war can no longer be a solution for settling disagreements.

Christopher Nolan filmed Dunkirk in three alternating sections on the beach, on the water, and in the air, all of it set against a relentless score of pure tension by Hans Zimmer. They have turned the volume high on the explosions, plane crashes, and bombs blowing ships and men to bits. Far louder than a normal soundtrack, it stuns the audience with the sounds of war. This is not the background noise of an ordinary war movie. It is the relentless noise of brutal death, and Nolan leaves us caught in tension through the whole battle. That’s the way it was.

This is history brought to gruesome life at a time when the outcome of the war was thoroughly in doubt after the fall of France. Western Europe was broken. The allied forces went into full retreat ending in unimaginable death and injury as they came to the beach and the water where there was no safety. The few naval ships became targets for Nazi planes that were being shot down by British Spitfires. Soldiers on foot were trapped and dying in the open, no place to hide.

The reason it is hard to salute specific actors is that there is very little dialogue here. Every young man is enveloped in noise and fear and all of them are surrounded by dying, broken soldiers. Suddenly the theater, rocked by an hour of noise, sees the screen fill with the small boats that came from everywhere to save 330,000 men. The audible gratitude throughout the audience is a tribute to the reality of the battle created by Christopher Nolan.

A special salute is due Mark Rylance who, as a rescuer with a small boat, creates a character driven to stay in the danger by a deep set of personal values, a stand in, as it were, for all the civilians who rallied in their small boats. There are no false notes among others in the cast, just silent men knowing many of them will die. The beach behind them will soon be full of Nazi soldiers. The water ahead, the sky above, all full of German soldiers, sailors, and pilots determined to slaughter them as they wade into the open sea.

War movies have never conveyed the reality of the sound of war and death. That is what Christopher Nolan has done to audiences with this movie. No one who sees it will forget the terrible sounds of inevitability.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title Dunkirk
Word Count : 501
Running time : 1:46
Rating : PG-13
Date : July 23, 2017