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


The Dinner

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Dinner

By way of confession, it’s not often that a movie digs into my fairly shallow well of negativity. Considering how tough it is to make a good movie, it seems only fair to look for the good before turning nasty. It’s not fun to tear down the hard work of someone else unless the film is an insult to the audience. That said, The Dinner is a carefully crafted film with a fine cast that is viscerally unpleasant from beginning to end. If that’s what you want, be assured this one will please you.

Stan (Richard Gere) is a U.S. congressman now running for governor. His brother Paul (Steve Coogan) is a former history teacher who overwhelms us with his anger at everything and everyone in his world. Stan has trophy wife Kate (Rebecca Hall) at his side as he runs for office; Paul has Claire (Laura Linney), a kind, and protective wife to her obviously mentally disturbed husband.

Director Dan Moverman teases us with shots of the children of these two odd couples who work their way in escalating scenes toward committing an unimaginable crime while wrapped in their own delicious pleasure at the doing of it.

Paul and Stan, along with their wives, are meeting to discuss and decide how to treat the crime their children have committed. Should they use their power and influence to protect the guilty children with a cover up or admit the truth? In one of the oddest and ugliest parts of the story, Stan chooses to meet at a restaurant so fake and unimaginable that it becomes an ugly mockery of people who can afford to eat there.

A word about the restaurant. A single file procession of wooden soldier waiters walks slowly, deliberately, to the table with multiple courses of perfect food which the head waiter describes in ludicrous detail. Each course is introduced with an announcement of the food along with an insulting description of its perfection. The awful ritual is interrupted repeatedly by Stan or Paul, jumping up to leave in anger at the other. Nothing goes well because the two are usually involved in an outside-the-the-dining-room verbal confrontation or – finally – in a violent physical rage where they vent years of resentment.

All this said, the acting is formidable, the filming clever. The fakery of the characters and that restaurant that caters to their tastes while they decide how to handle their murderous children is close to intolerable. The overall effectiveness is a tribute to Richard Gere and Steve Coogan for making us detest the choices available to their characters. Coogan’s Paul, who labels himself “a warrior for the underclass” is a hideous bundle of his own disillusioning life experiences.

Although the movie is written, acted, and filmed with skill, there is nothing here of the unexpected. When good writers create no change in character, no lesson learned over its length, an audience can feel they’ve been had. You decide.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Dinner
Word Count: 498
Running time: 2:00
Rating : R
Date : May 14, 2017