Watching Atomic Blonde I suddenly notice that I’m following the shot rather than the action. The shot, a prolonged single(ish)-take fight scene, is impressively staged but I’ve lost the drama within it because it isn’t captivating. The problem is that the central MacGuffin, a list (sigh), is duplicated in function and form with no real sense of priority, deadline or consequence. No amount of 80’s pop music, neon, face smashing or ‘and Toby Jones’ can hide that.
On a positive note, Charlize Theron outclasses the film she’s in and McAvoy hints at a more interesting Heart of Darkness tale buried under the surface. Also, the opening ten minutes have a great comic book feel but, alas, the film is intent on not being its own thing and jettisons this in favour of uncomfortably sitting somewhere between John and Jason, unable to mesh the two together.
Beaming like a child.
Like John Wick (2014), Mad Max: Fury Road works because it moves. Director George Miller understands that and keeps the metal barrelling onwards without sacrificing detail or character. In short it’s a joy to watch and possibly the best thing you’ll see on the big screen this year.
But the real surprise is not the physicality, the sheer artistry of the CGI or the way in which Miller uses action to drive the plot, but the confidence that pours out of the screen. A confidence that gives us a beloved title character, muzzles him for a good portion of the movie, sidelines him so much that it feels like the film could be named after someone else and yet still remains undoubtedly recognisable and utterly satisfying. It’s partly thanks to Tom Hardy’s lack of vanity in taking on the iconic role as written (contrast this with Christian Bale’s need to play John Connor and the dismal results), it has a lot to do with Charlize Theron giving us an instant sci-fi classic in Imperator Furiosa but, at the end of the day, it’s all about a director with complete control of the world he created.