Atomic Blonde And the Simulated Long Take

atomic blonde

Atomic Blonde

There’s something kind of irritating about Charlize Theron. I’m not sure what it is, but every time those J’Adore commercials come on the TV I turn the channel.  The first movie I remember seeing her in was the wholly unremarkable 2 Days in the Valley also featuring Eric Stoltz and James Spader. Theron spends the whole film in this white cat suit that you can’t help thinking would be impossible to keep clean.

She even won an Academy Award for Monster in which she plays a decidely unglamorous serial killer. I think that what bothers me about that is that they could have cast a decidedly unglamorous actress to play the part. For some reason, the Academy thinks it’s “heroic” for a beautiful person to undergo the indignity of having their picture taken while wearing unattractive make-up. Those people are so delusional, they think they actually can make a dent in the specter of injustice by wearing black costumes on their self-congratulatory occasions (the subject of maybe donating some money is met with horror and hysteria).

But hey, in Atomic Blonde she shoots a lot of people and that’s the kind of thing my wife likes so we rented it for $1.5o from Redbox. The film is OK, although you kind of wait around for the talking bits to be over so that they get back to the fighting bits. Actually, this film is a lot like Angelina Jolie’s Salt, although probably not quite as good. Say what you want about Angelina Jolie, but she does have quite a magnetic screen presence, moreso than Charlize Theron…although the gap isn’t that wide. It’s comparable to the distance separating Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson I suppose.

So, Charlize Theron has a bunch of English Bulldogs barking at her and she stares at them through black eyes and a fat lip and chugs vodka while still looking like she just stumbled off the set of a J’Adore commercial. Actually, that’s kind of the subverted premise of this film, “what if glamour actresses are really secret German/US/Russian/British spies?”

Fist fights in film these days are just a new form of ballet. They’re absolutely ridiculous and go on for twenty minutes, but they’re fun to watch, although I’d have to say the fighting in this wasn’t as good as American Ultra (that will probably be an unpopular opinion, but at least you know it’s a true one). There is one scene in Atomic Blonde that’s pretty remarkable. I took my one film class in college, so I know I’m supposed to take note when there’s a “single take.” For some reason critics get all excited about such things, but it seems to me that if you can film 5 minutes of a movie all at once that should save you a lot of time and money during the editing process later. Well, there’s this Charlize Theron battle that goes on for an extended period that appears to be all one take. When I did some research on it later, I found out it’s not actually one take, but a bunch of small takes all spliced together…thus making it more complex and irritating for the editors than conventional film-making. I suppose critics suddenly hate this simulated single take, but in terms of technical achievement it’s actually more complex than a conventional single take. Anyway, watch the film and you’ll probably notice it (or maybe not if you’re checking your cell phone like I did several times).

The movie also has James McAvoy who is always pretty good in anything he’s in (except Wanted…Ok, I’m kidding, I liked that one a little bit more than Atomic Blonde, but mainly because Jolie, again, is an upgrade). Atomic Blonde is essentially a spy film that only remembers its about spies when the actors need something cool to talk about when they quit drinking. Plus they’re always all beaten and swollen up. As a last benefit, Theron kills a guy with a high heel shoe which is nice–she should have been wearing it at the time though.

This is one worth watching, but have some vodka handy. It doesn’t seem fair that the actors can drink all the way through a film if the audience can’t.

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