Imagine the sprawling & cynical political bite of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy filtered through the pulpy hyper-reality of the John Wick movies and starring Charlize Theron as James Bond: that is Atomic Blonde.
Ian Fleming’s suave British superspy, James Bond, has been a pop culture icon for over 50 years. Evolving from a literary character to the quintessential blockbuster action hero, he’s gone through decades of re-invention that both innovates and reflects where contemporary cinema goers are in terms of pop culture and what they like from their pulp escapism and fantasy. Who is James Bond? Why ‘nobody does it better’? What drives him and these films about him? These questions rarely came up in Bond’s early days until the radical 2006 re-invention Casino Royale, the 1st time Daniel Craig stepped in the role. That was the moment the franchise began to wrestle with what made the man tick, and the next two films, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall were all about moving this anachronistic character into our modern world, or at least the heightened/romanticized “Bond” equivalent to it. The Bond films have been about many things, some even as ridiculous as cloning and space lasers but the one thing they have never been about is nostalgia. These were movies of their time, occasionally forward-thinking enough to define genre movie-making for the foreseeable future. All Spectre does is regurgitate well-worn tropes without any clue how to re-engineer them for modern standards. Everything old felt new in Skyfall but here, everything is just old. The movie actually would even be just fine as a love letter/homage to those tropes but a lack of strong narrative tissue connecting those beats only compound their ineffectuality. Spectre is a movie so obsessed with regressing Bond back to the past that it plays like a soulless greatest hits cover album. Continue reading The “Spectre” of Past Bonds Looms over This Misfire
Few filmmakers understand how to make “style over substance”, not in any way a negative, the way Guy Ritchie (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, RockNRolla) can. His films are shallow, but since they’re only concerned with making you smile you almost don’t mind how empty they are. In the case of The Man from UNCLE, Guy Ritchie’s creates a laid back and frisky take on a forgotten ’60s spy series is pure empty fluff…and yet so undeniably stylish and fun. This movie is light on its feet, utterly inconsequential, but it is so charming, witty and stylish that the unpretentious sights & sounds make for a truly sublime pleasure to look at and listen to. Less concerned with the prestige of the Daniel Craig-era James Bond films or the stunt showcase of the Mission Impossible movies or the satirical bite of Kingsman, this movie coasts on showcasing the untapped charms of new-blood actors Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki. This movie is a fetish piece for anyone who loves the pop side of the ’60s, and I couldn’t help but enjoy it thoroughly.