A British soldier (Harry Styles) hopes to be rescued from the beaches at Dunkirk. (Warner Bros. Photo)

Reel Reviews: Soldiers and spies

We say, “Dunkirk is different, Atomic Blonde is the same”

In May 1940, British and allied forces were surrounded by Nazi soldiers, trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk. Unable to send the naval fleet or many aircraft, civilian vessels are sent as a rescue effort.

The Atomic Blonde, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent behind the wall in East Berlin to retrieve a priceless watch containing a list of all covert agents from all over the world. If this list goes public, the face of the Cold War would change forever.

We say, “Dunkirk is different, Atomic Blonde is the same.”

TAYLOR: Dunkirk a very different film. It has no agenda. It requires no B-story. It barely needs plot, exposition, or dialogue. It has only a third act. Director Christopher Nolan drops a camera in the middle of things and explains nothing. We slowly come to realize what it is these soldiers already know. Some officers show up, led by Kenneth Branagh, to provide a modicum of exposition and politics, perhaps strategy, and even this has to be overheard. Our pilot with the story from the air in the form of Tom Hardy gives us not a B-story but an A-story tangent to tie everything together non-lineally, as is our desire in the name of tension. We have from him only the few words he utters or hears via his communique. Tie it all together with Nolanesque realism and a taut, abrasive soundtrack and you have one of my top 10 terse tales of all time.

HOWE: Atomic Blonde is not a very different film. Take a pinch a 007, a smidge of Bourne, and the looks of Salt and it should make a great recipe. It does, but only somewhat. There are some bloody good actors in this — Theron, James McAvoy and John Goodman just to name a few — and they seem to pull it off effortlessly. The action is nonstop. There are enough fight scenes to keep the most ardent fisticuff fan happy. There are a few car chases mostly in slow motion, and it will keep you guessing who is on whose side. The dialogue is witty and made me smile and laugh a couple of times. That is what a movie like this needs from time to time: not to take itself too seriously.

TAYLOR: Like Dunkirk, I don’t have much else to say. Nothing needs to be said. Take your kids: the film is PG-13, quiet and tense, but not gory or obscene. If your son or daughter can handle the lack of dialogue and doesn’t need to have their movies spoon fed to them, they might just gain something. If not an understanding of war, soldiering, history or the human condition, at least an appreciation of cinematic art. Plus it has Harry Styles from One Direction as a main character. (He does fine and doesn’t have to say much.)

HOWE: The overall look of Atomic Blonde is very polished, albeit pretty dark. It is very well put together. Nothing seems out of place and nothing looks like it has been hacked together quickly just to get it in the theatre. I, for one, hope that there is a follow up.

Howe gives Atomic Blonde 3.5 vodka shots out of 5.

Taylor gives Dunkirk 5 useful leaflets out of 5.

— Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are film reviewers based in Vernon. Their column, Reel Reviews, appears every Friday.