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Tag Archive: British spy movies


At the beginning of Daniel Craig’s first foray as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig redefined Bond as viewers were taken back to his first kill, the event that earned Bond his 00 status.  The scene instantly set the standard for the modern fight-or-die scene.  This is the exact level of hand-to-hand combat viewers will be treated to in the new summer release, Atomic Blonde.  Charlize Theron terrifically portrays what everyone always wanted to see: a woman in the role of James Bond.  Sure, she has a different name, but Theron is believable just the same as a spy being interrogated by heads of MI6 at the end of a mission.  As she tells her story, in every way she convinces us that she could go head-to-head with, and maybe even knock out Craig’s tough and bloody version of the Brit master spy.  Only don’t think this is a typical Bond movie.  It isn’t.  It’s layered, more like The Usual Suspects or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, only better–less cerebral and more fun.  And Theron chalks up another badass cinematic heroine, resulting in a film that is easily worth the admission price.

Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City from Oni Press, Atomic Blonde follows the original, focusing on several nation’s spies trying to recover a secret list of agents being smuggled out of East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a no-nonsense top-level spy with attitude and style, battered and bruised from some recent epic encounter when we meet her at the beginning of the movie.  She’s being interrogated and debriefed by both British and American agency heads, with John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Big Lebowski, Monsters, Inc.) as the American and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Doctor Who) as the Brit.  What unfolds is a smartly constructed Cold War thriller, more complicated than Ian Fleming but not as complicated as John le Carré, but enough so that it may lose viewers a few times along the way.  Ultimately Broughton finds herself trying to smuggle out of the country a German officer who memorized the secret spy list, played by Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, The World’s End).  The rewards and payoffs come not only at the resolution but in several scenes along the way, as Theron punches, kicks, hammers, fires, splatters, mows down, stabs, punctures… everything but bites her way through dozens of bad guys trying to kill her.  The violence is extreme, but it all works–it’s great fun much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Chuck Norris’s blockbuster rampages in the 1980s–and it’s not gratuitous like a Quentin Tarentino bloodbath (blown-off heads aside).

The Atomic Blonde of the title comes from Broughton’s short, 1980s style hair, and that length allows us to see that much of the time Theron is actually doing her own punching, and taking plenty of punches, from all these men.  She’s quicker, and she prepares herself for many of her battle damage by soaking in water filled with ice cubes–a concept that helps her more than once throughout the film.  The story and action really kicks in as Broughton begins to smuggle Marsan’s character out of the country and as the steps are laid out in a subplot involving her mission to assassinate Satchel, a double agent known for selling secrets to the Soviets.  It’s exciting like the real-life story told in Ben Affleck’s hit film Argo, where a spy smuggled a group of would-be hostages out of Iran in 1980.  Atomic Blonde has less subtlety and nuance than Argo, but Atomic Blonde similarly displays an early, retro style of storytelling compelling enough to keep viewers interested.  Does it feel like a comic book adaptation?  Sure.  Like History of Violence and Road to Perdition.  In fact Broughton could be Hit Girl from Kick-Ass all grown up.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the 2014 spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, is coming to the theaters in a few weeks.  If you didn’t see the original, it was probably because of its rather uninspired title.  But don’t wait any longer.  Kingsman: The Secret Service is a blast.  And it’s streaming right now.  Kingsman: The Secret Service stars Colin Firth as a secret agent in a new brand of 007 series, as he attempts to recruit the next member of the Kingsman organization, the son of a former agent, played by Taron Egerton.  It’s stylish.  It’s wall-to-wall action.  It’s part dark comedy.  And its over-the-top violence is operatic and epic.  The last time we had this much fun was watching Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live.

For those hoping Firth would ever be tapped as Bond, this is every bit that, only Firth’s master spy has moves like no Bond ever had.  One scene provides so much hand-to-hand combat you’d think you were watching Kill Bill, and the Quentin Tarentino influence doesn’t stop there.  You’d almost think the retired director was the ghost director behind the mayhem in the film’s climactic battle.  It’s just as well, as actual director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake) proves again he knows the action genre.

Every great British spy story needs a Bond girl, and Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle is up there with the best.  Her missing lower legs (no, we never learn why) were replaced with steel blades, blades that can kill–and very much do.  Think of Bond girls played by Famke Janssen and Grace Jones, and Boutella fits right in.  Every bit the combat equal to Firth and Egerton’s spies, Gazelle is practically a character missing from Tarentino’s Kill Bill movies. Continue reading

Colin Firth british spy

We’re always on the lookout for the next James Bond.  Three years ago we here at borg.com nominated Rufus Sewell here and Paul Blackthorne (Arrow, Dresden Files) and Jason Isaacs (Awake, Harry Potter) here.  Fortunately Daniel Craig doesn’t appear to be giving up his Walther PPK or Aston Martin anytime soon.  But what about the British number one heartthrob, Colin Firth?

Now we at least have an idea of what Firth’s Bond might look like with the preview to the 2016 release Kingsman: The Secret Service this week.  Admittedly we first thought this trailer was for a remake of the classic British spy series The Avengers, with Firth as John Steed.  Ralph Fiennes, the newest M in the James Bond franchise, was the latest to don the famous bowler hat and umbrella for that role.  Firth would have been a good choice for that role, but he also seems to be summoning a little foppish Peter Sellers from the original Casino Royale, too.

Kingsman Secret Service

Based on the six issue comic book mini-series Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class), this latest spy flick has Firth mentoring a street-kid for possible inclusion in a secret spy society.  That mentoring makes this movie give off a vibe like another great coming of age flick of years past, The Freshman, starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick.  If Kingsman is half as good as that film, we’ve got something to look forward to.

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