Movie reviews: Atomic Blonde, Annabelle: Creation, Nut Job 2
Atomic Blonde (16, 115mins) ★★★★
Annabelle: Creation (16, 109mins) ★★★
Nut Job 2 (G, 88mins) ★★
It's 80s nostalgia week in global geopolitics, as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un give us a thrilling reminder of the doomsday frisson that dominated the Cold War era. All good news for the makers of Atomic Blonde, who have set their slick and extraordinarily violent thriller in Berlin in 1989. The wall is about to fall but the cynical spies who do battle across that benighted city don't know that, and are still silently at war. When a British agent called Gascoigne is murdered by a KGB rival, MI6 assassin Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is dispatched to West Germany to deal with the aftermath.
Gascoigne was killed in possession of a wristwatch containing a microfilm list of every double agent the British are working with, and Lorraine's bosses want it back. When she makes contact with fellow MI6 agent David Percival (James McAvoy), she's unsure if she can trust him. But he may be able to help her find Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a Stasi defector who's memorised the entire list.
The plot of Atomic Blonde aspires to the labyrinthine complexities of a John le Carré novel, but is just a front for a film that has no real interest in the Cold War or history of any kind. The main attraction here is fighting and as director and former stuntman David Leitch proved in his previous film, John Wick, he's pretty darned good at it. Though also an actual actress, Charlize Theron is well capable of pulling off this kind of stuff, and some of the extended fight sequences are breathtaking.
She's not given much in the way of a character to hang on to, but then neither is anyone else, and a lesbian love affair with Sofia Boutella's French intelligence agent seems extraneous and ever so slightly voyeuristic. Still, Atomic Blonde powers along at a fair old lick, makes sense most of the time and is accompanied by a predictably kitsch 80s soundtrack. As an action film, it's irreproachable - just don't expect it to mean anything.
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In Annabelle and The Conjuring, a ratty Victorian doll that looked like a carrier of botulism caused havoc in decent households by stealing the souls of small children. The work of James Wan and writers Chad and Carey Hayes, these stylishly designed horror yarns used light, shade and the paraphernalia of childhood to summon up some satisfying scares: that threadbare doll spent most of its time staring ominously from a rocking chair, but had usually moved next time you looked, and seemed to be possessed by an unspeakable demon. In Annabelle: Creation, we find out why.
Doll-maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) is living in the country with his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) and daughter Bee (Samara Lee) when the child is hit by a car and killed. Twelve years later, a group of orphan girls arrive at the house, accompanied by a young nun (Stephanie Sigman). The girls explore their new home, but when one of them enters a locked room, she finds that blessed doll.
Demons, priests and crucifix-wielding nuns evoke the kind of horror that deeply satisfies your correspondent, a twitchy and superstitious Christian Brothers alumnus. The scares are nicely handled early on and director David F Sandberg breathes new life into hoary horror tropes. But the movie loses puff after an hour when it decides to show us the monster.
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Michael Bay's frantic and dim-witted animation Nut Job 2 picks up where its deadly dull 2014 predecessor left off. Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett) and his chums are faced with extinction when their city's corrupt (and regrettably Irish-American) mayor unveils plans to turn their beloved home into an amusement park. These perfidious humans must and will be resisted with the help of a gang of kung-fu mice. All of that might sound stupid: it is.