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" From now on I’ll get someone else to handle my divorces "
— Hugh Grant, Two Weeks Notice

MRQE Top Critic

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde offers an excitingly fresh and strong female lead. —Matt Anderson (review...)

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The little I saw of The Black Panther made it look like a cinematography student’s thesis project. Shot in high-contrast black and white, it lingers, shot after shot, on carefully composed images. The film noir genre is mined for visual flourishes like high heels, cigarette holders, fedoras, smoke, and nightclubs. I’ll give The Black Panther this: it succeeds in calling attention to the cinematography.

It succeeds so much, in fact, that difficult to get drawn into the story.

Cool cinematography distracts
Cool cinematography distracts

The first scene that distracted me from the story is the one in which a series of pools of light, recede into the inky black distance. “Cool,” I thought, expecting the location to be an extension of the cryogenic chamber that disgorged a defrosted Pedro Infante. Nope. It’s a stable at a racetrack. One of the jockeys is still there, still wearing his silks, calmly cooling down his horse, but everybody else has left, and someone even turned out the lights. And in walks a killer who conveniently won’t be witnessed. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, but a movie has to meet me half way. Cool cinematography is not enough.

Soon thereafter, our hard-boiled detective has to go meet someone at a nightclub. First we endure an extreme low-angle shot of a bouncer at the club, standing solidly in front of the entrance, which is in the shape of a giant panther’s head with glowing eyes. The shot holds far too long — it’s practically a still life. Then our detective walks up to the rope and is waved through. Cut to inside the club. It’s carefully lit with exotic dancers on the stage and a sparse crowd of drunken men.

Wait... sparse crowd? Drunken men? Why did we need the bouncer? And why was he so well dressed? This place can’t be taking in enough money to pay for all the employees unless those shots of whiskey are really expensive. Unfortunately, the film’s natural pace is slow enough, the storytelling sparse enough, that once you ponder these kinds of holes, you’re in for a long ride (108 minutes to be exact).

With more than 200 movies to choose from at DFF, I decided I could do better.

Our festival advice: See what else is playing.