Tag Archives: Espionage

Review – Atomic Blonde

What’s this?

It’s Jane Wick.

Okay, sorry, that’s not entirely accurate. But I’ve had that joke lined up since the first trailer, and while it might not be my best work, I needed to get it off my chest. It’s half right, anyway. Atomic Blonde is about a badass super-spy punching, shooting and stabbing her way through a stylized aesthetic under the direction of David Leitch. Certainly sounds like John Wick to me.

But, alas, Atomic Blonde isn’t that – at least not all the time. In reality, it’s based on a moderately obscure graphic novel, The Coldest City, and takes the form, structurally and tonally, of a twisty Cold War espionage thriller full of Soviet skulduggery and collapsing communist regimes. Which isn’t exactly what was advertised.

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Review – Archer: Dreamland

What’s this?

The eighth season of Adam Reed’s anarchic, sneakily genius spy-spoof animated series – and a bit of a gamble, this time around. Sure, the FXX cartoon has upended its central premise several times, and mostly just for fun. The fifth season was a Miami Vice pastiche in which the cast became hapless drug traffickers; the seventh moved the show (which had always been New York-based) to Los Angeles. But Archer: Dreamland is the most thorough reimagining the series has been treated to. Set in the late 40s, it’s an outright noir, which sees the familiar characters we know and love recast as genre archetypes with roughly the same sense of humour.

Didn’t the last season end on a cliffhanger?

It did, and this one opens with half a resolution to it – Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), the devilishly-handsome alcoholic spy, is alive after being shot several times at the end of season 7 and left face-down in a swimming pool. But he’s currently comatose, which allows Reed a whole season’s time to think about how he’s going to write his way out of this particular corner. Dreamland disappears straight into Archer’s unconscious brain, and doesn’t leave for the remainder of the season.

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The Alpha Protocol Conversation

It’s all too easy to criticise Alpha Protocol for its mechanical shortcomings, loose characterisation and unfulfilling combat. Indeed I have, multiple times, during the hours that I spent with it. This is not a genre-defining role-playing game, a revolutionary shooter or a masterclass of stealth gameplay. It’s a far cry from all of those things. Yet, it utterly compels me, often in a way which very few video games ever have in the past.

My version of international super spy Michael Thorton is a sneaky, tech-savvy lurker who finds solace in the shadows and the dull thud of silenced weaponry. He’s a thinker, more suited to finding alternate, more intelligent solutions to problems which a noisy assault could just as easily solve. The customisation options Obsidian provide not only allow this kind of approach, but present me with the tools I need to complement such a style of play. All this is irrelevant, however. How I progress through the shooting galleries has no real impact, nor is it the most fulfilling element of Alpha Protocol. I appreciate the freedom I’m given, but I don’t really and truly care.

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Review – Jason Bourne

Matt Damon was adamant that he did not want to star in future Bourne films. This type of reluctance, and then performing a U-turn, has become a regular standard in Hollywood. I sometimes think that this is a ploy so that the hype materialises into something cosmic when the U-turn is performed. Sylvester Stallone wanted Rocky to be left alone until he released Rocky Balboa in 2006, and after that made an identical statement. Then behold Creed (2015), where Rocky returns and seemingly passes the torch with the same tagline: “I feel the character needs to be left alone now”.

Essentially Matt Damon is doing a Rocky Balboa. He last starred in a Bourne film in 2007. Nine years is a long time to leave a character behind and then reinhabit it, especially after refusal to be a part of the fourth in the series. Jason Bourne was last seen swimming down the East River after the exposure of Blackbriar documents. We now see him years later looking quite rugged, older but grittier with rough edges. You can remove the fourth film from history. This is the fourth film and Matt Damon wants you to know that. But did he succeed?

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