Jab Harry Met Sejal **
Dir: Imtiaz Ali
*ing: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Chandan Roy Sanyal
Shah Rukh Khan hasn’t hit a real home-run in quite some time but even during this middling streak of his, the so-called King of Bollywood has had something to offer in his cinematic offerings. Even the problematic Fan was a daring venture for the super-star in which he laid his soul bare – it’s a pity that the script ultimately wasn’t tight enough. So it was hoped that SRK might clear the fences by teaming up with Imtiaz Ali, a proven writer/director specialising in off-beat romances (and, as we all know, romance is Shah Rukh Khan’s forte).
Unfortunately, Jab Harry Met Sejal, turns out to be one of SRK’s weaker films and certainly Imtiaz Ali’s feeblest yet (even falling below the over-praised and hollow Rockstar). It’s not a bad-looking film – the European locales are great and both Shah Rukh and Anushka Sharma look terrific – but there are no sparks here of any kind. The two leads have had better chemistry in both their previous pairings – Rab Ne Bana Di Jori and Jab Tak Hai Jaan – and Imtiaz Ali’s script and direction both lack punch. Ali can write crackling dialogue but here it’s largely absent. The director is also amongst the best in picturising songs – which, in his movies, can actually move the plot forward or help to peel away the layers from a character – but he appears to have lost that ability in JHMS, the songs existing merely for the sake of existing. Even the plot hinges on tired Ali tropes – discovering love and self while on a picturesque journey. The director needs to move on to new territories now. Shah Rukh and Anushka (playing a Gujju babe) do what they can with what they are given but it’s not enough.
Cut to chase: No sparks of any kind are on evidence here.
Atomic Blonde *** ½
Dir: David Leitch
*ing: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones
If Leonardo DiCaprio could win an Oscar for his non-verbal, physically demanding turn in The Revenant (where he was outdone by his co-star Tom Hardy) then there’s no reason why Charlize Theron didn’t deserve one for Mad Max: Fury Road (heck, she didn’t even get a nomination). She totally owned the screen in the post-apocalyptic action film in a similar mostly silent performance and outshone the very same Tom Hardy who played the titular character. The Academy certainly missed a trick there.
Now, with Atomic Blonde, Theron proves that she doesn’t need the Academy’s nod of approval to be crowned the unofficial queen of action films. She’s as bad-ass here as she was in Mad Max – doing all her own stunts, to boot – and with director David Leitch gives us an adrenaline-inducing adventure in this cold-war spy thriller. Based on the graphic novel, The Coldest City by Anthony Johnston and Sam Hart, and set in 1989 Berlin just before the wall came down, Atomic Blonde has Theron playing British Spy Elaine Broughton sent to the divided city to retrieve a list of deep under-cover agents before it falls into the wrong hands. The tone is part hard-edged Bond, part Le Carre – a gloomy, angst-ridden atmosphere pervades the film where no one can be trusted or is even who they say they are, the action is non-stop and visceral and the sex and violence is R-rated. Theron and Leitch (former stunt-man and co-director of the first John Wick movie) totally deliver on the extended and intense brutal fight scenes that are possibly the best thing about the movie. James McAvoy and Sofia Botella play fellow spies, British and French respectively.
Cut to chase: Charlize Theron is totally bad-ass in this action spy thriller.
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Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection