The dull spy thriller Atomic Blonde is such a relentless piece of garbage I can barely dignify the movie with a response. The film is an absolute failure, a calculated marketing exercise peddling hyper-violence, edited like a feature-length advertisement for easy lesbianism.
Early in the movie, Charlize Theron ducks into a movie-house playing Andrei Tarkovsky’s visionary sci-fi movie Stalker. I sat there wishing the rest of Atomic Blonde was Theron’s character watching the entirety of Stalker. So I am going to review Stalker instead. (You can watch the full movie for free right now.)
Shame, though. I had picked the spy-themed XJ-13 from Tacoma’s Noble Farms to accompany a film where James McAvoy strangle-kills the female Mummy (Sofia Boutella) for five minutes straight. Like its militaristic name, XJ-13 is a stealth weed—only far later when finishing a pack of Haribo Sour Bears or deep-staring into pine trees does one realize the voracious effects of this top-notch sativa. This is the 1986 Corvette of weed—a cough-free smoke smelling of pine and tinder, leveling off into a bleary intelligence buzzing through the brain.
But the cerebral XJ-13 ended up being the perfect match for Stalker, a film I have coincidentally been watching for the last three months. I have seen Tarkovsky’s slow-burn masterpiece about 15 times—never all the way through. I watch about a half-hour of Stalker’s parade of haunted faces and sleepy landscapes, then fastly fall unconscious. When I pick up, I click the playhead to a random spot. Each viewing, it never seems the same.
Stalker is not meant to be understood so much as experienced. In the film, a trio of forlorn men infiltrate an Area 51-esque enclosure called “The Zone,” an extraterrestrially-generated space that fulfills the desires of whoever enters. What unfolds in the fantasy space is absolutely unexpected, like ordering a hamburger and being brought an aquarium. While traversing slowly disappearing terrain, the characters endlessly philosophize about life—their emotionality of their language creating the otherworldly environments around them.
Stalker makes you feel high. Tarkovsky brilliantly distinguishes the two worlds by filming reality in sepia-tone, then shooting the scenes in The Zone in stark pastoral color. With the cerebral punch of XJ-13 aiding my recent viewing, the lavishly minimal picture seduced me again into its creeping lullaby.
Ultimately, the purpose of film is the same as recreational weed smoking—to simulate the pleasures of a dream-state while awake. Stalker totally succeeds. Tarkovsky shot this movie in the ’70s, when it was assumed that the majority of the audience would be soaring. You should be too.