Atomic Blonde: 80’s Glam-Punk Spy Action is Brilliant [Review]
Directed by: David Leitch
Screenplay by: Kurt Johnstad
Based on: The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, Sam Hart
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella
Running time 115 minutes
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity
The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies.
Atomic Blonde was really everything an action-spy film should be; visually engrossing, exciting, poppy, a gritty, and filled with genre clichés that in any other film would induce eye rolling. While the convolution of the story at times threatened to derail the action, the film never truly went off the rails. By the end of the film, any pent up confusion was washed away, and the audience is left with no unanswered questions, and a soundtrack to die for. Every one of my personal checkboxes was ticked ensuring this film will have a place on the shelf where I keep my favorite films.
Director David Leitch, who has been around the industry over 20 years now, displays knowledge of filmmaking that one could only obtain by working with hundreds of filmmakers. In addition, it is apparent he has carefully developed his own style, which has borrowed elements from at least a dozen other directors. Leitch set up some extremely beautiful shots, scenes that are blocked and shot so perfectly they could be lifted from the pages of a textbook. From a technical and artistic standpoint, the direction of Atomic Blonde was absolutely some of the best I’ve seen in a genera period piece. After David Leitch’s premiere showing in the director’s chair for Atomic Blonde I fully expect his next project, Deadpool 2, to show many of the same signs of skill, which I hope leads to a lengthy career of terrific and creatively diverse films.
As for the story, the narrative is the weak link in this film. I could couple that with some of the dialogue, however for the style and period of the film the dialogue was appropriately light, and when necessary captivating in tone and meter. The convolution of the plot, while important to keep the pace of the film moving in a forward direction, often got in the way of the action. There is more than one occasion the motives of the characters are not immediately apparent. While many of these sticking points are somewhat resolved in the last twenty or thirty minutes of film, it is none the less jarring when the audience must question if they missed something important. Some of this I believe was by design, and some I believe was an after effect of editing, but mostly I believe it was simply minor flaws in the script which were magnified in the final product. That said, I don’t believe this hurts the film, but rather lends to the more unpolished feel of the neon light 1989 Berlin.
Finally, the crown jewel of Atomic Blonde—aside from the soundtrack— Charlize Theron, who also served as one of the film’s producers. She played a character that was so multifaceted it proved difficult at time to read who Lorraine Broughton truly was, which I believe was precisely the point of her performance. Through her hardened steel exterior Theron was able to show vulnerability that never once appeared to resemble weakness. They say the sign of a great heroic character is a viewer wishing they could be that person, even momentarily. I can attest to wishing I was half as much a bad-ass character as Lorraine Broughton. Surely this performance should vault Charlize Theron to the top of the list of action film stars, at least it will if there is any semblance of justice left in this cold soulless world.