Cold war Berlin is a prime location for a spy thriller, just like Moscow, London or Paris, and with all of the above featured to various lengths in Atomic Blonde, it is exceptionally situated as a setting for the mind-bending experience it houses. Billed by director David Leitch as a ‘punk-rock cold war action thriller’, which yes, is in fact as awesome as it sounds, the Charlize Theron vehicle is a picture perfect match for 2017.
Seemingly cobbled together from the best elements of the best movies of 2017, Blonde is empowered by how effortlessly cool it is. A kick-ass female protagonist takes over where male predecessors have failed, a la Wonder Woman. The first good DC film happened to be the one where Gal Gadot had free rein to be as tough and awe-inspiring as she was capable of, which turned out to be a hell of a lot. Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde is equally in command, capturing the audience’s attention with every callous smirk and steely gaze. Still riding the high of stealing Mad Max: Fury Road as the Imperator Furiosa (a lot of strange words that just mean she was incredible and tough-as-nails), Theron is the perfect fit for the role of Lorraine Broughton. An M16 top-agent sent into Berlin mere days before the fall of the wall to wrap up loose ends from a long and dark war, Broughton is not only magnetic, but wholly kick-ass.
Another primary feature that Blonde seems to borrow from films released in earlier months is the high-octane action scenes. Like John Wick, another story of an elite operator forced to take on the world, the film’s combat uses minimalist editing and tight choreography with little left to the imagination to make sure the audience feels every punch. Pulling day-to-day items into their whirling blurs of blades and bullets, Lorraine is equal parts deadly and trendy.
Just like Guardians of the Galaxy, the soundtrack is almost exclusively 80’s themed and cued to the action, sending out drama or enthusiasm in equal parts when needed. With a thousand different shades of neon used to breathe life into every set, the colour is vivid and the film electric.
Supported by the brilliant and still-improving James McAvoy, another MI6 agent who finds himself in a mutually distrusting partnership with Lorraine, relative newcomer Sofia Boutella as French agent Delphine LaSalle, and John Goodman as a gruff CIA chief butting his head into Lorraine’s investigation, Theron’s performance is well backed despite not needing any of the extra help.
Atomic Blonde does suffer from issues of pacing, especially in its first act. Good as setup, it is nothing compared to how it improves. If a film’s worse problem is that it only gets better, then it is pretty great in my books.
Better Than: Spectre
Not As Good As: John Wick Chapter 2
You May Also Like: Wonder Woman