Taking a quick look at Atomic Blonde (which came out this past weekend) one maybe inclined to think that it’s trying to capitalize on the success of John Wick, only with a female assassin.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The only thing Atomic Blonde and John Wick have in common is their director, David Leitch (who co-directed (uncredited) some scenes in John Wick: Chapter 1; he is also helming the upcoming Deadpool 2) and very little else. The two films are so tonally different that comparing the two would be a huge mistake. Both are their own films – though Leitch has hinted that John Wick and Atomic Blonde may be in the same universe.
Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent who is sent to 1989 Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent (who she had a relationship with; unbeknownst to her superiors) and to recover a missing list of agents that is about to fall into the hands of the wrong people.
There is very little I can tell you about the plot of Atomic Blonde other than the small synopsis that I gave above without spoiling anything for you. Though it was marketed as a hardcore action film, Atomic Blonde relied more on plot, story and characters to drive the movie forward rather than its action set pieces. As with any cold war era film, Atomic Blonde is filled with intrigue and espionage, mystery and suspense, double crosses and backstabbing – you never really know who to trust, including Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton character.
The story is told through Broughton’s character in a series of flashbacks as she is being debriefed by her MI6 superior, Eric Grey (Toby Jones) and a CIA operative, Emmet Kurzfeld (John Goodman) on the events of her mission leading up to the the day the Berlin wall fell.
With this kind of storytelling, Leitch plays with the facts lose and fast, never giving full details; we’re led to believe one thing but in actuality it was something else altogether. This is an okay storytelling devise, but it does make the film hard to follow at times, and you’ll find yourself wondering if you’ve missed something along the way.
But Atomic Blonde is a thinking man’s action movie for sure; if you’re expecting to go into this movie for some turn-off-your-brain-action, you’re going to be disappointed with the amount of story that comes with Atomic Blonde. Upon the first viewing it’s going to be hard to understand everything that is being dumped on you in rapid fire exposition. A second, or even a third watch, will be needed to get all the facts and details in this thriller.
That’s not to say there isn’t any action in the film. There is, including a seven minute long fight scene between Theron and a handful of goons that is seemingly done in one long take. This scene alone is breathtaking, tense, scary, and downright brutal as you begin to see the affects the fight takes on the characters, their stamina, and as the bruises on their faces and bodies begin to swell and bleed. This scene alone is going to go down as one of the best action/fight scenes in cinematic history and I won’t be surprised if it gets put up there with Roddy Piper and David Keith’s brawl in John Carpenter’s They Live.
The action fight scenes are well choreographed with the camera pulled out far enough to show what is going on without cutting to a close-up (to hide the actors inability to fight) or relying on shaky camera tricks to hide stunt doubles.
Theron is in top form in both her ability to play the ice cold Lorraine Broughton (who is as sexy as she is deadly) and to perform in the brutal fight scenes with men who are much bigger than herself. She kicks a lot of ass in this movie and pulls it off effortlessly that she can beat the living hell out of anyone she wants with only her shoe. Theron is a great actress and any roll she’s in she commits fully to – just take a look at her Oscar winning roll in Monster if you have any doubt about her ability as an actress.
The cast also includes James McAvoy as agent David Percival, who is Broughton’s contact in Germany, and who may or may not be working against her.
Sofia Boutella is Delphine Lasalle a photographer that’s been following Broughton around snapping pictures of her and maybe working as a double agent herself and is trying to get close to Broughton by seducing her.
The cinematography in the film is fantastic (especially in the action scenes) with most of the inside scenes lit in neon, giving the film the 1980s punk feel it needed.
The soundtrack is also filled with 1980s punk hits (both German and English) and fun 80s pop songs. All the songs have a purpose in the movie; they were either on the radio or they were playing in a club or in the background, and they help to elevate the scene instead of the songs revolving around it.
With directors like David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (John Wick) spearheading a new wave of action films and redefining the genre as we know it, moving it away from the days of shaky cam and quick cutting and back to where one could actually see the actors fighting and shooting it out onscreen, the future of action films is looking explosive once again.
8 out of 10 stars.