Director: David Leitch
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Bill Skarsgård, Sam Hargrave
It seems like Charlize Theron is the go-to actress for any high intensity action flick. She’s one of the names people like to throw out in the Twitterverse for the ideal first female James Bond thanks to her roles in films like Mad Max Fury Road, The Fate of the Furious, and now Atomic Blonde. It’s November 1989 in Berlin. The Cold War is in full swing and the Berlin Wall still separates the city. Theron stars in the title role as MI-6 agent Lorraine Broughton. She’s brought in to Berlin from London to investigate the murder of her friend and fellow agent, James Gasciogne (Hargrave). He had on his person a dossier of corrupt government agents. The names on the list could potentially lead to the extension of the Cold War if it falls in the hands of the Russians. The list would also expose the identity of a double agent named Satchel who is a traitor to Britain. Lorraine has her work cut out for her in Berlin and her new associate David Percival (McAvoy) doesn’t prove to be very trustworthy.
Atomic Blonde plays out like a James Bond/Jason Bourne type of movie with the spies, double crossing, and secret agents. Blonde sets itself apart from those as it’s is all about the style and period. This seems largely in part due to it being based on the 2012 graphic novel “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. I’ve never read the source material, but I can see the inspiration on screen. Director David Leitch (John Wick) brings the 1980s front and center in every detail right down to the opening credits. Throughout the movie he makes great use of neon lighting and the dance club music keeps the beat going throughout. The character of Lorraine Broughton will don a multitude of wigs with a cigarette in hand and a glass of Stoli rocks not too far away. There’s an enigmatic side to her often weighing her options no matter who she’s up against.
Lorraine is just one of the mysterious pieces to this puzzle. In those other spy flicks, it’s pretty cut and dry on who the villain is and who will most likely wind up dead by the end of the movie. Blonde’s plot can be a bit confusing and chaotic if you’re not paying close attention. There is a variety of questionable characters you’re introduced to and you never quite know who you can trust, who’s on what side, and who is turning on whom. Lorraine is included in that list of questionable characters. There is the standard set up at the beginning, which is explained to Lorraine in an all too quick fashion for the audience to keep up with in terms of this secret dossier. You’ll either want to know everything as it’s happening or just be open to some of it not making sense. It also doesn’t help that the script isn’t structured in a perfect linear fashion as the story cuts back and forth to the aftermath with Lorraine being interrogated by her MI-6 supervisor and a CIA director played by Toby Jones and John Goodman, respectively.
The key factor in my recommendation of Atomic Blonde comes down to Charlize Theron. I’ve been drawn to the variety of characters she’s inhabited since her Oscar win for Monster in 2003. It was the role of a lifetime that completely changed the trajectory of her career to where she’s at today. She gives another powerhouse performance as Lorraine. She makes her the craziest, coolest, kick-ass action heroine since Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Lorraine is a character you would never want to cross, as you know it would only end up in your death. She’s an extremely flawed woman who only looks out for herself while trying to do her job. She’s been through the ringer and is a fighter much like Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 or Sigourney Weaver’s iconic portrayal as Ellen Ripley in the Alien films. Theron feels perfectly at ease with the combat scenes. The stunt sequences to pull these off are highly impressive. You can feel how intricately choreographed they are for that visceral effect. At first they are quick barehanded takedowns but get progressively more violent and gruesome as the film hits its climax. Take note for those that get queasy at the sight of blood. Anything can become a weapon for Lorraine by this point.
Atomic Blonde has some similar pacing issues that can often be found in spy movies. Much like Lorraine, I didn’t always have a full understanding with what was going on. Theron is dynamic to watch, as you just never know what Lorraine will do next. She’s partnered with James McAvoy as Percival who takes a very different approach to his work that Lorraine does. He’s great at playing wacko characters. Sofia Boutella, who starred in The Mummy remake and Kingsman: The Secret Service, stands out in the femme fatale role of Delphine. She’s tailing Lorraine for her own motives, and it’s not long before she’s caught. There are times where the movie gets a bit predictable especially if you have an understanding of the spy genre. There were some obvious choices that I saw coming from a mile away. The look and vibe of Atomic Blonde are all there even when scenes start to go off the rail. It makes for a promising first entry. I don’t think anyone would consider Dr. No, The Bourne Identity, or the first Mission: Impossible to be the best in their respective franchises. There’s a future for Atomic Blonde if Charlize Theron is up for more.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Not a perfect spy flick, but I’d be up for more Atomic Blonde movies.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS