Starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy, “Atomic Blonde” is an intense, violent, and absolute thrill ride of a female action spy film that is a must see for fans of this genre.
Based on the graphic novel, The Coldest City, “Atomic Blonde” features Theron and McAvoy, among others, as international spies who are tasked to find a list of double agents that went missing during 1989’s collapse of the Berlin Wall. MI6’s top agent, Theron’s Lorraine Broughton, must team up with Berlin station chief David Percival (McAvoy) in a testy alliance to find the list before it falls into the wrong hands.
The best way to describe “Atomic Blonde” is balls to the walls extreme action from start to finish. Some are comparing the film to a female James Bond or Jason Bourne. While I agree that it is in the same vein as Bourne, I’m more partial to a comparison to John Wick. Both films, which director/stunt guru David Leitch was a part of, presents some of the most violent action I’ve seen in a spy-action thriller, with a similar gruesome fighting style that while is over-the-top, can be quite enjoyable for many viewers.
Double agents, international spies, a variety of name actors, and more hand to hand combat that only the most serious action junkies can appreciate makes for quite a film for someone like me that enjoys this stuff. At times, the film feels like a Guy Ritchie picture, or another British director with a specific offbeat style. For a film like “Atomic Blonde,” which is based on a graphic novel, there’s no surprise that it has that comic book, almost gimmicky feel to it, but in the best way possible.
While it has been seen in other films, the fighting style is somewhat unique. Instead of fast paced, quick cuts and close up camera shots during the fight scenes, it’s more of a full frame, single shot that shows every punch and kick, instead of cutting to another angle at any potential moment. The action and combat is such that some will be shocked and taken aback, while others will be smiling from ear to ear with that jaw-dropping look throughout. Let me be clear though. The overly violent action is not really for the faint of heart, as the film shows just about everything possible.
Even though I give this film a thumbs up for its intensity and action, it’s not without its flaws. The double agent back and forth plot of figuring out who-works-for-who is a little convoluted and can be somewhat confusing at times. I didn’t totally dislike the narrative, but they definitely spent more time on combat and action than anything else. Even though the running time is shy of two hours, it still feels a little drawn out now and again.
I attribute the first class action to David Leitch. Leitch, who co-directed “John Wick,” has been a stunt double for Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damm, on top of doing stunt work in a number of films like “The Bourne Ultimatum,” "The Bourne Legacy,” “Fight Club,” “Troy,” and many more. With a ton of stunt experience and basically making his feature film solo debut, I’d imagine for good reason that Leitch had a ton of input into how they shot the fights.
The film boasts an appealing music soundtrack, similar to that of “Baby Driver.” The music seems to really amp up when the action scenes take over, and many of times it will be songs your familiar with. As far as casting, in addition to Theron and McAvoy, the supporting cast is made up of John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Bill Skarsgard, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones. Regarding Theron specifically, she absolutely shines in this film.
Some are saying that while the action scenes are something to praise, the film’s plot leaves much to be desired, and that there is too much ass-kicking and not enough spying. Claims like this always have a little bit of truth to them, but all I can say is that I was thoroughly entertained by the film and the amount of ass-kicking Theron does. Leitch has signed on to direct “Deadpool 2,” and if “Atomic Blonde” is any indication of his capabilities, it'll be exciting to see what else he can do.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Atomic Blonde” is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout and some sexuality/nudity. Running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.