Based on the 2012 Graphic novel The Coldest City and directed by David Leitch, Atomic Blonde is the new spy thriller staring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Roland Møller and Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson.
The movie is set during the final days of the Cold War, with the film starting with Lorraine Broughton (Theron) debriefing her superiors in British Intelligence (Toby Jones) along with CIA officer (John Goodman) about her most recent mission. Lorraine recounts being sent into Berlin to find out who had killed another MI6 agent and recover a list that has the details of all the double agents. Once in Berlin she encounters fellow MI6 agent David Percival (McAvoy), who Lorraine is unsure if she can trust, that tells her she not only has to find the list but she also needs to protect a defecting Stasi agent, code name Spyglass, who has information they need, and to find him before the KGB does. The plot sounds a lot like most spy movies and that’s what I enjoyed about it. It is the style, the performance and the action that kept me engaged in this standard ‘who is the traitor’ spy thriller.
With David Leitch directing you know you are going to get some incredible action in Atomic Blonde. Leitch was one half of the directing duo behind the first John Wick and was a second unit director for the Airport scene in Captain America: Civil War, both of which are awesome. Atomic Blonde is no different; with some great hand-to-hand set pieces, shootouts and car chases, which ultimately feel more realistic due to the performances of the actors, not the stunt crew. Some of these sequences are incredible, with one sequence towards the end being some of Leitchs’s best work, perhaps even better than John Wick. What makes the action stand out is the realism behind it, the actor’s look physically tired and injured during the fights, no one super human, they hurt and they tire. It is the action that elevates this movie past just being a regular spy thriller, even if you do not enjoy the plot of Atomic Blonde you will enjoy the incredible action.
Charlize Theron shines as Lorraine, and expertly blends the physical side of the role with the dramatic. This character stood out to me as not just a strong female character, but also a strong character. What makes her strong is the fact she has no extrinsic motivation other than her skill set and a sense of duty that push her through the story. She is also strong physically, which is highlighted through Theron’s talent as an actress during the action sequences. Sofia Boutella plays the young French operative Delphine, who has her own role to play in the spy game. I will admit it was nice to actually see Boutella have a chance to act in a movie, given her performances in Kingsman: The secret Service and The Mummy (2017) were mostly physical roles. What is unfortunate is the ultimate direction the film takes her character, which does limit her involvement. I was really hoping to see more of her, rather than just a small side character role. She definitely had potential in this movie and I look forward to what she does next. It goes without saying but James McAvoy is fantastic as David Percival, as he always is. Percival is an interesting character that enjoys the life that comes with being an operative in Berlin and but is also interested in his own survival. He is a loose cannon that can’t be trusted but doesn’t trust anyone himself. It is because of his performance that the tension in this movie works, as the audience questions who he really is.
I think this movie achieved a lot than people give it credit for. Charlize Theron didn’t just create a female version of John Wick; she was able to create a realistic female action hero. Lorraine was chosen for this mission because she was the best spy; no one took her child, hurt her family or killed her dog. This is rare for female action heroine to not have some back-story of great pain that forces them into an extraordinary scenario. In most films when women fight, they might have a few bruises or cuts but in Atomic Blonde she gets completely messed up, which is what would happen if you got hit the way she did. Her character controlled her sexuality, not being made to look like a slut or someone who uses sex to her advantage because she’s a woman, like most female spies and action heroes are usually treated. The movie also didn’t beat you over the head with female empowerment or a feminist agenda, just a strong female character that for the most part is ‘real’.
If you plan to see this movie do not go in expecting a female version of John Wick, because you will be disappointed. This is more a female version of James Bond or Mission Impossible with the more adult content. There are a few twist and turns as one would expect for a spy movie that require you to pay attention to the plot more than just a typical action movie. It is not an overly complicated plot but if you don’t expect a spy movie you might be disappointed.
See it if you enjoy spy movies with some great action. Also see it if you want to watch an incredibly physical performance from Charlize Theron.
Atomic Blonde scores 7/10
Thanks for reading my review. What did you think of Atomic Blonde? Do you plan to see it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
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