Based on the British Oni Press graphic novel The Coldest City created by Antony Johnson and Sam Hunt, Atomic Blonde has finally rolled into theaters. David Leitch, co-director of John Wick and the upcoming Deadpool 2, directs Charlize Theron in this heroine-driven action film. Set in the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Atomic Blonde follows Lorraine Broughton, an undercover MI6 agent sent on a high-priority mission to retrieve a lost list of the Secret Intelligent Service’s double agents before it lands in the wrong hands. With its stylish trailer and eccentric soundtrack, Atomic Blonde seemed to be reminiscent of Leitch’s previously directed film, John Wick, with its well-choreographed action and upbeat tone. Atomic Blonde has all the elements of a successful action film with a star who has a long history of appearing in action films and delivering great performances.
James McAvoy and Sofia Boutella co-star as contacts of Lorraine’s. McAvoy plays David Percival, a Station Chief working with Lorraine to retrieve a list of undercover agents while Boutella plays a woman whom Lorraine makes contact with … we will just leave it at that. Each member of the cast gives an excellent performance and no one seems to fall behind. Theron is physically fit for the role and completely sells her action sequences. She also does a terrific British accent which I think helped give her the cool secret agent vibe the film was going for. McAvoy once again does a terrific job in his role, but I’m beginning to notice that he plays the same characters repeatedly. Boutella has a smaller role in this movie but still manages to impress. She wowed me in Kingsman: The Secret Service and even in The Mummy and obviously has a fantastic career ahead of her.
The action sequences in the second half of this movie are some of the best I have ever seen. For the first half of the movie, the action scenes felt very typical with quick edits and no real punch to them. To be honest, they were bit of a letdown and I was wondering if this movie was worth the hype. It wasn’t until the third act that the action really picked up. David Leitch handles a stairwell sequence towards the end of the film quite beautifully. Theron’s stunt training really shines in the hand-to-hand combat and choreographed moments, which makes sense because the director used to be a stunt director. There are minimal cut takes with this action sequence and it left me in awe as the fighting felt very raw and authentic. It’s a long action sequence around 7 to 8 minutes and it utilizes every moment, space, and camera angle possible to bring a sense of realism to the scene.
The soundtrack is very fitting to the setting and tone to this film. It offers an electronic soundtrack that adds adrenaline to some fast-paced moments. It also creates some excellent moments with a noticeable lack of music. The long action sequence in the third act uses no music and easily feels like the most realistic action sequence in the film.
At times, the film does feel very unoriginal and confusing. It started off as a simple task for Lorraine to retrieve a list that expanded into a complex storyline using multiple characters and motivations. The film cuts back to characters who are also trying to retrieve the important list of agents and sometimes doesn’t do the best job of separating and classifying characters and where they stand regarding the list. Atomic Blonde is structured where Lorraine is retelling her story to John Goodman and Tobey Jones. She is beaten down, bloody, and exhausted. Throughout the movie, it cuts back to her in Berlin on her mission. As an audience member, we now know that Lorraine is going to be alive at the end of the movie. However, towards the end of the movie, Lorraine is involved in some brutal moments that could test her skills as an operative. Of course, since we know her fate, it takes away from the suspense of the action sequences she is retelling. Atomic Blonde tries to do too much at the end with its story and plot twists. There are times where I felt that the movie was nearly over but then it would add yet another unnecessary twist to the story. Frankly, there was a certain point where I just wanted the story to end.
Despite its narrative flaws and unstructured story, Atomic Blonde is still an action-packed thrill ride with well-choreographed action sequences and beautiful stunt work from Charlize Theron. Atomic Blonde is stylish with its characters, lighting, soundtrack, and so much more. Its electric throughout with brutal fight scenes that feel beyond realistic so it is certain to please all action fans. With believable performances, Theron embodies all the characteristics of a female action star similar to well-known heroes such as James Bond, Jason Bourne, and John Wick. Atomic Blonde is a fun time at the movies that will put a jolt through your body that will last for years to come!
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Atomic Blonde runs 1 hour 55 minutes, and is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity.