REVIEW — “Atomic Blonde”
David Leitch has made his name loud and clear in the action genre as of late; he’s behind the stunts of many beloved action films, has provided a refreshing second unit direction on a ton of films (most notably Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War), and was one of the two directors of the acclaimed John Wick. In Atomic Blonde, we follow Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), an MI6 agent sent to Berlin during the Cold War in order to investigate the death of a fellow agent and past lover, as well as attempt to retrieve a list of secret agents before they get into the wrong hands. This is Leitch’s first outing as a solo-director, but has the confidence and grit of someone who has been making films for years. From the opening sequence alone, the film establishes a cold, neon-drenched style and a resounding grit to the action taking place.
Atomic Blonde is a weird hybrid of different genres and ideas. The best description I can muster is to call it a mixture between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘s cold, calculated view at the life of a secret agent and John Wick‘s stylish gun-play and gritty yet fun action sequences. Those two comparisons sound like they shouldn’t blend together, and while Atomic Blonde is slightly rough around the edges at times, it completely clicks as a whole and is resoundingly bad-ass from beginning to end. The soundtrack is full of killer beats that play in the background in key sequences and only add to the experience, almost being a character of its own at points. It’s also worth pointing out how much Leitch has established his own sense of style when it comes to soaking his films in neon at every possible moment. It just makes me all the more excited to see how Deadpool 2 differs from its predecessor, since he will be behind the camera.
The film is filled to brim with a supporting cast of fantastic actors such as James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, and Eddie Marsan – but from beginning to end, this is Charlize Theron’s show. I could gush for days about how incredible she is during the action sequences here, and if you watch any featurette on this film, it’ll show you how insanely dedicated she was to learning the fight choreography and perfecting the gunplay. But it’s truly even more impressive how seamlessly she creates an instantly iconic (or, at least, deservedly so) character within Lorraine. Lorraine is as cold as the backdrop of Berlin in which the film takes place, and the audience slowly unravels her personalities, weaknesses, and abundance of strengths. She’s witty, strong willed, intelligent as hell, and bruised up from head-to-toe. In many ways, she’s reminiscent of classic spies that you know and love.. but ultimately, she’s unlike any that have come before her.
Atomic Blonde does suffer from one of the key issues that a lot of modern action films do, and that’s the pesky plot to make sense of all the craziness that occurs. While I do appreciate how this actually has an issue of being too complex and almost admirably contrived, opposed to completely weightless and lacking any sense of story.. it’s still undeniable that it could’ve benefited from a touch-up in the story department. With all of that being said, I cannot stress enough how brilliant the fight choreography of this film is, and how refreshing it is to see a director actually care about the way he frames and shoots his action sequences. It truly is worth the price of admission alone, and you’ll get a ton of great characters and spy goodness inbetween. Charlize Theron is 100% the star of this, but David Leitch himself is one that you can feel from behind the camera. If you’re a John Wick fan, this is absolutely blissful and so unabashedly cool from the first to last frame; but luckily, also makes a name for itself along the way. 4/5.