Film: Atomic Blonde
Released By: Universal Pictures (Home Entertainment)
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Retail Price: $34.98
If you are a fan of action films, you’ve likely waited for the day where we would have a female James Bond like character that wasn’t enhanced with powers or abilities to kick ass. Luckily, the 2017 film Atomic Blonde starring the remarkable actress Charlize Theron takes that direction - only to tackle even more obstacles as a superior action film. Atomic Blonde is a spy centric plot that reworks previous genre methods to make this feel more modern and visually unique in comparison to movies like Bond, Bourne or Mission Impossible. Movies of the action genre tend to include more comedic relief to make it approachable to audiences, but from the first moments to the final scene of Atomic Blonde, the film serves up tenacity and high stakes that keep you guessing all the way through.
In the movie we follow Lorraine Broughton, an elite member of MI6 in 1989, around the time of the collapse of the Berlin wall. In the beggining, a member of the MI6 is shot and killed by a hitman for the KGB who then stole a microfilm from his wristwatch that contained a list of every active member of the KGB - a major interest and edge in the growing tensions. Next we see Lorraine being interrogated by the MI6 officials regarding her mission in Berlin - showing us where the film will end up after it’s all said and done. But before we can understand, we begin the journey of Lorraine who was sent to collect the list and assassinate a double agent feeding information to soviets who goes by the name ‘Satchel.’
Once becoming aware of the film’s premise, that’s when things go off the rails and shapes the insanity of the narrative. There is a lot of questions that the film proposes about the different governments and has an energy about it that causes you to question every single character (Lorraine included) about their motives or intentions with the list. Aside from Theron’s role, we have James McAvoy who plays the role of David Percival as a MI6 agent stationed in Berlin and set to assist Lorraine’s mission from their superiors. The chemistry between the actors and their characters is entirely tangible and both bring their ‘A’ game as established performers who are a crucial puzzle piece to making the film as entertaining as it is. McAvoy uses his eccentric comedic stylings to make his character feel a real-life quirky while Theron has a stoicness to her that radiates power whilst showing a soft side that makes you truly root for her to succeed and survive the growing conflict in Berlin.
The thing that will stay with viewers the most in the film is definitely the action sequences surrounding Theron. Theron completed vigorous stunt training for this specific film (videos can be found online that will blow you away) and the dedication to her work was discernible. The ability to not cut away for larger fight scenes and in a continuous shot was masterful and forward thinking in terms of the current state of action movies. The film didn’t entirely focus on those action instances, as most were shown in the trailer for Atomic Blonde, but every single fragment of a fight was utter perfection in true action-movies glory. When the action took a backseat to the plot, there was a lot of period piece qualities that made it somewhat difficult to follow for general audiences, (I’m not the biggest authority on governments, KGB or MI6) but the film does it’s best to make it accessible as quickly as possible by surrounding Lorraine with characters who have different ties to important factions. One of these connections is Sofia Boutella (who plays a French agent named Delphine) that becomes attached to Lorraine as a love interest / concern for her safety because of the film’s paranoia that it builds on. Though her role takes a few turns of her own, the relationship between Lorraine and Delphine was a surprise to the both of them and makes for a great tale that complicates love in addition to war.
Atomic Blonde gave us the solo-directorial debut of David Leitch, who originally was slated to work on the John Wick sequel until eventually becoming invested in the Theron film for good reason. His direction for the film feels essential and it is visually one of those films that if you took away any of the components that made it so enjoyable, it wouldn’t be the same end product. With a strong cast, director, soundtrack, script and brilliant action, Atomic Blonde is an instant classic for how much creativity and dedication was used to make the film a reality. After seeing an ending with a game-changing twist, I can’t help but want to see Atomic Blonde become a franchise to determine what Lorraine’s next moves or end game could truly be. If you love action or are just looking for a solid movie, Atomic Blonde offers endless entertainment and is a film that will cement Theron as a true action-star.
Overall Score: 8/10
Theron provides one of her most memorable roles yet, showcasing her newfound talents in action and her serious demeanor that help her tell the story of Lorraine Broughton marvelously. The action scenes alone are enough to inspire directors or filmmakers who want to jump into the genre or improve upon their own skills with new ideas. From the direction to the music, everything was done so well in Atomic Blonde with the only hang-ups being a sometimes confusing historical narrative that made me feel like I needed to pick up a history book once again.
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- I would love the chance to see Atomic Blonde get a sequel (or trilogy, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)
- Bill Skarsgard and James McAvoy were solid supporting actors and interesting characters from beginning to end.
- Those action scenes should be studied by filmmakers who want to excel in the genre.