A cold-war spy thriller starring a female agent? Yes please! Cold, bright and neon – David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde is a stylised masterclass in epic fight scenes. It’s 1989 and MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin just when the Wall is about to be destroyed. Her aim is to track down and secure some top secret information before it gets into the wrong hands. Unfortunately she has to contend with every other spy in the city, including her own crazy contact David Percival (James McAvoy) and French love-interest Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella).
So how well does this go down with the audience? Visually the movie is stunning – lots of popping colour and some great shots of the urban city life packing a whole lot of 80’s punch. Theron seems to have an endless supply of enviable thigh-high boots that are just perfect for elaborate stunt scenes, and a myriad of cool sunglasses to help hide her bruised and battered face. The soundtrack is chock-full of classic bangers from that era, including David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Queen and (of course) Blondie. There’s even a few recent singles slipped in there to keep millennials placated.
Then, there’s the fight scenes. Oh wow, the fight scenes! They are unapologetic in their violence and pace. Every single one seems to go on even longer than the last until the audience themselves begin to almost feel the exhaustion of the characters. They’re intense, exceptionally well-choreographed and fluid in their shooting. Furthermore, the resourcefulness of some characters’ is exceptional. As expected, the action aspect of this film really is the crowning jewel of the film.
Of course, the film was nothing if without the the stellar cast. Theron’s perfectly crafted Ice Queen characterisation is remains consistent and intrinsically sexy. McAvoy’s brilliant if slightly unhinged take for the man-on-the-ground undercover agent lends the movie some excitement. Throw some John Goodman into the form of interference from a CIA executive and on paper, you’re ticking a whole lot of boxes. Later on, we are given some well-timed comedic dialogue. This goes down reasonably well, but it takes a lot of patience from viewers to finally appreciate.
Yet, despite all of this, there seems to be something distinctly lacking from the overall plot. The fight sequences will leave you full of adrenaline that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The main story arc seems a little lacklustre in comparison, and you lack any emotional evocation to root for any particular characters. With a few not totally unexpected twists, Atomic Blonde falls short where its predecessors like Bourne, Bond and Salt succeeded. All the beautiful shots, costumes and people can’t make up for the under-developed plot.
Overall, a reasonably entertaining movie that I would still recommend viewing. It’s artistic with an impeccable cast, and worth it just to see the many ways Theron can creatively kill a man. It is enjoyable on the whole, but don’t expect it to be your new spy-thriller favourite.
Rating – 70%
Director – David Leitch
Cast – Charlize Theron, James MvAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella
Run time – 155mins