Film Review: Atomic Blonde
There’s a point in this movie where James McAvoy’s character looks straight into the camera and says: “What even is the game we’re playing?”. Now, it’s usually a triumph when the audience can resonate with what is said onscreen, but in this case I can connect with this character only because it’s actually hard to follow what is happening. However, if you take away the needlessly convoluted story and empty dialogue, then you have one of the best action movies to come out in a while. Alas, these prior things just can’t be ignored.
In the opening minutes we’re given the lowdown of when Atomic Blonde is set – a few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. We’re given text with plenty of historical information about this era, which is soon cancelled out by spray paint saying ‘this is not that story’. This story follows MI6 agent Lorraine, an operative tasked with tracking down a top secret list of double-agents and investigating the death of another agent in Berlin. As the list is presumed to be gone and a person on the west side of the wall having memorized it, Lorraine and another agent, Percival, must safely get him out.
The Cold War backdrop is brilliantly captured through stunning cinematography and stylish fashion nods through each character. But it doesn’t do much else for the story. The plot is kept simple at first, but you eventually go through so many twists and turns that the climax is, frankly, bland.
Director David Leitch knows where his strength lies: perfectly executed action. Each fight sequence is relentlessly brutal and exhilarating to watch; it’s honestly almost baffling that what we’re seeing isn’t real. While every fight scene has its highlights, one in particular is a cut above the rest – and this includes every action movie seen in the last few years. It’s shown as a uncut shot that see’s Charlize Theron’s character giving it her absolute all, struggling to take down each thug that comes her way but at the same time showing that she is a force to be reckoned with. The realism of each blow she takes and delivers is so visually satisfying that you have to applaud the amount of effort put in.
Theron is a beast onscreen, showcasing her prowess as an action star. It’s a treat to see her and James McAvoy being all-round badasses, but their acting abilities can only go so far when their characters aren’t too appealing. Theron’s love interest, played by Sophia Boutella, makes for a good side-character to put the pieces of the story together –but not much else.
Atomic Blonde’s action is simply stunning to look at, but it’s a shame that these scenes feel like a reward for sitting through a flat story.