Ever fantasised about having a female amalgamation of James Bond and John Wick? Well, look no further as Atomic Blonde delivers what you want and maybe a little more. Having first made his mark through the John Wick movies, rising director David Leitch joins forces with producer/leading star and all-round badass Charlize Theron to deliver an adrenaline-fuelled thrill ride, albeit with a few stumbles along the way. Set during the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton is sent into the heart of Berlin to retrieve a priceless dossier and take down a ruthless rogue agent known as “Satchel”. Once there, she teams up with anarchic fellow agent David Percival to navigate her way through a deadly widening web of lies and deceit.
But more importantly, this movie is one relentless bloody ballet of gunfire and fistfights, and you do feel the pain and batterings that are unleashed throughout. It’s just as visceral and edgy as the John Wick movies, if only a tad rougher and bloodier than those movies that felt more precise and clean in their balletic fight sequences. One particular standout sequence comes towards the end of the film where our main anti-heroine takes on a gang of hitmen in a hotel as she attempts to get out of East Berlin, and it is shot and choreographed in a way that’s very physical and visceral. Whenever filmmakers attempt to create a world set within a specific time period, they occasionally drop the ball by assuming that all you need to create an authentic setting is by just throwing in some retro songs and some goofy clothes, but here, the ‘80s setting is created to perfection.
Everything from the costume and set design to the neon-soaked colour palette (kudos to expert cinematographer Jonathan Sela) is nailed, even right down to the simplest of touches like Pan Am planes at Berlin Tempelhof Airport. The soundtrack is utilised well with terrific uses of songs ranging from ‘Blue Monday ’88’ and ‘99 Luftballons’ to ‘London Calling’ and ‘Under Pressure’, which all compliments the ‘80s surroundings. The environment looked and felt right, they managed to capture the zeitgeist perfectly, and in a way, this succeeded where films like the recent X-Men: Apocalypse failed.
Building upon the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron proves herself to be one of the most unique and talented action stars of this generation, just like Keanu Reeves did before her in John Wick. She manages to convey an array of emotions seamlessly throughout, ranging from vulnerable to alluring to dangerously vicious in the blink of an eye. Theron handles the physicality with ease, and she throws herself into those action sequences with a believable dedication and tenacity, which further solidifies her as one of the most convincing action heroines in recent cinema. The supporting cast are also terrific with James McAvoy bringing out the crazy and unhinged as the seemingly corrupt agent, while Sofia Boutella is simply phenomenal as the undercover French agent who gets involved with Theron in more ways than one, which totally redeems her after the terrible reboot of The Mummy.
However, while the film is relentless in its action and manages to maintain its sense of pace for the most part, it does go off the rails towards the end, which starts right after that significant action sequence, and once we get past that, the movie completely hinges on the last fourth act that attempts to fill in the gaps and missing pieces of the puzzle, but only ends up raising more questions than answers. This is the kind of film that won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes, especially since the film never truly reveals why some characters act in certain ways or whose side they were on at certain points throughout, which would either fascinate of frustrate the most casual of viewers.
For the most part, Atomic Blonde is an atomic blast, delivering on the action and allure with style and panache. Theron is one cool action badass, and David Leitch proves that he’s the right guy to handle the upcoming Deadpool 2. True, it may not be as smart as it thinks it is, and the direction the story ultimately takes at the end is sorely underwhelming, which just evidently makes it ten minutes too long, but if you want to experience a visceral action flick that’ll leave you breathless, then this may be the movie for you.
ATOMIC BLONDE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID LEITCH / SCREENPLAY: KURT JOHNSTAD / STARRING: CHARLIZE THERON, JAMES MCAVOY, SOFIA BOUTELLA, JOHN GOODMAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 7/10