Dan's Review: "Atomic Blonde" is a cool thriller
Jul 29, 2017 09:42AM
● By Dan Metcalf
Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde - © 2017 Focus Features.
Atomic Blonde (Focus Features)
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity.
Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Bill Skarsgård, Sam Hargrave, James Faulkner, Roland Møller.
Written by Kurt Johnstad, based on “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart.
Directed by David Leitch.
I’ve always looked at spy thrillers as pure fantasy; the same as musicals or animated features, with all sorts of improbabilities at hand. Most actual spies will tell you of the tedious nature of the profession, listening to recordings, scouring data and watching video feeds in uncomfortable circumstances. While knowing that the cinematic aspects of espionage films are far from reality, I do enjoy a good spy thriller, like some James Bond, Mission: Impossible or Jason Bourne offerings. Atomic Blonde, based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City” is the latest spy action thriller to hit the movies, and it has real potential.
Set in 1989 on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a British MI6 agent assigned to track down a list of intelligence operatives. When she arrives in Berlin, she discovers that the KGB is after her and that she can trust no one, including her MI6 contact David Percival (James McAvoy). Her assignment is to protect “Spyglass” (Eddie Marsan), an East German police agent searching for asylum in the West, who has memorized the list. In the meantime, Broughton is romanced by a beautiful French agent named Delphine LaSalle (Sofia Boutella) and takes on all kinds of bad guys. Eventually, Lorraine must deal with a mole named “Satchel” who is apparently playing East and West sides against each other. Her story is told in a series of flashbacks as she explains her mission to MI6 leaders Gray (Toby Jones), “Chief C” (James Faulkner) and CIA boss Kurzfeld (John Goodman). To reveal any more would spoil the film’s ending, but suffice to say there are plenty twists, turns and surprises to keep your interest, despite the improbabilities.
Atomic Blonde runs on style, including plenty of violent action, set to cool new wave music of the late 1980s, sexuality, and Cold War kitsch. It’s a fun ride, to be sure, even with an immense dependence on the suspension of reality and a somewhat confusing story. Director David Leitch, a former stuntman (who also directed John Wick) depends heavily on choreographed fight scenes involving our feminine hero, giving Atomic Blonde a sense of gritty fun.
Charlize Theron’s performance is strong, eye-catching and fun, with a sense of single-minded toughness you’d hope to see in a fictional action hero. She makes Atomic Blonde work, even with the convoluted premise and choreographed combat. Theron’s beauty and toughness leads you to root for Lorraine Broughton and hope to see her take on more thugs in the future.
Atomic Blonde is rated R for good reason, so leave the kids at home for this one.
Atomic Blonde Trailer