David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde is a fantastic slick action packed thrill ride that substitutes character development for carnage.
This story, based on the comic book The Coldest City, takes place over the course of ten days around when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. MI5 sends in their top agent, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) to go in and retrieve a list of all the spies working in the intelligence community and their aliases which are about to be sold on the black market. With the help of a fellow MI5 agent, David Percival (James McAvoy), she hopes to retrieve this very delicate document before any more officers are killed.
Theron’s character is the type of protagonist that a cinematic universe could be built around. She looks great on screen, and it’s so much fun watching her throttle the throngs of enemy agents who are trying to kill her. Broughton is a mixture of Bond’s wit with the brutality of Bourne. It’s refreshing to see her take on that type role and a joy to see her pull it off.
Johnathan Sela atones for the sins committed during Transformers: The Last Knight and goes back to the type of cinematography that garnered praise in John Wick. Sela used the same technique of keeping the “star” in the center of the shot that he did in John Wick. This allows the audience to be drawn as close to the center of the screen during any of the action sequences. By keeping the camera on Theron, we didn’t miss a single bone crunching punch or snap kick to the sternum.
Sela was certainly influenced by the period when he picked out the color palette to use in his shots. There were many instances were neon colors were used which brought out a certain vibrancy in scenes. When Broughton is in the tub full of water and ice it’s lit up using a dark toned neon light. The light emphasizes not only the dark bruises on her face but the water glistening off of her nude body.
The action sequences were intense, appropriate, and didn’t detract from the narrative. There’s a sequence towards the end of the film that’s so brutal that you begin to empathize with Theron. How can someone take that much punishment and still be okay?
What Didn’t Work
Wasn’t a huge fan of the way the story was framed. Must we have another spy movie where the main character is recounting what happened after the fact? We could have easily just picked up the story from the beginning sequence and moved forward (minus the whole interrogation nonsense).
McAvoy’s character was not nearly as ruthless or heavy-handed as he should have been. Percival does have one moment where he slightly comes out of his shell. When he meets with the Russian, who has the stolen list, and proceeds to lobotomize him using an ice pick, a tinge of excitement rushed through the theater. This quickly dissipates when McAvoy’s character resorts back to this whole “I’m just a bad boy” act. Why go away from what works? In this type of film, we want to see our bad guys be evil and not walk some sort moral line.
The second act of the film did drag slightly but not enough to mark the movie down a whole lot.
If anyone is heading into this release expecting the best action movie of the summer, then they will be very disappointed. However, if fans head into this film realizing that the character development will be minimal, but the action will be brutal, then they will be very pleased. The mixture of cinematography, great action sequence, and great action sequences make Atomic Blonde the most fun you’ll have at the movies this weekend.