By Dominic V Cassidy (@Lyre_of_Apollo)
Atomic Blonde is the latest project courtesy of director and stuntman David Leitch, who’s directing Deadpool 2, and gave an uncredited directorial assist on the kinetic John Wick. With this in mind, and the fact the unequivocally bad-ass Charlize Theron is playing the titular yellow haired spy, the viewer best have their seat belt at the ready for the sheer roller-coaster of fucking insanity that comes after the funky (and perfectly violent) set up, the tempo and energy just keep going up and up and up and so on.
Mentioned above, Charlize Theron takes the lead as the MI6 intelligence officer Lorraine Broughton, who heads to Berlin during the cold war to track down the usual “fate of the world” sort of classic spy McGuffin, seen in Bond movies for decades. It is to this effect that the story of Atomic Blonde is not anything special, it is however a thrilling, action packed, carnage ride; filled to the brim with excellent set pieces, it feels like the story is really going out of its way to create these opportunities.
The characters, while somewhat playing into classic archetypes, do flip roles quite a bit creating a sense of dread and excitement. There is a plot thread that, if you are keen on problem solving or spy flicks, you might see coming, but the sheer insanity of it makes for brilliant viewing.
There must be a loud round of applause for the cast which does feel slightly ensemble – there’s never a face on screen you don’t recognize, with John Goodman and Toby Jones making great wee appearances on the fringes of the story. Charlize Theron, while not delivering a career defining performance in the action film, does play her part extremely well, showing great devotion to the role, especially in the physical sense, doing many of her own stunts. The way she plays her character shows a femme fatale style character as the protagonist, which is refreshing giving a nice edge to the movie.
However, James McAvoy steals the screen whenever the camera mans no looking. His portrayal of a more morally ambiguous station manager in Berlin, again for MI6, is spot on. His slow burning menace is definitely reminiscent of Split, and honestly, after showcasing his darker side, it’s nice to see more of it, and his acting ability is very much welcomed in this already star studded cast.
Now this is one of the most crucial points to be made on Atomic Blonde: it is a fucking gorgeous movie. There. The cinematography is perfectly thought out, giving it an edge on the other movies of its kind. Where Bourne’s camera is shaky in fight scenes, Atomic Blonde’s is steady and tracking the point and punctuation of each movement perfectly, where it could be argued Wick was neon in its colour scheme, the use of colours in Atomic Blonde, is so smooth, so subtle, that if it wasn’t so delightful the viewer would hardly notice. The colours are something that really catch the eye, and should be looked out for in the movie.
And where would an action movie be without the actual action? A completely different destination from where Atomic Blonde has ended up, the action, and fight choreography in this movie really is of the highest calibre. Including one fight scene towards the climax of the feature which is honestly quite fantastic to behold, the seemingly realistic way blows are exchanged and the absolute lethality of Theron in her movements is reminiscent of the hallway hammer brawl of Oldboy, and really puts this as a rival to some of the fight movies like The Raid, or the Bourne movies fight scenes. The music as well is perfectly pitched for the movie, tunes like 99 Red Luftballoons, Blue Monday, and various other 80’s bangers are out in full force, and make this seem much more light hearted an experience than it is and has any right being.
While Atomic Blondes story is by no means Shakespearean, it gets the job done; but while you are experiencing a somewhat commonplace spy thriller, you won’t care. You’ll be watching a beautiful movie, with perfect fight scenes, amazing use of colour, and a fantastic sound track. The film does nothing especially new, but what does, it does with the care and utmost precision of a master. A strong contender for the best recent Bond movie.