Atomic Blonde is a new spy thriller from David Leitch, co-director of the first John Wick and solo director of the upcoming Deadpool 2, and is based on a 2012 graphic novel called The Coldest City. Set in the year 1989 towards the end of the Cold War, hardened British intelligence agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) travels to Berlin with the assignment of retrieving important information that could forever change the course of history. Atomic Blonde skyrocketed onto my most anticipated Summer movies of 2017 list after I saw one of the trailers during my theatrical viewing of Fate of the Furious, another Universal Pictures movie starring Charlize Theron. I was happy to finally see Atomic Blonde and can officially say that it’s good, but not great.
For those haven’t seen any footage, this film is technically amazing. Jonathan Sala’s cinematography is a sight for sore eyes because the colors he uses are muted enough to highlight the colorful neon lights present in certain scenes. The production design is terrific as well especially on a not-so-large $30 million budget. The costumes and locations give the film a specific level of authenticity and brings us as an audience closer into this historically fictionalized world. The ’80s pop soundtrack, which includes several musical arrangements from Tyler Bates, is also fitting for the era even if it doesn’t have as much repeat value as say that of Baby Driver. Of course, the action scenes are all fantastic. David Leitch directs incredible hand-to-hand fight choreography with the help of some rather fluent editing from frequent collaborator Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir making it both violent and emotional; I can’t wait to see what Leitch brings to Deadpool 2.
The characters in Atomic Blonde aren’t incredibly well developed but they are still noteworthy. Charlize Theron, who also serves as one of the film’s producers and performs her own stunt work, excels as the cold-hearted main protagonist. She looks great while kicking so much ass yet is still able to show subtle hints of vulnerability. In fact, Theron is now my top pick for a female James Bond if the producers ever decide to go with one. The supporting cast which includes James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Sofia Boutella all give decent performances; however, they aren’t given much to do—so why even hire recognizable talent when Theron is already the lead? McAvoy arguably has the most major role out of those three actors but his character doesn’t truly become interesting until much later in the film; moreover, his best performance of the year is still Kevin and his twenty-three other personalities from Split. Nonetheless, Theron is the one element everyone should take away from Atomic Blonde and is another example of why she’s the best female action star working today.
The film functions better in the writing department but not to excellent results. While the marketing makes it out to be a female John Wick, Atomic Blonde is actually a rather complex story full of twists and turns told in a rather unconventional manner that I don’t want to delve into for fear of spoilers; that all would’ve worked better if the film didn’t put as much emphasis on the story which doesn’t become interesting until the third act. Additionally, the action should’ve been the main driving force similar to another action movie that Theron was in. It’s also quite predictable and the trailers don’t help much on that front. Fortunately, the dialogue is top notch since it’s mundane yet humorous keeping this rather straight-laced film from appearing as too serious. Perhaps screenwriter Kurt Johnson should stick with dialogue-focused scripts moving forward?
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Although Atomic Blonde isn’t the best movie of the summer, I still had plenty of fun with it. While the story and supporting characters have room for improvement, the action scenes and lead performance are worth the price of admission alone. Sadly, the film probably won’t make that much money in theaters since it’s releasing the same weekend as The Emoji Movie.