By: Arlene Allen
Atomic Blonde starts with a literal bang and the frenetic energy of the opening scene is continuously amped up throughout the movie. Charlize Theron is so on the money with her performance as MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton, it’s like she was born to play this role. Every trailer you may have seen is only the tip of the iceberg of this fine thriller. All of the trailers you may have seen so far haven’t prepared you for the full awesomeness of this movie.
The plot is too full of twists, double-crosses and jaw dropping surprises to describe in detail, but to summarize concisely this is the tale of Broughton (Theron) who is sent to Berlin to retrieve a list unmasking covert agents worldwide. She meets her contact, the debauched David Percival (James McAvoy), who may have a lead on the list’s whereabouts. It’s 1989, tensions are high and a revolution is brewing, making the agents’ task increasingly difficult.
People have been saying Broughton is the new James Bond, but if you were to put her and Bond into a cage match, Broughton would kick his ass. She doesn’t rely on gimmicks or flashy devices, although she is clever enough to use whatever object she finds on hand: a hot plate, a corkscrew or a set of keys. The electrical cord scene you may have caught in the trailers in its entirety is one of the most amazing sequences to grace the screen in ages – and that’s saying a lot, considering all of the great action movies we’ve seen this summer.
Directed by David Leitch, who was an uncredited director on John Wick and who is also an actor, stuntman and stuntman coordinator, brings all of his incredible skills to this movie. The fight choreography is beyond brilliant and he clearly has a gift for bringing out the best in his cast. He is also a master of unique camera angles, filling the screen full of shots with meaningful backdrops (watch what’s going on in every scene; absolutely nothing is a throwaway here). He uses actual footage from Cold War Germany to really give the viewer a definite sense of time and place.
The music is a huge part of the story, not quite in the same way as Baby Driver but it is as equally important. Each song is a deliberate choice, in sync with the action of the moment as well as a thematic enhancement. It’s also great and brings back memories of the late 80’s in all of its decadent glory. One of the best things about this movie is that it so accurately portrays 1989 that it’s actually a tremendous history lesson, so haul those millennials by their ears to see this. (Do not bring their younger siblings, though, this is an R-rated movie that pulls no punches in terms of violence, language and sexuality.)
The cast is excellent, of course. Charlize Theron is an action movie goddess. All of the training she engaged in more than paid off. If Wonder Woman appealed to our inner little girls, Lorraine Broughton is the woman we all long to be now. Beautiful, smart, capable and sexually free, she is something most of us women aspire to be. James acAvoy has the potential to become an action movie superstar, but it’s in his portrayal of the burnt out and over it spy aspect that really sells his character. The supporting cast is awesome too with Toby Jones as a squirrelly MI6 director, John Goodman is the CIA director (the American everybody hates) and Eddie Marson as the meek agent with a photographic memory. I would be remiss not to mention Sofia Boutella, one of the most intriguing beauties in film right now who was the single saving grace of the summer’s earlier reboot of The Mummy. She radiates almost as much grace and power as Delphine LaSalle, rookie French spy, as Theron does as Broughton; and the scenes they are in together are electrifying. I also have to mention Bill Skarsgard (son of Stellan, brother of Alexander) as covert Swedish agent Merkel. His part is small, but memorable. Look for him to rock your world as Pennywise in the remake of Stephen King’s It.
The screenplay was co-written by Antony Johnston, who wrote the graphic novel The Coldest City, on which Atomic Blonde is based. Kudos to him for keeping intact the book’s essential storyline and theme. Johnston also co-produced the movie. The screenwriting is taught, giving us the feeling of an epic although it is only 75 minutes long. I guarantee you won’t see the ending coming, although when you reflect back on it, all of the clues are there.
Final Analysis: Atomic Blonde just booted Baby Driver out as my favorite movie this summer. There are definitely those who are going to nitpick the film and try to tear it down, a la Wonder Woman, because it showcases a powerful woman. There are those who are also going to be those that may take affront to Broughton’s sexuality, but hey, I think we need more major motion pictures featuring relationships like that. Disregard the haters. This is a brilliant movie. To quote my daughter, “Holy sh*t, I’d see it again.” A+