Based on the graphic novel titled The Coldest Winter, Atomic Blonde gives audiences a thrilling spy movie experience set in the Cold War Era.
The film stars Charlize Theron as an MI6 field agent named Lorraine Broughton, who’s on a mission to Berlin, Germany to retrieve a valuable piece of microfilm. The contents of this film, in the hands of the enemy, could extend the Cold War for many decades to come. While in Berlin, Lorraine teams up with an eccentric CIA station chief nicknamed Percival (James McAvoy), who helps her navigate an unsettled city full of secret spies and double-crossers.
Atomic Blonde exhibited a variety of long, uninterrupted action sequences that somehow felt both choreographed and improvised. There’s one particularly impressive scene where Lorraine takes part in hand-to-hand combat with a couple of KGB spies in a stairwell. All the actors involved slowly became bruised and battered over what felt like a ten-minute-long sequence. The KGB spies (who I assume were played by professional stuntmen) are repeatedly knocked down staircases, punched, and hit with random, indiscernible objects that Theron picks up off the ground. I found myself getting very invested in scenes like this, where the violence is so realistic that you wonder how the actors ever pulled it off. Or how physically painful falling down the stairs backwards was for the stuntmen, after doing it three consecutive times already.
Charlize Theron played the part of a sensual and fierce spy tremendously well, with no-nonsense body language and razor-sharp intelligence. Her character felt like a cross between John Wick and James Bond, and was by far one of the highlights of the film.
Just like most films based on a graphic novel, Atomic Blonde tries too hard to be artsy and stylistic in its filmmaking, and usually just came off as gimmicky. A fine example of this would be the neon spray painted title cards that introduced the audience to new locations. Unfortunately, small touches like this felt too forced and out of place, and I could almost hear the director screaming “I’m artistic, applaud me!” in my ear.
Another issue with the stylistic approach of Atomic Blonde was the incoherent way it told its story. The first half of the film jumped around to different characters and locations way too frequently, to the point where it became difficult to keep a firm understanding of what was happening.
By the time the film became more focused and coherent in the second half, the audience was already playing catch up in an attempt to comprehend the complex story. Character motives and alliances were so scrambled that, for this reason, I still don’t fully grasp the disjointed ending.
So, while it has its minor issues in storytelling and style, ultimately Atomic Blonde accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. That being, to create a female spy movie on par with the James Bond series. I don’t think that Atomic Blonde was as stylistic as it so desperately wanted to be, and the bizarre plot pacing actually hindered its storytelling capability.
Nonetheless the film was vastly entertaining, with great use of lighting and 80’s tracks to set the proper mood. With well-crafted action scenes and a fantastic lead actress, Atomic Blonde is an action film I’d recommend you give a watch, so long as you have the patience to sit through an overly complicated story.
The Verdict: B