The female John Wick kicks some seriously ass in a brilliant 80s-inspired throwback actioner.
We’ve always known that Charlize Theron is somewhat of a badass – Aeon Flux aside – the less about that one the better – Theron has often proved herself as a badass, whether in a sharp, hard-hitting drama, or in the action stakes where she has found herself MVP in Mad Max: Fury Road or channeling her inner villain in the recent Fast and Furious 8. So it comes as no surprise that she once again hits the target in David Leitch’s neon-infused, 80s inspired action thrill ride, Atomic Blonde.
It’s 1989 and in the midst of the Berlin Wall, chaos in erupting in Germany, and MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) has been tasked with retrieving a list that has been stolen and contains the names of spies. With the highly classified list in her sights, Lorraine soon comes to uncover a conspiracy that is much greater and may lead to a mole within her organisation. With local chief David Percival at hand to aid her in uncovering such conspiracy, Lorraine must use all her skills to track down exactly what is going on and who is involved.
You may be led to believe that Atomic Blonde would end up being ‘just another spy movie’, but in fact here is an action film that often thinks outside the box and packs just as much clever poise and precision as it does brutal action set pieces. Forget your James Bonds and your Man From UNCLE, Theron here is doing it for the women with a performance that is quintessentially British (her accent is surprisingly far from annoying) and serves up plentiful moments for sly laughs and jolts in the seat caused by her sheer brute force and determination in a fight. This is a character who simply won’t give up, even with the bruises, cuts and setbacks thrown in her path, and it plays out brilliantly, to the point that we never feel that the film is slowly descending into the unrealistic territory.
What also plays into our hands as an audience is the brilliant setting of Atomic Blonde, a neon-infused vision of Berlin on the eve of the wall falling, accompanied by a slick soundtrack consisting of the likes of Depeche Mode, New Order and many more. It’s a throwback of the best kind and never feels over-exerted, with New Order nicely weaved in without a hitch and other classic 80s tracks fitting like a glove rather than forcing their way in.
As for those involved, David Leitch’s movie couldn’t have cast the main players any better; Theron the perfect lead and McAvoy on suitably unhinged form once again following his brilliant turn in the recent Split. Their presence is also bolstered by the backing of two veteran heavyweights in John Goodman and Toby Jones. Their involvement may be largely limited to the confines of an interrogation room, but in their simple interactions with the key players they pack more than their fair share of punch in the narrative sense. The slick transition between Lorraine on her mission and the interrogation she finds herself under is well directed and is only heightened in its stakes by these men in their best authoritarian modes.
It also goes without saying that Atomic Blonde wouldn’t be as impressive a movie without its own showcase of action and Leitch has nailed it hands-down with some truly biting set pieces that one won’t forget for some time. The standout being a ten-minute barrage of bloody fists, a stairwell, some gunplay and with some knives thrown in. The camerawork is scintillating, every punch being felt with the utmost force, and a real unpredictable nature creeping in with every second that passes. Remember that Daredevil corridor fight we all gasped at; that was purely a warm-up for Atomic Blonde…
As the summer blockbuster season rolls on, the early rumblings of an expectedly low-par showing are certainly being quelled by some truly entertaining spectacles and Atomic Blonde is among the very best of those. Slick in its style, direction and set pieces, this is a spy thriller that contains all the necessary ingredients to be a sure-fire hit with audiences. The only downside may be that the ending you may see coming from a mile off…
Atomic Blonde is out in UK cinemas now.