Movie Review: Atomic Blonde
By Felix Quinonez
August 8, 2017
Clearly relishing the role, Charlize Theron shines in the stylish, intermittently entertaining Atomic Blonde. The movie, directed by David Leitch, has plenty of flair and some genuinely thrilling set pieces but is ultimately just a hollow facsimile of the movies it desperately wants to be.
Things open on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. A caption explains that in November 1989, the cold war came to an end. A second later an X is spray-painted over it and red words explain, “This is not that story.” This not only gives us the movie’s setting but it also serves as a mission statement of sorts. As Blue Monday by New Order plays in the background, its eagerness to show off how cool it is becomes evident.
The story itself, which is mostly bare bones, starts with an MI6 agent on the run. It’s a kinetically shot scene that begins already in progress. The agent is eventually caught, shot and killed. And his killer steals the microfiche list he had concealed in his wristwatch. And it’s his death and the mission to recover the list that sets things in motion or acts as the McGuffin, if you will.
That’s when Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) steps in. She has been tasked with recovering the list and embarks on a trip to Berlin to do so. But as soon as she arrives at the airport it seems she gets made. Her handlers attempt to kill her in the back seat of the car. Needless to say, she escapes in a very over the top fashion. Although it makes for a great scene, it does seem that, for a top level MI6 agent, Lorraine gets found out very quickly.
But that’s where her not-so-trustworthy inside source David Percival (James McAvoy) comes in. What follows is pretty standard spy thriller action. There is a lot of double crossing, dialogue loaded with double meaning and frequent cuts to a debriefing scene with Lorraine’s superiors.
If that seems like a very brief description of the film, it’s because there is not really much more to the story or it doesn’t really stay with you very long. Atomic Blonde is the type of movie that is thrilling and forgettable at the same time. Its story all but evaporates from your memory as soon as you leave the theater.
But the thing is, the story is almost beside the point. The movie, which at times feels like a two-hour long music video, basically uses the flimsy plot to set up the next action scene. But what splendid action it is.
Although it’s not as much of a revelation as it was in Fury Road, Charlize Theron’s performance is magnetic and visceral. She is the embodiment of badass and there is something incredibly thrilling about watching her kick and punch her way out of situations. Theron is almost machine-like in her commitment to the role, for which she did most of the stunts herself.