Were the 80’s really all that cool?
Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) can take care of herself, regardless of if she’s on a mission or not. She kicks ass, takes names, and doesn’t really give a flyin’ hoot about authority, or who exactly she’s pissing off – in other words, she’s the total bad-ass. And she’s got a new mission somewhere in Berlin, where she’ll be sent alone to retrieve a priceless dossier from within the city, that is already going through its own changes, what with the Berlin Wall being prepared to being taken down and ripped apart. While there, she partners with station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), to help get her up and around Berlin, as well as clue her into who is to trust, and who isn’t. However, it becomes very clear to Lorraine that it doesn’t matter who you think you can trust, because you can’t trust a single person. Not even a fellow agent from Paris (Sofia Boutella), who may mean well, but also may have some dirty little secrets that she’s hiding from Lorraine, for the sake of her own agenda. Basically, it a cold, rough game of spies-versus-spies and we’re all just sitting by and watching it.
Atomic Blonde absolutely wreaks and oozes with so much style, that it works despite itself. It’s the kind of movie that definitely tries so very hard to be “hip and cool”, but in a retro, 80’s-glam kind of way that eventually, you just sort of have to understand that that’s what it’s going for, accept it for what it is, and actually enjoy it. After all, it’s a movie set in the 80’s and feels like it could have been made in that decade, what with the glitzy, bright, flashy colors, talk of spies, Communists, and oh yeah, the New Wave tunes.
Oh man, the New Wave tunes. How could one forget?
Anyway, director David Leitch keeps with the spirit of the graphic novels here and it’s a smart move on his take, because Atomic Blonde, for all its plot issues, never takes itself too seriously. It’s a cold, dark, menacing, and sometimes brutally violent movie, but its tongue is placed firmly in its cheek and it never seems to forget that fact; the fact that we actually have a movie as violent as this, that’s also still able to crack jokes, is a surprise, considering the market for these kinds of movies seems to have been cornered by Tarantino. But nope, thankfully Leitch doesn’t forget where the story and style came from and yes, it helps this sometimes bitter pill go down easily.
Oh and of course, the action. Man, oh man, the action. Leitch is a smart director of action because he knows that in order for the violence/action to be grueling and compelling, well, we actually have to see it. All of the constant craziness of the shaky-cam doesn’t do anything else but cause constant headaches and confusion – sometimes, seeing someone get shot in the face, or kicked in the balls, without any jumping or crazy editing, makes a movie all the more fun. And with Atomic Blonde, there’s plenty of shooting, punching, kicking, bleeding, falling, and death, but because we can see it all, it’s a lot more fun and actually makes you feel it.
And yes, we can easily talk about the 8-minute or so sequence in which Charlize Theron literally goes around a stair-well, kicking a bunch of dudes asses in what appears to be a single-shot sequence. It’s clearly edited in a way to make you think that, but that’s besides the point: The point is that the action works and that’s all it needed to.
And because of the action, the movie’s better off, because the story isn’t quite helping.
Of course, these kinds of spy-thrillers are best known for their MacGuffin premises, where an agent has to get something, from someone dangerous, in an even far more dangerous place, but that’s why the simplicity works so well. We’re used to it and not asked to care all that much about everything else. Atomic Blonde, in a way, sort of gets this wrong and sort of can’t seem to come up with a solid plot-line, mission, or even characters to fully help it out. Theron is a total and absolute bad-ass as Lorraine, but even she feels a little short-sighted; it’s as if the character was only given bullet-points of development on purpose for the sole sake of getting a sequel.
Still, Theron’s good at what she does here and one of the better actresses today who can make a lot of the silly dialogue, work. Other actors like James McAvoy and Sofia Boutella, while definitely talented, also feel like they don’t get a whole lot of time to fully develop, or go beyond the surface. Even Toby Jones and John Goodman, who spend most of the movie sitting at a desk and just spouting exposition, still feel a little more developed in their laid-back, grizzled ways – the others, not so much and it’s a shame. Perhaps, if the sequels do come around, we’ll get more.
Until then, who knows. Just watch and enjoy the ass-kickery.
Consensus: With so much style and action on frequent-display, Atomic Blonde is fun and consistently entertaining, even if it definitely needed some help on its script.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz