Atomic Blonde (2017) review by Jonathan Berk
Director David Leitch, who is working on Deadpool 2 and is uncredited for his work with John Wick, brings Atomic Blonde to life in a powerful way. Before the films release it was already being touted as female John Wick. While this movie has a more complex narrative than John Wick, the action sequences do elicit the same visceral, grounded feel to them. The cast is superb as this cold war spy movie plays out familiar beats.
Atomic Blonde elevates Theron as an action star
The film opens with James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave) being chased by an unseen assailant. He’s killed and we find out that he was in East Berlin, but a member of MI6. About two weeks has passed and Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is being debriefed by Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). The film is framed as her recounting the events after Gasciogne’s death and her attempt to retrieve the list of double agents.
Theron is a bad ass. She has a coolness about her that fits with her situation perfectly. Yet, below the surface it is clear she is in pain. The source of that emotional pain isn’t quite clear though there are several reasons the audience can infer. Her contact in Berlin is David Percival (James McAvoy). He’s suspicious from the moment we see him on the screen. McAvoy does a great job and is really earning his place in actors who bring people to the theater.
The action sequences are insane and Theron went the route of Keanu Reeves and did most of her own stunts. The camera work on the scene really makes you feel like you’re in the action as well. Specifically a long take that features some awesome close quarters combat in a stairwell. Each hit lands heavy and the camera follows as they tumble around. Very impressive and exciting to see on the big screen.
The weakest part of the film is the familiar spy formula. Everyone could be double crossing everyone. Mission Impossible, James Bond, and Bourne are examples of this genre that gets a little redundant at times. It’s by no means bad or film ruining, but it is a bit tired. If you’re a fan of the spy movie where you’re never quite sure who the characters should trust then this is right up there.
Atomic Blonde definitely demonstrates how great of an actress Theron is and how knowledgeable an action director Leitch is. The performances are also good from all involved even if John Goodman felt a little under utilized. The action alone is enough to justify a cost of a ticket especially if you liked the grounded style of John Wick. Atomic Blonde earns the Not Quit Golden, Ponyboy rating.