Atomic Blonde (2017) – Review 

Director: David Leitch
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, John Goodman, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, Sofia Boutella

The Overview
An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents. (Source: IMDb)

The Good
After a slightly disappointing turn as the villain in The Fate of the Furious, Charlize Theron is back in the spotlight in what is widely being branded as “John Wick in heels”. The similarities are hard to ignore but Atomic Blonde does succeed in being sufficiently different to at least consider it a worthwhile adventure. Focusing less on world building than John Wick does, Atomic Blonde is more of a standalone thriller. 

It falls a little short of the mark, and certainly short of the aforementioned, but what is clear is that Charlize Theron is amazing; not that there’s ever been a doubt about that. Her film-stealing role in Mad Max: Fury Road as Imperator Furiosa proved she can absolutely kick butt when called upon, and boy does she kick butt in this! The characters aren’t too dissimilar actually; their initial cold exteriors eventually peeled back to reveal much more emotive cores, and expressing these complex emotions is something Theron excels at. 

Action wise it is fantastic, with the fight scenes being particularly excellent, standing out both in terms of choreography and the way in which they are shot. Never shying away from brutality, there’s great glee in the blood splatters and violence which contrasts well with the blue hues, bright whites and neons. In general, it’s a striking film to look at with a crisp aesthetic which manages to be surprisingly vibrant, where it risked being clinical. 

The 80s soundtrack is great, full of synth pop and electro, which would make a great listen in isolation of the film as well. 

In addition to Theron, the cast are pretty solid with James McAvoy and John Goodman being as dependable as ever, despite the latter being somewhat under-used. 

The Bad
It’s frustrating for a film that is this visually interesting to be so crushingly dull in terms of its story. It’s spy-thriller-by-numbers with double-crossing agents, a mysterious list of names, and a seemingly endless stream of anonymous heavies queuing up to get their asses kicked by Theron. 

The film ambles its way through the box-ticking plot line, never managing to be compelling or gripping, which is a huge shame. There’s huge lulls in the story when it feels like it is progressing nowhere, and its a bit of a slog to get through at times. 

In its execution, particularly when it twists and turns towards the end, it feels a little clumsy and lacklustre. The result is something entirely forgettable, and save for the action scenes, there is very little to take away from this film, particularly in terms of the story. 

The Verdict
I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Not without merit, but sadly Atomic Blonde is undoubtedly style over substance with a generic and boring plot which never makes the most of its cast and visuals. Heavily hinted that there may be a sequel, it does feel like it has the potential to get better, but it absolutely needs to do something different in order to have any kind of longevity. Fans of Theron won’t be disappointed, and the action is great, but not one to rush out to see at the cinema. 

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