DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde (2017) movie poster Atomic Blonde

Theatrical Release: July 28, 2017 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: David Leitch / Writers: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay); Antony Johnston, Sam Hart (Oni Press graphic novel series The Coldest City)

Cast: Charlize Theron (Lorraine Broughton), James McAvoy (David Percival), Eddie Marsan (Spyglass), John Goodman (Emmett Kurzfeld), Toby Jones (Eric Gray), James Faulkner (Chief 'C'), Roland Møller (Aleksander Bremovych), Sofia Boutella (Delphine Lasalle), Bill Skarsgård (Merkel), Sam Hargrave (James Gasciogne), Jóhannes Jóhannesson (Yuri Bakhtin), Til Schweiger (Watchmaker), Barbara Sukowa (Coroner)


Even though she's tall and athletic, Charlize Theron hasn't done the action heroine thing much. Allowing such roles to be filled by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Milla Jovovich, and now Gal Gadot, Theron tried being badass in 2005's Aeon Flux and it didn't take. She came close to such thrills in Hancock and then finally embraced those duties in Mad Max: Fury Road. Whether encouraged by her experience in that most unlikely Academy Award nominee for Best Picture or wanting to make up for lost time, having reached the age where most actresses become obsolete, Theron fully engages her badass side in Atomic Blonde, a film she has produced in addition to starring in.

Adapted from a little-known 2012 graphic novel called The Coldest City, Atomic is set in the fall of 1989, when the Berlin Wall is about to come down and end the Cold War. A clip of Ronald Reagan's famous 1987 "Tear down this wall" speech and some onscreen text supplies context, but that is supplanted by irreverence claiming that this isn't really about that. Instead, it's about Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent who is assigned to travel to West Berlin, where she is to collaborate with David Percival (James McAvoy), an unorthodox undercover British agent, to secure the safe evacuation of an ally known as Spyglass (Eddie Marsan).

In "Atomic Blonde", MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) teams up with short-haired agent of the British crown David Percival (James McAvoy) in West Berlin in the fall of 1989.

Lorraine's life is jeopardized almost immediately upon landing, giving us the first glimpse of just how well equipped she is to deal with lethal threats. She and Percival team up, but also go their separate ways, each harboring a healthy amount of distrust for everyone they encounter. There isn't much more plot to synopsize here, as Atomic Blonde unfolds as much with action as story and it's always better to say too little than too much when detailing spy thrillers.

Atomic Blonde's setting gives it reason to function as a parade of 1980s music. The film announces this feature early on, with a prominent use of New Order's "Blue Monday." It proceeds to incorporate both diegetically and non-diegetically other songs from the decade that have withstood the years since: Public Enemy's "Fight the Power", Nena's "99 Luftballons", David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)", Peter Schilling's "Major Tom", and, at the very end, Bowie and Queen's "Under Pressure." The music gives the film flavor and flair, distinguishing its sequences. If the music is good and enhances what's onscreen (and it does, close to the level of Baby Driver and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies), then you can't fault the filmmakers from deriving value from the work that musicians put in thirty years ago.

Fortunately, Atomic Blonde doesn't just succeed as a kind of feature-length throwback jukebox musical. The film also benefits from some pretty kick-ass action. The standout scene is a prolonged, breathless action sequence that unfolds with improbably mobile camerawork and unbelievably few cuts. The action goes from one room to another, upstairs and downstairs, with Theron somehow seemingly performing her own dangerous stunts. Picking up his first feature directing credit, David Leitch has twenty years of experience in stunts. Thus it is understandable, but no less impressive, that he is able to put together such exciting and dynamic action scenes, with adrenaline to rival the Jason Bourne movies.

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) meets with American CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (a white bearded John Goodman) by the Berlin Wall.

Leitch's direction will have a much greater impact on the typical viewer than the screenplay by 300's Kurt Johnstad, which deliberately disarms without being easily followed. Atomic Blonde is a very violent film, full of realistic bullet wounds, knife punctures, and blood sprays. Was this a factor in an actual fight breaking out in my screening, a first in my years of reviewing films in theaters? Perhaps and I must say I didn't care for the way it upstaged a climactic scene, giving the film less impact near its end than it should have had.

Still, Atomic Blonde is fresh and engaging, boasting color and humor that make it more rewarding than many a spy and action flick. Theron is effective in the lead ice cold lead role of a woman who bathes in ice water and seems to live on little more than Vodka on ice. McAvoy is charismatically unhinged, delivering a performance that extends his in-demand status.

Though it hails from Universal's indie division Focus Features, Atomic Blonde is getting one of the banner's widest releases ever, with 3,300 theaters set to exhibit the movie. That raises commercial expectations, which may be challenging since Theron has never proven herself to be a solo draw, but if the reviews are as good as I expect them to be, the movie should do just fine on its relatively modest $30 million budget.

Related Reviews:
Charlize Theron: Mad Max: Fury RoadYoung AdultHancockThe Fate of the FuriousThe RoadDark Places
James McAvoy: X-Men: Days of Future PastVictor FrankensteinThe Disappearance of Eleanor RigbyThe ConspiratorX-Men: First Class
John Goodman: 10 Cloverfield LaneArachnophobiaArgo | Roland Møller: Land of Mine | Sofia Boutella: The Mummy
Written by Kurt Johnstad: 300: Rise of an Empire
Now in Theaters: Baby DriverWonder WomanDunkirkValerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Ghost in the ShellSaltJason BourneSpectreThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Gold

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed July 28, 2017.

Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 Focus Features, Sierra Pictures, Denver & Delilah Productions, Chickie the Cop, TGIM Films, 87Eleven Pictures,
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.