Atomic Blonde is a spy action movie thriller directed by stuntman turned director David Leitch based on the graphic novel The Coldest City. It is set in Berlin in 1989, just before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Charlize Theron plays an MI6 agent by the name of Lorraine Broughton who is sent into Berlin to expose and eliminate a double agent by the name of Satchel – a rogue agent who betrayed and murdered another fellow MI6 agent and love interest. Along the way she enlists the help of James McAvoy’s wisecracking agent Daniel Percival, and Sofia Boutella’s somewhat rookie undercover agent Delphine, whilst assisting the safe recovery of Eddie Marsan’s Spyglass. The story is told in retrospective from a debriefing, in which Lorraine explains exactly what happened to her MI6 and CIA superiors (Toby Jones and John Goodman respectively).
Atomic Blonde has been labelled the female John Wick for many obvious reasons. The movie is directed by David Leitch, who was an uncredited co-director of the first Wick movie. With his vast experience in doing stunts on films such as Fight Club and 300, he really made an impression with John Wick and was going originally planning to go off and make the second John Wick movie that was released earlier this year. This was until Theron on a post Fury Road kick persuaded him to take the reigns on Atomic Blonde.
Like John Wick, Atomic Blonde is a revenge movie set within this shadowy seedy underworld. Where John Wick created this clandestine world of professional hitmen with their own strict codes of conduct, Atomic Blonde utilises the shadowy world of espionage where allegiances could switch at any moment and nobody is really who they say they are. The setting of Berlin before the collapse of the wall is as ever an intriguing setting boasting a tremendous 80s synth-pop soundtrack (Bowie, New Order – all your favourites). More to the point, it depicts this society on the brink of collapse, where the typical social boundaries are becoming more fluid and transgressive as the people boil underneath the crumbling oppression of the Soviet Union. It’s not a movie that is focused on the wall collapsing, this much is true from the very beginning of the movie, the wall is this inevitable unstoppable thing that is happening in the background as secret agents fight to preserve the status quo of East vs West.
As with Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron underwent a vigorous training regime to get her to the level in which she could pull off all her own stunts and fight scenes. Both actors had reportedly sparred together during the training of their respective movies, which only seems to beg the question whether we will ever see an Atomic Blonde/John Wick team up movie. Whilst John Wick is the bogeyman taking on mount Olympus clad all in black, Charlize Theron’s Lorraine is dressed in white with her atomic blonde hairstyle, strutting gazelle like in front of everyone as the world’s most unassuming spy. To quote another movie, it’s so overt, it’s covert.
Though Atomic Blonde isn’t as intensive in its action as the two John Wick movies, where the shootouts, car chases and fight scenes took centre stage, the action is brutal and intimate, with Theron taking more and more damage as the film goes on. An elongated fight scene that takes place in a stairwell before playing out in an apartment is particularly amazing in its choreography. John Wick got banged up throughout both of his movies, but his action scenes were more a ballet of perfect double taps and head shots, with bad guys walking into frame from every direction only to take bullet square in the forehead. The action in Atomic Blonde is a little rougher round the edges, dwelling on the pain of those successive hits, lingering for a while as the two fighters writhe around on the floor before preparing themselves for the next bout. It feels a little like a really bad hangover and seeing Theron get progressively more beaten up as the film goes on is shocking in itself.
At times you are almost wishing there was more action. Whilst John Wick or even Mad Max: Fury Road had a simplicity to it which allowed it to focus on and ingratiate completely in the glorious action spectacle, at times it feels as if Atomic Blonde has to take time to pad out the plot with various twists and turns that I suppose are necessary for a storyline dealing in espionage. Unfortunately, you begin to see these twists and turns coming a mile off and at times I did find myself thinking ahead of the movie and feeling myself become ever-so impatient with it all.
There is plenty to enjoy however, it’s gleefully violent and R-rated. It has a great soundtrack and a strong cast of dependable faces supporting Charlize Theron. There is more than just fiestiness and being a total kick ass badass, with Theron’s secret agent, she’s world weary and cynical and ever so slightly caressing the fourth wall. She doesn’t block every single punch, and every hit taken seems to only make her resolve stronger.
Atomic Blonde is an overtly stylish espionage action movie with a killer soundtrack, a grimy uber violent graphic novel look and a formidable physical performance from Charlize Theron. The action is brutal and intimate but the spy plot is perhaps a little too bendy at times and gets in the way of what could be a more enjoyable action movie that lives up completely to its brilliant title.
Recommended Viewing: Charlize Theron-athon
Treat yourself to some Atomic Blondies and spend a night on the couch watching somebody who looks better than any of us have any right to look.
The movie that won her the oscar.
This picture from AEON FLUX 
Mad Max: Fury Road 
I mean duh… Here’s my thoughts on the black and white version!