Movie review: Atomic Blonde
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Oscar winner Charlie Theron takes action cinema and kicks it in the face in stylish, extravagant and punk rock spy thriller Atomic Blonde, which rewrites all the rules of the action genre.
Berlin, 1989. On the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall Western intelligence agents are being hunted down and killed. To stop the carnage MI6 sends their best operative Lorraine Broughton (Theron) to investigate. What she finds is an altogether different espionage landscape where there are no rules and you can trust no one.
You have never seen Charlize Theron this fierce before. Known as a Hollywood risk taker, Theron bends all the rules of the action genre to suit her own new take on the classic spy film. Queen's aptly named 'Killer Queen' (which is included on the soundtrack) applies perfectly to Theron's antisocial, yet capable intelligence operative Lorraine Broughton. Quick-witted and sassy, Broughton is one super spy audiences won't soon forget and her desire to throw away the book in terms of behaviour and cadence really caught on with me. And there's also the fact that she kicks some serious ass.
Matched with Theron is the always dependable James McAvoy, and as MI6 Berlin station chief David Percival he's an absolute shitbag. Cocky, arrogant beyond belief and playing all sides of the fence you never know what he's going to do next. While Broughton might be MI6's wrecking ball, Percival is the snake and his behaviour and actions pull Broughton in all kinds of different directions.
If you want action then you've come to the right place because Theron and director David Leitch deliver on this. Having been put through her paces by Leitch's own speciality stunt training school 87Eleven, Theron is a lethal weapon who storms her way through a pack of very nasty Soviet spy's. But she has her work cut out for her, and her victories often occur because of her skills, improvised weaponry and just plain luck. The film's defining fight is five minutes of pure badassness and after it, well, you'll never look at a set of car keys or a cork screw in the same way again.
It's not a spy film without a good car chase, and Atomic Blonde has some pretty gnarly ones along with a fleet of gorgeous vintage cars. Theron proved herself an adept driver in The Italian Job and her vehicle of choice here is a beautiful 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal, while McAvoy gets to shake things up thanks to a vintage 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera. Like the action, the film's car chases are messy and all over the place and fit with the film's general punk rock aesthetic.
Style and substance also feature heavily in Atomic Blonde and make for a film that is equal parts gorgeous and cool at the same time. Theron must go through at least thirty different costume changes in the film, and Dominic Sela's cinematography is just beautiful to watch thanks to the film's neon lit atmosphere and perfect framing. Atomic Blonde also has one of the coolest soundtracks you'll hear all year and is packed out with tracks by the likes of New Order, George Michael, Queen and David Bowie along with featuring contemporary artists like Marilyn Manson and German additions of classic songs like Bowie's 'Space Oddity'. All of it makes for one engaging cinematic experience and I was hooked from the very first frame.
Atomic Blonde is without-a-doubt one of this year's most engaging thrillers and really changes the game in terms of action cinema. If you're looking for a rush and something that will really suck you in then Atomic Blonde is it.