Film Review: Atomic Blonde

Travel, espionage, stylish ensembles and taking down men twice her size, if being a spy didn’t look cool before – it sure as hell does now. If there’s at least one thing we can ascertain from this movie; it’s that blondes may have more fun, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still hurt like a bitch.

Atomic Car wide

Berlin 1989, a wall separates east from west and an MI6 agent is shot and killed by a member of the KGB. The covert list of undercover soviet operatives he carries is stolen and is currently in the wind. The agency send in their best to find the list and the traitor among them known only as Satchel.

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is the top field agent at MI6 but Berlin is David Percival’s (James McAvoy) domain. Having been stationed there for the past ten years, Percival knows everyone and everything that happens on both sides of the wall. Though he is Lorraine’s main contact and source of information, there can only ever be half truths among spies – even when you’re playing for the same team.

MI6 aren’t the only ones after the list, as a rough house game of cat and mouse begins as soon as Lorraine steps foot in the Berlin. Amidst the cities tension and the nuances of a still raging punk rock scene, time is of the essence and subtly is not an objective in a means to get the job done.

However what happens in Berlin can’t stay in Berlin – battered and bruised Lorraine reports back to her superiors; and she has some explaining to do.

Atomic - James 2.png

I won’t lie – The plot kind of lost me a few times. I definitely got the main gist; Find the double agent, find the list, oh and watch out for the KGB blah blah blah usual spy stuff. But everything that went on around that to do with the Berlin wall pretty much went in one ear and out the other. Trust me – I didn’t miss anything. I quickly realised all that stuff didn’t matter – it was a means to provide disruption and aesthetics, and so Atomic Blonde could have been set during any semi interesting point in history.

There’s a level of respect that has to be bestowed on actors who do their own stunts and so I give Charlize her props because – well damn. This movie is all about her, which is made evident through stylised shots whose main objective is to show Charlize in the best lighting and at her best angles. I’ve got nothing against personal passion pieces, but the downside with them all, Atomic Blonde included is that they suffocate the movie. There’s no room or opportunity to create a solid sub-plot, allow other characters to develop or give the audience the opportunity to focus on anything else. It all ends the same way as you slowly grow tired of watching the same person do it all.

Can James McAvoy do no wrong? (Don’t answer that!) He’s a bit of a weird one as he plays anything from a comic superhero to a crude Scottish policeman. There are the Marion Cotillard’s, typecast to play villainous characters, but with the versatility of McAvoy’s roles, it makes it fun to guess which side his character will be on.

There is an amazing long take during a fight scene that is arguably worth paying just to see, however other than that, as cool as it was – there isn’t anything new about Atomic Blonde in terms of story or action. Obviously the protagonist being a woman was amazing but gender aside, her goal was the same as every James, Ethan and Jason. Swap out Lorraine for Luke and it would have been the exact same movie.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

I did enjoy the movie; though I can’t imagine ever feeling the need to re-watch it. The dialogue and plot were empty vessels used to house the fighting and the present day interview used to drive the flashbacks (where the majority of the story took place), was a basic device that slowed down the pace of the movie whenever it started to heat up.

Tid bits that I liked throughout include the whole 1980’s vibe it had going on, from the soundtrack to the neon lighting and the spray paint typography. Though I will admit to feeling deceived by the soundtrack in the trailer for the musical vibe I thought they would be going for, the movie did a great job of creating the world in order to make you believe you had been transported back to the late 80’s.

What’s next? Well to be honest I have no clue. I’m indifferent to whether or not I ever see Lorraine Broughton again, however exploring the role and seeing various versions of the female spy is something I am 100% here for.


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