Anthony's Film Review
Atomic Blonde (2017)
The movie Atomic Blonde and its leading lady pack a powerful punch...
Atomic Blonde is a spy action thriller that feels real, and yet at the same time, you know it isn't real. It's one thing to have a spy story that is presented realistically and even based mainly on facts, and it's another thing to have a spy story that is so over-the-top that you know very well that it's pure fiction simply for entertainment value. Being a movie based on a graphic novel, Atomic Blonde feels like it's in the middle of that spectrum. The look and feel of it let you know that this can't be a true story (and I assume it isn't), yet the setting reminds you that the events in this story could have happened in real life. Perhaps things like it have already occurred.
The film stars Charlize Theron as a British MI6 agent named Lorraine Broughton. During the Cold War in late 1989, she is sent to Berlin to retrieve a list of double agents, which gives great power to the intelligence agency that possesses it. A British agent had managed to obtain the list, but he was murdered before safely fleeing Berlin. It is now Lorraine's job to retrieve that list and return home, before competing powers, like the Soviets, get the list first.
This isn't the kind of movie where the focus is the plot. You can enjoy discovering a few new pieces and putting them together, but otherwise, there aren't too many surprises and twists here, except perhaps for one late in the film. Rather, the focus is the interplay among various characters. They include a mysterious French woman (Sofia Boutella), a British agent stationed in Berlin (James McAvoy), a defecting German officer (Eddie Marsan), and a few tough Russians. There is also interaction between Lorraine and a few characters back at MI6 headquarters, including two superiors played by Toby Jones and James Faulkner and a CIA director played by John Goodman. That's because much of the story is told through Lorraine as a series of flashbacks during a post-mission debriefing at MI6.
It is said that espionage is a shady business. That's certainly no exception here. As the film moves along, you start to get a sense that some characters may not be who they appear to be. There aren't good spies or bad spies. There are only spies with ambiguous motives, whose only difference is the country they serve. And this is where the graphic novel-style presentation comes in. By having the scenes occur in dimly lit environments, either with limited light from certain angles to produce shadows or with uniform lighting that is still dim, the movie takes on a look and feel of shadiness, which goes with the world of espionage here.
The action also benefits from a graphic novel-like ambience. When Lorraine gets into some dangerous fights, she shows no signs of backing down. The punches, kicks, body hurls, shootings, stabbings, et cetera, are intense. When you watch all of this in a cinematic dark graphic novel, there seems to be an extra dose of suspense as you wait to see who wins the fight. In a few cases, particularly in an extended action sequence in an apartment building, the combatants become blood-stained and weak, yet still try to defeat each other with whatever energy is left. This level of grit also goes well in a graphic novel-like cinematic presentation.
There is one thing that makes this movie a little extra fun while still contributing to the setting: 80s music. If you've seen the trailer for Atomic Blonde, you may recall hearing a sample of the Depeche Mode song "Personal Jesus." Well, you can certainly expect to hear some more 80s tunes in this movie. For example, you can hear a certain hit song from A Flock of Seagulls during a vehicle action sequence, or Re-Flex's "The Politics of Dancing" in a Berlin nightclub. So if you love 80s music, you may have another reason to appreciate Atomic Blonde. (However, the song "Atomic" by Blondie is, sadly, not in the movie or on the film's official soundtrack.)
As the title suggests, Atomic Blonde kicks butt thanks to its explosive action and stunning leading lady. The plot, characters, and action are made better with the graphic novel feel and the 80s soundtrack. Without those extra unique elements, the movie would probably be just a decent movie rather than a pretty good one. And who can forget Charlize Theron's performance here? She can mesmerize in any kind of scene, whether it's a dialogue scene, an action scene, or even a lesbian sex scene. If anyone is interested in a female James Bond in a non-Bond-like spy movie, here's a good candidate for that title. This blonde definitely radiates excitement.
For more information about Atomic Blonde, visit the Internet Movie Database.