We’ve seen Charlize Theron kick ass plenty of times before. She’s obviously an amazing actress, and she’s more than proven her ability to be a complete badass. Atomic Blonde really gives Theron a chance to flex those action star muscles in a way that I haven’t seen before. Atomic Blonde may truly test my abilities to maintain a completely spoiler-free review, but keep reading to learn more about a really fun action movie.
The trailers really don’t go very deep into any movie specifics, so I will set just a little bit of the scene, though nothing that will delve into spoiler territory. I will talk just a tiny bit more about plot than I usually do, but just enough to really get things started and I promise that I will stop before anything gets spoiled. The movie takes place in 1989 in the midst of the cold war, on the backdrop of the Berlin wall coming down. The movie is based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, so there’s more backstory available there if you’re interested. Theron is Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent attempting to hunt down a compromising list of agents that has surfaced and could potentially cause problems if it gets into the wrong hands. Honestly, not the most original story in the world, but the way Atomic Blonde plays out at least keeps it interesting.
If the headline and entire first paragraph don’t give it away, Charlize Theron kicks some serious butt in this movie. Her Agent Broughton has a bit of a reputation that precedes her throughout, and she always manages to live up to those expectations. James McAvoy is David Percival, another British agent embedded in Berlin. He is Broughton’s contact upon her arrival in Germany, and he does a great job as the agent who has very clearly gotten comfortable in his surroundings. Other main players include Sofia Boutella as French agent Delphine Lasalle, a relative newcomer to the profession, John Goodman as Emmett Kurzfeld from the CIA, and Toby Jones as Eric Gray, an MI6 director, or other higher-up. The rest of the cast includes a variety of German and Russian agents, goons, etc. and all of the appropriate characters are developed enough to give you an understanding of what you’re getting into.
Visuals here are very muted, though offset with neon and the occasional bright colors. The movie is meant to take place in 1989 Berlin after all. The color palette reflects the downtrodden yet optimistic East/West Berlin in the time just before the wall came down. Though muted in color, all of the action is very clear and very brutal. That doesn’t come as any surprise as the director, David Leitch, made his name in show business as a stuntman before moving behind the camera as a writer, stunt choreographer, and now director. He had a hand in a bit of the direction in John Wick, and that’s pretty obvious with the way the action plays out here.
I think one of the marks of a good action movie are action scenes that really make you go “oh!” in surprise/amazement at their quality, brutality, or just the execution of the action. Atomic Blonde definitely has plenty of those moments and is a better film because of them. Theron also did quite a few of her own stunts and fight scenes. That really allowed Leitch to keep a closer shot of the action since they didn’t have to cover for a stunt performer most of the time. So Theron was a complete badass, while also wearing heels throughout some of those action sequences. Most impressive.
I’ve mentioned that the film takes place in 1989 Berlin a couple of times, and the soundtrack definitely reflects that time frame. There’s all kinds of 80’s music throughout used to great effect. The song choices fit their spots in the film very well. I think I even caught a quick David Hasselhoff reference in there somewhere.
Atomic Blonde is a fun action movie that really gives Charlize Theron a chance to kick some more butt than usual. It’s not the kind of movie that’s likely to win awards or anything, but it’s entertaining, it’s action-packed, and has a good — even if not completely original — story of intrigue, espionage, spying, and betrayal. If you like action, or just want to see plenty of Charlize Theron roughing people up in some pretty spectacular ways, go check out Atomic Blonde.