*Originally written August 9th, 2017*
Atomic Blonde is not what I expected at all. I was expecting a non-stop action film in the vein of John Wick (It's directed by one of the two John Wick helmers), instead, what I got was a violent, slow-paced and kinda messy spy thriller with some action sprinkled in. I did really enjoy Atomic Blonde, a lot in fact, but it had its problems.
The biggest problem is its story. The overall plot is fairly simple. An undercover MI6 agent (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents. It seems like simple stuff on paper, and it is, for the most part, but in the final act things got insanely convoluted and I had no idea what was happening. A lot of twists are thrown at you very quickly and I didn't have enough time to entirely process them, leaving me confused by the end. A rewatch is in order, it would help to have subtitles too.
Everything else though was fantastic. I had a blast with Atomic Blonde. It was "good shit". Despite my confusions, the film was paced insanely well and had me involved the whole time. It was a lot darker than the trailers made it out to be and I appreciated that.
While it isn't as action packed as John Wick, David Leitch does an amazing job with the action on display. It's hard hitting, brutal and very violent. The centerpiece scene that is one long 9 minute take through an apartment building then a car chase was spectacular. Easily one of the best action scenes of the year. I loved the way the characters slowly got worn down through the scene and got out of breath, barely able to make any moves. It was great.
Charlize Theron does a fantastic job with the action. There wasn't a lot to her character, but she was sexy and bad-ass enough to carry the film. She did a lot of her own stunt-work and it really shows throughout. I really do hope to see her continue to do action roles, because she is excellent at it.
James McAvoy was also excellent as the Theron's contact in Berlin. Funny, sleazy and pathetic. It was very similar to his role in Filth (which you should really see) where he also played a corrupt cop. The rest of the supporting cast were fine. John Goodman pops up in a fairly thankless role as he seems to do a lot lately.
I was a bit worried about the visual style based on the trailers, but Atomic Blonde is a gorgeous film. Despite taking place in 1980's Berlin (It looks bleak as hell), it still managed to be bright and beautiful with a vibrant color pallet with strong neon blues and reds. I also loved the neon spray paint for the titles and scene transitions.
Being set in the '80s, there is a huge variety of pop music from the era, from David Bowie and New Order and even slowed down German covers of songs you may know well, it was all gravy to my ears. I even really liked Tyler Bates score, which invoked The Neon Demon score to me for some reason.
Atomic Blonde might not excel with its storytelling, but for the most part its an insanely fun and violent ride with excellent turns from Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. One of the best action films of the year.
Atomic Blonde is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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