The setting is Berlin. The paranoid hangover from the Cold War is fading and the Berlin Wall is about to fall. Yet, it's in the City's snowy, graffiti-festooned streets that a British agent is murdered and a list of valuable names goes missing. As a result, MI5 appear on the scene to send in agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) with a mission of crossing the Wall to clear up the complicated, political mess.
Based on a graphic novel called The Coldest City, Atomic Blonde isn’t ashamed to cast Charlize Theron as its cold, almost sub-zero heroine. Defined by her recent portrayal as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron plays the character with a high level of cool. Perhaps if this film had been made in the mid-noughties, then we would instead be watching a Lorraine played by Angelina Jolie. It’s safe to say that Charlize Theron is the perfect choice to play spy Lorraine Broughton and throughout the film there’s a constant feeling that she does belong in this world.
Directed by first time director, but former Stunt-coordinator, David Leitch, Atomic Blonde excels in its fight sequences. Leitch chooses to abandon the typical Hollywood trend and capture the action-packed showdowns using a steadicam as opposed to the handheld feel made popular by films like Bourne Identity. There’s one set piece in particular that’s seamless enough to pass as an almost 10-minute long “single shot”, which sees Lorraine fight her way out of an East Berlin apartment complex. It’s got guns, fists, feet, corkscrews and even a car.
The scene might not be a one-shot and unfortunately can’t rival the single-shot excellence of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men or Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria, but it is testimony to Atomic Blonde’s seamless editing.
With every punch and walk between locations, there’s a song to listen to. Much like the recent Baby Driver and its love of vinyl, Atomic Blonde’s soundtrack is a collection of expected 80s music. Featuring David Bowie’s Cat People (Putting Out Fire) and A Flock Of Seagulls I Ran (So Far Away) to name but a few, these obvious song choices clash slightly with more contemporary tunes in order to ground the story in its time period, yet offering a stylistic and modern edge.
Atomic Blonde is a strong action film that offers a decent soundtrack to counter the offerings of the recent Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. It’s almost as if the film takes the neon look of Nicolas Winding Refn and combines it in a far more enjoyable and easy to follow narrative. Overall, Atomic Blonde is a straightforward, but entertaining spy film that's helmed by a director that knows how to handle his action.
Atomic Blonde is now showing, book your tickets here.