Bombing Bombshell: Our Review of ‘Atomic Blonde’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 27, 2017
Bombing Bombshell: Our Review of ‘Atomic Blonde’

There is one rather breathtaking and beautiful action sequence – and violent, to be sure –  in the middle of Atomic Blonde, an expertly choreographed battle that is seemingly a single shot. It’s a delight to watch, in part because of its superb execution, but also because the film surrounding it is drab, derivative material in a dull would-be spy thriller.

A gray and blue Cold War aesthetic pairs with an 80s Brit pop soundtrack, and it’s a part of a narrative structure that has an MI6 spy recounted a harrowing week on the job. The palette makes the screen lackluster, while the music either covers up a boring transition or dampens a violent scene. Meanwhile, the framework isn’t executed well enough to keep the film from losing momentum.

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) has had a tough week. We first meet her with a bruised and battered body, submerging it into an icy bath as carefully placed cameras capture private moment. She then returns to her agency, she is interrogated by officials, one a British superior (Toby Jones) and the other an American operative (John Goodman). They’re upset about a mission gone wrong that may jeopardize the heralded fall of the Soviet Union and destruction of the Berlin Wall.

With a cigarette in hand and no particular interest in quickly revealing her findings, Broughton tells a tale of being sent to Berlin undercover, meeting a questionable colleague (James McAvoy) enjoying the delights of the wild city , connecting with a sexy French agent, and then having everything go to hell.

The tone oscillates from gritty to goofy, and returning to the quiet interrogation room interrupts what little momentum the movie has. Much of the first half is people staring and trying to game each other, with a few car chases and fights sprinkled in between. The story runs rather straightforward, a cute reveal in the finale is less potent than it should be.

A ‘female James Bond’ this is not, unless you count the fact that men wrote (Kurt Johnstad) and directed (David Leitch) this film, and that women are sex objects. And it’s not entirely sure that Charlize Theron, despite being the titular agent, actually has more lines than McAvoy.

Atomic Blonde isn’t the female-lead action film we need or deserve – that would be Wonder Woman, or to a slightly lesser extent, Mad Max: Fury Road. Instead, it’s the male fantasy of a female agent: one that wears impractical outfits, enjoys sex with women, and doesn’t get to talk a whole lot. At least Theron gets to show off in that ten minute sequence, and how!

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.