Director: David Leitch
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan
Runtime: 1 hr 55 mins
Rating: R21 (Some Homosexual Content)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://www.atomicblonde.com
Opening Day: 27 July 2017
Synopsis: Oscar® winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in Atomic Blonde, a breakneck action-thriller that follows MI6’s most lethal assassin through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and doublecrossing hives of traitors. The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies. This film is based on the Oni Press graphic novel “The Coldest City,” by Antony Johnston & illustrator Sam Hart.
As if the roles of Furiosa and Cipher are not kick-ass enough, there’s a reason why Oscar winner Charlize Theron took years to develop and produced this big screen adaptation of the graphic novel by Anthony Johnston and Sam Hart. The character Lorraine Broughton is a tough, relentless bisexual MI6 secret agent, a perfect role that any gung-ho actress in Hollywood would dream to take on.
The year is 1989, just days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is assigned by her superiors played by British thespians, Toby Jones and James Faulker, to Berlin to retrieve “the list”. The reason being that an undercover agent has been killed by a KGB agent in East Berlin while on the case. The victim might also be a lover of Broughton, although details are pretty murky at this point. Once she touches down in Berlin, Broughton’s point of contact happens to be British agent David Percival (James McAvoy), the kind of jerk that might have an agenda of his own.
Although the advertising materials attempt to sell it as a straight up action thriller, there are more twists and turns than an average rollercoaster ride. It’s definitely not an easy movie to sit through not because the multiple spy games, double crossings are too complex to understand, but because every happening on screen is narrated by Broughton to debrief her superiors, thus resulting in the frequent cutback to the interrogation room. At times, the technique kills the momentum of the story and mostly, it never really serves the narrative much - except that we know Broughton has a penchant to dunk herself in icy cold bath and wear nice lingerie. Lorraine Broughton is a mystery from the beginning to the end.
What the filmmakers do right is establishing the fact that Broughton is a tough femme fatale who has no qualms to fight several men with nothing but a rope and (wait for the drumroll…..) a supposedly non-stop ten-minute brawl down a staircase and inside an apartment. The sequence is brilliantly staged and choreographed from the guys at 87 Eleven (although I must add The Raid still rules) - it is both realistic and brutal and goes to show that Lorraine Broughton is actually a human being after all. The fighting continues to a car chase which is cleverly shot and manipulated by cinematography Jonathan Sela (John Wick, Transformers: The Last Knight), second only to that memorable car scene in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.
While Theron is pretty much flawless as the lead character, it is James McAvoy who steals the show as he continues to impress with his nasty bad boys roles after Spilt and Filth. As the ambiguous David Percival, audiences are left every minute guessing the man’s true motivation. Is he still serving his country’s needs or serving his own? Is he truly going to protect an East German operative (Eddie Marsen) who has committed “the list” to his memory? Or is he selling him out to the KGB? To say the character of David Percival is a much more interesting watch than Broughton is truly an understatement. The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella on the other hand has the thankless role of playing a rookie French agent who falls in love with Broughton and the very reason why this title is slapped with a R21 rating. At the very least, the lesbian intimate moments weren’t cut.
Atomic Blonde also offers top-notch production values (neon lights is a must in Berlin it seems) and a crazy mix of 80’s pop tunes ranging from George Michael to Duran Duran. To sum it up, the sophomore effort of John Wick’s co-director David Leitch is quite a mixed bag. On one hand, there are people who would prefer a more direct female version of John Wick - which of course the movie does deliver but sparsely. The filmmakers behind Atomic Blonde probably prefer to deliver a smarter action flick. As it turned out, it’s never that compelling or witty for the two hours runtime though you have to applaud the excellent performances of Theron and McAvoy.
(Forget about Aeon Flux, now you can add Atomic Blonde to Charlize Theron’s glowing resume)
Review by Linus Tee