Man, Atomic Blonde is a film that leaves a lasting impression. It’s the epitome of a spy flick, with enough action and thrills to go around. Based on Antony Johnson and Sam Hart’s graphic novel The Coldest City, the film features Charlize Theron as a spy who is sent to find a list of double agents on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Atomic Blonde draws inspiration from the spy films of the past and other graphic novels that got the silver screen treatment. The result is a cinematic masterpiece that needs to be experienced on the big screen to truly capture the film at its raw, unfettered essence. This is thanks to a phenomenal score, with Tyler Bates leading the film’s music. Atomic Blonde uses music to enhance scenes and propel them forward.
The music elevates the already superb action scenes and brings unity to the story’s frequent shifts from Theron’s character Lorraine’s interrogation to the flashbacks of what she’s describing. As far as film scores go, this is honestly one of the year’s best, with the score being an integral part of the film that’s phenomenally well done and perfectly placed as far as the film’s pace is concerned.
Once the story gets going and begins to build toward its climax, Atomic Blonde does go through some minor pacing issues where there’s much twisting and turning going on but little matters. Pacing issues are at a minimum though, and the majority of the film flows with ease. Transitions from Lorraine’s interrogation to action scenes are well thought out and executed, and the subtle transition effects that are used are to good effect.
As a character, Theron’s portrayal of Lorraine is well fleshed out and realized. This is thanks both to Theron’s acting and the film’s script. In interrogation scenes, Lorraine is calm and collected, a queen that’s manipulating the pawns around her. In the flashback scenes, there’s a more human side to Lorraine. Her job as a spy puts her in many precarious situations, and Atomic Blonde doesn’t shy away from the action, but it also takes time to allow its main character to breathe. Lorraine is human, and her reflections on what she goes through make her more likable (as if she needed to be more likable — it’s Charlize Theron smoking a lot and kicking ass. What more could you want?)
James McAvoy stars opposite Theron as David Percival, Lorraine’s main contact on her mission. Perhaps McAvoy’s recent role in Split has me biased, but he’s become very convincing in his roles as a wild madman. Atomic Blonde lets McAvoy shine as a seasoned, gritty spy, somewhat in the vein of Wanted. As the story plays out, McAvoy’s character is meant to be questioned repeatedly, teetering between trustworthy and traitorous. In this regard, McAvoy plays his role effortlessly, making Percival someone that never feels entirely good, because he isn’t. He’s a wildcard, and one with quite a bit of power as Atomic Blonde heightens its pace.
Sofia Boutella is stunning as Delphine, a somewhat green French spy that Lorraine tries to use for information. Boutella gives Theron a run for her money, with her character being arguably the film’s most endearing. Delphine is gullible — to a fault. Lorraine is a seasoned agent who can and will manipulate those around her to serve her needs. While Delphine is similar to Percival in that her trustworthiness is always in question, by the end of the film she’s the only character you’ll feel something for, other than Lorraine. Hell, even Lorraine feels for Delphine. And the film does a damn good job at making it known that Lorraine is stone cold and afraid to feel too much because it might get her killed.
When it comes down to Atomic Blonde‘s story, the film fills its near two hour runtime with as much action and thrills as possible. Spy flicks have to have many twists and turns, with allegiances always in question, and Atomic Blonde lives up to its genre’s requirements. Those who love a good suspense will find the film meets their needs.
Those there for the action will not be disappointed either. Atomic Blonde is absolutely brutal, earning its R rating. Fight scenes are a common occurrence, with Theron punching, kicking and shooting her enemies into submission. Action scenes are reminiscent of Kill Bill in their ability to be necessary, violent and artistically done.
Overall, Atomic Blonde boasts a phenomenal score and action scenes, with stellar performances from Theron and Bouetella. There’s a deadly game at play during the film’s narrative, and it takes its time to make sure every step is precise and calculated. This leaves the film feeling drawn out as it begins to build to its climax, but thankfully it quickly rights itself, never allowing itself to get too bogged down. Atomic Blonde shines, making it a rare film truly grand enough to be worthy of seeing in the cinema for the full experience.