Atomic Blonde is a spy thriller set in late 1980s Berlin during the Cold War, as tension remains high between West and East (in Berlin alone), a British agent is sent into the field to investigate the death of an agent and the potential release and exposure of a list of secret agents, the film stars Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones and Sofia Boutella.
On the face of it, Atomic Blonde is a breath of fresh air, a cold war spy thriller centred around a female protagonist, it’s something seemingly different and new and despite being touted as the ‘female John Wick‘, it’s not quite up to that level. First of all, if you love the 80s, you may get a kick out of the films setting and soundtrack with some classic tunes being played pretty much throughout, to a somewhat stereotypical but humorous depiction of late 80s Berlin but you didn’t want to watch the film purely for some 80s nostalgia I’m sure.
What the film does do it right is its action for one, it’s clearly shot, frenetic and very intense, with every blow, punch and hit feeling ‘real’ and impactful, the film also doesn’t shy away from showing some fairly graphic injuries as a result of fights and again this helps to make the world feel a bit more realistic, though it does seem a bit cartoony when the main character Lorraine is head-shotting 4 dudes in a row. Though to be fair, making the hand to hand fights a bit more of a level playing field does work and Lorraine doesn’t leave every fight unscathed, which tends to be the new normal for modern spy films to evoke realism, also Charlize Theron is pretty solid in the role and comes across well as the rather cold but efficient spy.
She’s actually a likeable character to a degree and doesn’t conform to the sexy femme fatale trope, not relying on her sexuality and doing her job in a fairly non chalant manner which again, goes against the norm for a spy thriller, the rest of the cast does a decent job, namely with James McAvoy as British agent David Percival who puts in a spirited performance that may keep you more engaged with the plot. The plot in general however is the films low point for me, a rather generic story with the cliché, “list of our spies is going to be revealed” trope that just feels all too familiar an aside from the film going against type with the characterization of Lorraine, the rest of the story just feels by the numbers and a bit bland.
The plot just doesn’t go to anywhere really interesting, a shortcoming of a lot of spy thrillers in my view, starting with interesting premises and attractive locales, shots and actors, they fail to keep you engaged and almost always end up ending on a whimper. Much of the same can be said for Atomic Blonde, with an interesting setting and some fun characters, the plot just isn’t that engaging and follows more of the same in terms of spy thriller plots.
. Strong performances from Theron and McAvoy
. Well done action scenes
. Plot is a bit generic, bland