I remember watching the trailer for Atomic Blonde and thinking “man, this movie is going to be great, Charlize Theron was awesome in Mad Max, and now she’s a kick ass spy!”, but little did I know, that the trailer was the best the movie had to offer. Okay I’m being hyperbolic, but beyond a few good action scenes and a car chase there really wasn’t much of a film here, “fur coat and no knickers” as the nuns used to say.
Set in the final days of the cold war, just before the fall of the Berlin wall, MI6 agent James Gasciogne, is shot and killed by a rogue KGB agent who proceeds to steal a list of all the active field agents in the Soviet Union, in the hopes he can sell it, go capitalism! Lorraine Broughton, a top-level MI6 field agent is sent it to retrieve the list and also to weed out a double agent, before the list is sold and the traitor escapes, it’s a spy thriller supposedly, so I won’t spoil what little plot there is.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t enjoy Atomic blonde, it had quite a few issues, like the wooden performance of Charlize Theron. I get that the character of Lorraine is meant to be this cold, no nonsense, get it done whatever the cost spy, but that’s not how it comes across. Theron just seems disinterested and if she wasn’t an executive producer, I would have said the only reason she did this movie was contractual obligation. The only time she came alive on screen, was in the fight scenes, where she admittedly, kicked ass.
Which brings me to my only real praise for the movie, the action scenes, watching Theron dispatch a room full of foes using her brain first and muscle second was awesome, being forced to use anything to hand just to give herself an edge, it legitimately felt like she was fighting for her life. There was a scene late in the film that stood out for me, both parties were, again, fighting for their lives, but by the end, they’re exhausted and struggling to continue, barely able to stand much less throw a punch, it felt real. But that gold star I place on Atomic Blonde’s homework is swiftly removed because Theron delivers the most cringe worthy piece of dialogue in the whole movie, essentially breaking the spell.(The safe word is, “I’m a little bitch!”)
The story its self isn’t really up to standard either, it’s your standard action spy movie. That’s not to say every movie has to break new ground, there’s merit to telling a familiar story your way, but Atomic Blonde can’t even manage that. I felt no investment in the plot or characters, no real desire or interest in seeing who the traitor was, which, for a spy movie is an icy lamppost to a wet scrotum.
I feel I have to also mention the narrative framing device of the movie, basically Lorraine is being debriefed after the events in Berlin and she is giving her side, but every now and then her interrogators will mention something which adds another dimension to the story, making it feel like a puzzle is being put together, but some of the pieces are missing. An intriguing idea you might think, as I did, that is until Lorraine implicates another agent, something of which she has no way of knowing at this point, and which none of her interrogators feel needs clarification or explanation, presumably because it’s time for elevenses and a round of self-abuse to god save the queen!
Atomic Blonde aims to be an action packed, stylised, spy thriller filled with mystery and intrigue, that unfortunately just fails to meet that expectation, a boring story livened up with quick bursts of intermittent action that simply can’t hold the whole thing together, it’s high heels and low standards.