Director: David Leitch
Screenwriter: Kurt Johnstad, based The Coldest City, Antony Johnston’s graphic novel series illustrated by Sam Hart.
Runtime: 115 mins.
Australian release date: 3 August 2017
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, Bondi Junction, Sydney, on 18 July 2017.
David Leitch’s directorial debut (apart from directing a few scenes in John Wick in 2014), Atomic Blonde, is big and bold and action-packed. Charlize Theron blasts onto the screen (in an Andy Warhol meets Blondie wig) as Lorraine Broughton, an M16 agent sent to Berlin during the dying days of the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and retrieve a list containing the names of every active British agent behind the Iron Curtain. Based on Antony Johnston’s and Sam Hart’s graphic novel series The Coldest City, the action takes place in 1989 on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s an almost surreal environment, one that reeks of danger around every corner.
Theron is exhaustingly thrilling to watch as she reprises the ‘tough girl’ persona we first saw in Mad Max: Fury Road. She takes on villain after villain and succeeds in pummeling them into submission with her fancy fighting and fleet footwork. Arriving in Berlin with only a tiny carry-on suitcase, Lorraine somehow has enough clothes to satisfy a super-model and she wears them with style. In ‘killer’ heels she aligns with a fellow agent, David Percival (a menacing James McAvoy) who adopts a grungy Euro-punk look, to take on their aggressors. Soon a chance meeting in a club with the beautiful French woman Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) provides the dynamic Lorraine with an ally, and a lover. The body count is extreme, as is the violence, and it rarely lets up for a moment. While Atomic Blonde has a stellar cast - that includes a slimmed-down John Goodman, the always creepy Eddie Marsan and a wily Toby Jones - playing goodies and baddies, the focus is mainly on Theron, who occupies most of the screen time, pumping up the action in every frame.
The emphasis on stunts is not surprising given that David Leitch is a stuntman who’s doubled for the likes of Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude van Damme and he’s successfully added his expertise to the script. He’s also utilised a period-correct, nostalgic ‘80s soundtrack that makes the playlist for Baby Driver feel like an easy-listening experience. The rights must have cost a fortune but they’re worth every penny; the film just wouldn’t be the same without these killer tracks. It looks great, too, with a gritty appearance that seems to have been shot mostly at night or in dimly lit locations. Atomic Blonde sits up there with some of the best spy/action films of recent years and could well be the first of a franchise. Lovers of convoluted Jason Bourne-style plots about double-dealing spies will revel in this female equivalent that puts Charlize right up there as the next designer-clad, ball-busting ‘wonder woman.’