Atomic Blonde (2017) Review: Beautifully Brutal
From one-half of the directing duo that brought ‘John Wick’ to life comes yet another film about a character with a very particular set of skills. This time, the titular Atomic Blonde is Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, a spy for the British government. Set in 1989, right before the fall of the Berlin Wall, ‘Atomic Blond’ follows Lorraine on a mission to secure a list of every working intelligence agent within the Soviet Union. Essentially the pre-internet version of WikiLeaks. Since her failure could mean the continuance of the cold war, it’s safe to say Lorraine is under a tad bit of pressure to succeed.
As I was watching the film, it struck me that this was likely the most adult film I have seen in a while. Many films deal with mature themes and show explicit content, but something about the way ‘Atomic Blonde’ did this made it a cut above your typical R rated film. There’s nudity, blood & gore, cursing, and each is handled extremely effectively.
Fight scenes in the movie are brutal. There’s the same incredible choreography that exists in ‘John Wick’ films, with Lorraine affecting merciless punishment on her opponents. The movie’s bleak cinematography gives way to action that was at times more visceral than entertaining. The film immerses you in spectacular fashion, as you go from admiring the way Lorraine dispatches her enemies, to feeling every blow she delivers.
Most of what sells Atomic Blonde’s dreary environment is its characters. It was refreshing to see an action movie that didn’t feel the need to wink and nod every few moments with a quip or two. Tension doesn’t get broken in ‘Atomic Blonde’ and rather than be exhausting it was simply captivating. The music in the film helps this as well, and is used cleverly for the most part, but completely on the nose for others.
While the film has many successes, it is by no means perfect. The first half of the film has pacing issues and the story is filled with so many details it can be hard to follow. Both those issues are minimized by the end of the film, and the film does more right than wrong. Charlize Theron carries it even through its most painstaking moments, and I was always engaged and entertained. It’s worth the price of admission.
Rating: Big Screen Watch