In Cold War-era Berlin, an MI6 operative is ordered to
retrieve a missing list of double agents in various agencies.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Directed by David Leitch
Written by Kurt Johnstad
Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman,
Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, Bill Skarsgård, Roland Møller, Til Schweiger, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Based on the graphic novel series The Coldest City
by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart
Atomic Blonde can best be described as a bad movie disguised as a good one. It wants so badly to be some kind of genetically engineered hybrid of John Wick and Kingsman, that it ends up feeling like an insincere retread of so many different action tropes that we've all seen before. You've got the "stolen list of operatives" McGuffin from Mission Impossible and Skyfall, as well as characters ripped straight out of a 80's Bond movie. I'll give the film its props for style, but it has little substance to back it up. You can only do the "double agent" twist so many times before it starts getting ridiculous.
Charlize Theron plays MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, an inexplicably invincible super spy who infiltrates Cold War-era Berlin to find the list with the help of obvious bad guy James Percival (James McAvoy). McAvoy does a solid enough job ripping off Jude Law's character from Dom Hemingway that he keeps the movie interesting, but the plot gets so muddled and confusing that it's impossible to keep track of all the double crosses. Through it all, there's one incredibly badass scene that just about saved the movie. It's an unforgettable fight scene that occurs in the third act and is comprised of a single, uninterrupted shot. It was a scene that took patience, dedication, and some impressive choreography. I just wish that some of that skill had gone towards the screenplay.
Atomic Blonde's nostalgic late-80's soundtrack and Cold War tone help keep the film grounded, and the fight scenes are pretty cool, but I can't help but feel that I've seen this film before. The action film is all but dead, and pieces of great ones are being stitched together like some sort of cinematic Frankenstein's Monster. Atomic Blonde isn't a bad movie, but it's a hodgepodge of better ones. Maybe now we'll get a break from the "famous actress is a hitman" subgenre for a while. Oh, wait. Maybe not.