Let’s cut to the chase: people are going to watch Atomic Blonde because of Charlize Theron.
The South African-born American actress plays Lorraine Broughton, a MI6 spy sent to Berlin to eliminate an espionage ring that killed an undercover agent. The thriller is helmed by David Leitch, who made his directorial debut with the critically-acclaimed action flick John Wick (2014).
And we are happy to report that Theron’s Broughton kicks much, much more ass than Keanu Reeves’ John Wick. While Mr Wick gets all emotional with his dog, the unfeeling Ms Broughton is a lean, mean killing machine who shows no mercy to anyone standing in her way.
Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, the story takes place during the final days of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Broughton has to join forces with Berlin station chief David Percival (the ever versatile James McAvoy) whom she distrusts. Amidst the action, there is a nuclear intel that both the good guys and bad guys are trying to lay their hands on, a lot of double crossing between characters, and a sexy French agent played by Sofia Boutella, who gets to do a lot more than just putting on creepy makeup in Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy.
Oh, and here’s something to excite the boys – Theron and Boutella make out and feel each other up in a number of sex scenes. Cue the R21 rating for homosexual content!
The plot of the 115-minute movie isn’t really anything to shout about. The film isn’t interested in the historical significance of the tension between East and West Berlin. It isn’t a socio political commentary about the barrier that divided Germany’s Communist East from the U.S.-friendly West. The filmmakers just want to produce an indulgent action movie with lots of punching, blood and gunfights. You can also expect lots of swearing, smoking and drinking.
This is very much a Charlize Theron show, as much as we love Toby Jones (The Man Who Knew Infinity) and John Goodman (Kong: Skull Island) who take on supporting roles of a MI6 superior and a CIA chief respectively. After her impressive performance in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Theron continues to show that she is a bona fide action star by performing most of her own stunts. She is also quite the ice queen in this movie, thanks to her experience playing villainous characters in Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and The Fate of the Furious (2017).
Psst, does anyone remember the silly Æon Flux (2005), which Theron reportedly slammed recently?
Watch out for a long sequence towards the end of Atomic Blonde, where Broughton fights her way through an entire building while trying to keep a Russian contact alive. The exhilarating fight scene which lasts for almost eight minutes is so perfectly choreographed, you’d think it was shot in one take. The filmmakers have taken a stylish approach to package the action sequences, using saturated colours to heighten your senses. The soundtrack contains nostalgic 80s hits which suit the backdrop of the story.
Throughout the movie, you get the feeling that there are a lot of things happening, yet there is a lingering sense of emptiness. Maybe it is how Broughton is characterised as a cold human being (she bathes in ice!), or maybe it is just how the filmmakers have (successfully?) produced an entertaining and slick piece of work that leaves viewers cold.