Charlize Theron may be the most badass actress in Hollywood today. She seems to have done it all, from one of Eli’s followers in Children of the Corn III to an Astronaut’s Wife, to her stunning Academy Award winning transformation in Monster to another kind of monster as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. She does not seem to fear any role or any kind of requirements each role calls for.
In Atomic Blonde being released on July 28th, Charlize Theron plays Lorraine, a mysterious M16 British spy who is sent to West Berlin, days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, to retrieve a stolen list of double agents from a fellow colleague who was murdered. Looking like she could pass for Deborah Harry in Blondie’s prime and speaking with a British accent that at times is reminiscent of Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous without the humor, Theron does an excellent job at playing a seductive, erotic, kick ass, throw down, no holds-barred secret agent spy who effortlessly carries this almost two hour movie. James McAvoy, hot off the heels in his memorable role in Split plays, Percival her counterpoint when she arrives in Berlin. He does another excellent job in a role of an agent who you are never quite sure whose side he is on. The film is rounded out by Sofia Boutella (The Mummy herself) as a French agent sent to spy on Lorraine and John Goodman and Toby Jones as American and British Intelligence, that Lorraine unravels the story of her days in Berlin throughout the film.
An uncredited character in the movie is the city of Berlin itself, both east and west of the wall. Throughout the main story of Lorraine’s search for the list of double agents we learn about the turmoil in Germany during the cold war through news clips. A really great back story to this film, especially for those of us who remember when this event actually took place. The film itself escalates on the night the Berlin Wall actually fell.
Another stand out event of this film is the soundtrack. Where films like Guardians of Galaxy and Baby Driver are boasting about stand out soundtracks, to me Atomic Blonde surpasses them both with its 80s synthpop that slides in so well with the events happening around the characters and events in this film. Songs like “99 Luftballons” from Nena, “Voices Carry” from ‘Til Tuesday, “Under Pressure” from David Bowie and Queen, “Fight the Power” from Public Enemy and Falco’s “Der Kommissar” all fit in perfectly with the era and only enhance every scene they are in, improving upon an already quality film.
Great acting? Check. Great location? Check. Great Soundtrack? Check. But this is an action movie right, so how about that? The movie opens with Charlize Theron emerging from a tub filled with cold water and ice cubes. Her naked body and face are covered with bruises and lacerations. If she looks like this, I would hate to see the other guy. In Atomic Blonde Charlize Theron kicks ass. She kicks so much ass, but that also doesn’t mean she is so good that she doesn’t get her ass kicked in return. That is another high point in this film, the realism of violence. Theron while a fit woman standing at 5’ 9 1/2″, in reality isn’t going to be beating the shit out of men two or three times her weight. So she pulls off the fight scenes using her legs, knees and weapons, flipping people with her momentum as opposed to a standard action film where your female lead is punching guys once, they fall down and don’t get back up. Charlize Theron is fighting for her life here, and that doesn’t mean she isn’t susceptible to taking a few punches herself which also adds to the believability of action. In one stunning action sequence where Theron’s Lorraine is fighting multiple men on a stair case, the camera never cuts away from the action and everything is done with no edits. John Woo himself would be proud.
This is Stuntman turned director, David Leith’s first full film. He previously did some uncredited directing on John Wick, and here he attacks the source material of the 2012 Graphic Novel, The Coldest City which Atomic Blonde is based on like a seasoned pro.
In a movie that seems to be filled with highlights, there are some low points however. An espionage film where nobody can be trusted and no one seems to be who they say they are, the story does get a little muddled. Not to say you really need to pay close attention or you will be lost, but at times it seems like things are not to clear on what exactly are certain characters motives, why things are happening and character’s actions become questioned. By the time the twist ending is unveiled the plot twists seem to come frequent and predictable. It is a small flaw and one that will certainly not ruin this otherwise excellent summer sleeper of a movie. Amongst all the super heroes and apes getting thrown at us this summer, Atomic Blonde will hopefully be the movie that does not sneak by unnoticed.
Charlize Theron is the most badass actress in Hollywood today.