I have been waiting for a film like this to come along for a long time. A smart, action filled spy epic with a female lead. And Atomic Blonde delivered in ways even I wasn’t expecting. Charlize Theron stars as a Cold War undercover MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, sent to Berlin to investigate a murder of her boyfriend and fellow agent, while retrieving a missing list of double agents. I wish that the 007 movies could be this great. Charlize has said in an interview that she wants this to be THE female 007, and she is right. Atomic Blonde is gritty, intense, and unabashedly hard core.
I’ve been following this film for quite a while, especially since its been in development for quite about five years. Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, Charlize spent years developing the script and character and her passion for the property is evident. This film leaps over the back of the 007 and Bourne movies and takes their successful moments and improves on them. The car chase sequences, especially, are really dynamic and stunning.
The fight scenes are quite brilliant, made only more incredible with the fact that Charlize performed most of her own stunts, cracking two of her teeth in the process. Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) plays a French agent that Charlize must engage with in order for her to uncover the secrets she is searching for. They have great chemistry and watching them on screen is a treat. Their fight scenes are fantastically choreographed and full of great moments.
James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) co-stars as the Berlin station chief assigned to help her on her mission. Of course things go south as she is forced to reveal and eliminate the double agent threatening the KGB, the Royal Crown, and the United States. He’s a great foil for Charlize and brings an earnest sincerity that is welcomed in this dark film. Director David Leitch (co-director of John Wick) has really crafted a tight film that gives you not just an ordinary spy story, but something with a bit more and it’s evident when Charlize has her more quiet moments, which really sell her character. The staggering amount of cross and double-crossing in the film slightly pushes belief, but I was along for the ride.
Atomic Blonde is quite rough and there is a lot of F bombs, earning it a solid “R” rating, but I wonder if that would really be an issue if it was a male leading the film instead of Charlize? I feel a lot of critics get caught up in the gender of the lead, and therefore unfairly judge it. If a man was doing any of the things Charlize does in the film, they would celebrate the ruthless, cool veneer portrayed, but since it’s a female lead, they want more vulnerability and emotion. Rightly so, Charlize leaned in to the more risky elements and it paid off.