As July comes to an end so do many of the huge Hollywood summer blockbusters. Granted, there are some heavy hitters still due out in August: The Dark Tower, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and Logan Lucky. But just under the wire in July we get Atomic Blonde. Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnson and Sam Hart, and directed by David Leitch (John Wick and the upcoming Deadpool 2) we have an awesome 1980s action movie starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. It’s big, it’s loud, full of action and humor and wonderful music. This is the movie you want to end July with.
The movie is set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War in 1989, the week of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) a top-level MI6 agent who is dispatched to Berlin to take down a ruthless espionage ring that has just killed an undercover agent for reasons unknown. She is ordered to cooperate with Berlin station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), a very charisma agent with his own agenda. Together they need to smuggle out a defector who knows vital information. This sends Lorraine down a path of drama, action, sexiness, spy twists and turns, and some of the best fight choreography of any movie this summer.
Charlize Theron is such a badass. From the start, just by a certain look or body movement, you know so much about her character Lorraine. And Theron knows how to bring a character like this to life: strong, confident, and deadly beautiful. She has honed her skills to a science as a spy. No matter what kind of room she’s in, she’s in control. This is another example of a great strong cinematic female character in a great year full of cinematic strong females.
James McAvoy is an oddity in the flick. He’s not in the movie as much as the trailer would lead one to believe. But when he’s there he is memorable. He’s great at playing this stuck up British spy that has been in Berlin so long he has gone “native”. He has begun running his own agenda in Berlin. He might be working for The Crown, but he’s not someone to trust. Lorraine is wary of him and you feel her unease from the start. They have great chemistry as their cat and mouse game gets played out.
Rounding out the cast is Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones. Boutella plays an inexperienced French spy who falls under Lorraine’s spell and tries to aid her in her mission. Goodman is a CIA spook working out of London, Jones is Lorraine’s boss, and Marsan is the defector who holds the information all the spy agencies want. Each is fantastic for what their characters add to the story.
Especially Boutella’s French spy, Delphine Lasalle. She is an undercover agent who watches everyone who comes in and out of Berlin. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in skill and ingenuity. She and Theron have wonderful chemistry together; they are the couple to watch in the film. Their interaction is small, but very powerful. Each of these women is strong, confident and a force to be reckoned with.
The movie is skillfully and creatively shot by cinematographer Jonathan Sela. He worked some great visual narratives into the filming which made certain scenes come to life. Especially the fight scenes: They are brutal and unrelenting. You feel each hit and shot Lorraine takes or gives.
There is a one-take eight-minute action-sequence on a staircase that is mind blowing. Lorraine fights her way through six bad guys. The fight choreography is some of the best ever and this scene will be talked about for years. The reason the insane scene looks like it was shot in one continuous take is because it was, for the most part.
Director David Leitch has said that there are actually a few hidden cuts within the scene itself, so technically it’s not a full one shot. However, it was filmed with Theron performing all the choreographed moves. It still has some tracking shots that are super long and with some movie magic, boom! It has the appearance of one amazing long shot. It’s the pinnacle scene and one of the best fights ever.
Another huge part of the film is the soundtrack. It has a score by Tyler Bates who has worked in the industry for years and whose IMDB is epic. But what is most noteworthy is the amount of 80s new wave songs worked organically into the movie. It speaks to the era the movie takes place in and just how great these songs are to set a tone/emotion: David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Queen, The Clash, and Siouxsie & The Banshees. Each is amazingly used and really adds something to a movie that was already pretty perfect.
The movie starts with a bang and never lets up, showcasing just how remarkable Charlize Theron is in…everything. Her character is intriguing and makes you want more. Atomic Blonde is one of the best movies of 2017. This is everything an action movie should be: full strong characters, great action, humor, suspense, and awesome music.