Make me tonight.
If you’re the committed reader I hope and KNOW. YOU. ARE., then you’ll remember, a few moons ago now, a Talking Trailers reboot I wrote back in March, featuring this here movie. As my clairevoyant powers of trailer perception instructed me to do so, I predicted this flick to kick some ass. With this prediction in tow, I was very excited for this one, making it one of my most anticipated releases this year.
Turns out, I was goshdarned correct and, a bumper bag of Tangfastics in one hand, Pepsi Max in the other, I spent the next 115 minutes of my life being furiously entertained by Furiosa herself. That being said, did Atomic Blonde have a bit more to its roots (that was a hair pun, I’m branching out), or was it a nuclear disaster?
So, the year is 1988 and The Cold War is coming to an end with the Berlin Wall on its last legs. With this major political event as the backdrop, an M16 agent (Charlize Theron) is sent into the heart of Berlin to capture a list of double agents, as well as investigate the death of a fellow agent, with the help of a debauched embedded agent (James McAvoy).
As complex and nailbiting as I just made it sound thanks to my gift with words, the plot really was nothing special, and felt more like an excuse just to beat up some Germans. MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS INBOUND DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YA MATEY. Moreover, the multiple twist “ooh no she works for these guys, but she doesn’t!!!! WOah” really came off as forced, thinking it was cleverer than it actually was, and left me with a really sour taste in my mouth (though that might’ve been the Tangfastics actually). YA ALRIGHT NOW BUDDY-BOY, BUT BE WARNED, I AM DANGEROUS.
Along with this, the writing in this film was, at best, mildly chuckleworthy and, at worst, downright aaaafaaalll. Some of the supposed one-liners ended up cringeworthy and almost ruined any and all coolness that came before it, and it was so predictable that I actually mouthed along to the words as they were being said at one point. Take all of the cringy lines that Tarantino satirizes in Kill Bill, make them your genuine best option for dialogue and you have the sterling script that writer Kurt Johnstad (of 300 fame) shat out for an otherwise wicked film.
I say “otherwise wicked film” because in nearly all other respects, Atomic Blonde was one of the coolest films I’ve seen in years. I swear, alongside her role as Furiosa in Fury Road, Charlize Theron is seriously shaping up to be reborn as the postergirl for the new-age kickass female lead. Her role here oozes with style and sexiness, as she goes from being seductively suave in one scene to stabbing a motherf*cker in the eye in the next.
It didn’t hinder her cool factor either that her costume and hair design was so chic and so fashionable that I’d call her a solid fashion icon in film 2017. I don’t usually get so caught up in costume design but my inner fashionista was in awe of the level of style brought in for Theron’s character here, and managed to be one of my highlights in a film with so many.
Along with Theron, you also get James McAvoy, one of my favourite actors of the last 10 years, and, while it’s far from his strongest performance I’ve seen from him, it served its purpose of comedic relief (and a lil’ more) well enough, even if I thought he could’ve gone a lil’ further with it. Then you have Sofia Boutella (a.k.a. the legless woman in Kingsman who actually does have legs irl, which is nice for her) as basically a nice bit of sex appeal. I mean, for all the good this film does for feminism with its kickass female lead, they sure do like a bit o’ the sexploitation (watch the trailer for proof). Now, I’m not saying I didn’t lap that up like the filthy degenerate scoundrel I am, but it’s just something to consider.
The minor supporting cast had a nice bit of star power to it too, with Toby Jones and John Goodman making some appearances, but they didn’t exactly steal their scenes.
As touched upon before, Atomic Blonde is a very pretty piece-of-work, very pretty indeed. Soaked in neon, the 80s setting really came into its own in the party scenes especially. That being said, it was the overall cinematography of the film that made it stood out as stylish for me, as well as the slight desaturation of colour in some of the day scenes to make Theron’s hair go a bombastic white shade. This all added up to really sleek aesthetic, making it one of the most visually striking films, in a strange way, since Mad Max.
However, shall we get into the meat-n-bones (in a literal sense) of the film? Atomic Blonde really kicks ass, with some of the most brutal, yet brilliantly choreographed fistfights since the Bourne films stopped being watchable, including a wicked, continious-shot stairway fight that clearly showed influences from modern classics like The Raid and Oldboy (the 2003 one, if that needed explaining). Moreover, in what I thought was a really nice touch, Charlize herself took a proper physical beating. NO WAIT DON’T GO. What I mean by “nice touch” is that in a lot of films, either with or without a female lead, will shy away from having their leads showing some proper injury, painting them as invincible fighting machines, and seeing Theron with some proper bruising was a real breath of fresh air, especially for a female lead.
Despite this, the world-famous aura of the sex made a strong outing in Atomic Blonde, with the costume design, the level of allure on display and the sleek aesthetic all making this film a very sexy one.
Oh, and the lesbian sex scene, but that’s by the by.
Furthermore, with a film set in the 80s, you’d expect a soundtrack filled to the brim nostalgia-inducing favourites, and Atomic Blonde does not disappoint, with appearances from Queen, Bowie and Depeche Mode, among others, making up the track listing. However, while the setting does make it a bit more relevant, I can’t help but feel like the whole “retro soundtrack” schtick is a bit overdone by this point. Sure, when Hooked On A Feeling opened up Guardians Of The Galaxy, we were all welcoming it with open arms. Now though? After hearing 600 trailers opening up with Bohemian Rhapsody or Rebel Rebel or something else along those lines, the novelty is beginning to wear. The fact that the film is set in the 80s, and is basically named after a Blondie song, does excuse it, if only sliiiightly.
Overall, Atomic Blonde was a kick-ass blast and, as I was expecting, some of the most fun I’ve had at the cinema this year. A lacklustre story and, at times, poor writing is soon offset by the bombastic action set-pieces and sexy style that is offers up, with Theron shining as a badass female lead, in a film destined to reach cult status.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations