Saturday, 8 September 2018

Atomic Blonde ★★★★☆

This is the coolest film I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like John Wick but with Charlize Theron and an 80s Europop soundtrack. What’s not to love? 

Here’s the premise. Charlize Theron portrays Lorraine Broughton, one of MI6’s best agents, in Berlin during 1989 - days before the collapse of the Berlin wall. Broughton is set loose to recover ‘the list’, a document containing the names of every single double agent in Berlin. In the wrong hands, this would not just threaten the lives of the agents, but inflate the rising political tensions in the city. Everyone from the police to the KGB is after it, putting them right in the firing line of Broughton’s insane skills.

In the words of the Independent, ‘It’s Charlize Theron’s world. We’re just living in it.’ By far the most enjoyable part of this film is Charlize Theron’s performance, which she absolutely knocks out of the park. It’s no mystery that she’s an incredibly talented actress, she’s got a Best Actress Oscar under her belt and enough accolades to warrant their own Wikipedia article separate from her own. Don’t get me wrong, her performance in Atomic Blonde isn’t going to bag her another Oscar. It’s not that kind of film, and that’s part of why I love it. Her performance is effortlessly cool, stylish, and holds the film together amidst a plot that can get pretty muddy. 

The story isn’t an easy watch. Everyone has their own motivations, some overlap, some don’t. Some agents are double agents, some aren’t, everyone is betraying each other and there’s a seemingly endless source of goons for Broughton to kick to death. But the film more than makes up for this with the fight scenes, visual style, soundtrack and performance. This film is just so fun to watch, that I don’t care if I can’t remember whose side I’m on. At times you forget all about the ‘list’ and buy in to just watching a two hour fight scene. 

A pet hate of mine is fight scenes that are over-edited because it makes the action hard to follow. This film is a mixed bag, falling prey to shaky camerawork and editing, but it makes sure you have a clear view of the very best stunts. The extended fight scene at the climax of the film is something I’ve since watched over and over, and I’ve never been a huge action movie guy. Despite being what is essentially an eponymous action movie, Atomic Blonde oozes so much style and classy cinematography that you find yourself putting it in a much more prestigious band of cinema than it probably belongs. 

Most of this movie is based around huge brawls, and so it’s great that they’ve done them so well. It’s far from the highly choreographed and precise ‘The Matrix’-style of hand-to-hand fighting that might remind one of anime. It’s hard to explain, but the fighting has a sense of desperation to it. While you never worry that she’s in any danger, Broughton has a look in her eye that makes you believe she’s always a second away from death - and succeeding regardless. She might never miss a hit, but Broughton is no Neo and Atomic Blonde is all the more entertaining for it.

I could go on and on about all the little things I loved about Atomic Blonde, but you really have to experience it for yourself. It’s worth saying that cinema snobs might not take the same enjoyment from it that others will, as the twists and turns of the film’s plotline leave a lot of holes in the narrative and there are a few ‘that’s not as cool as you think it sounds’ writing moments in the dialogue. Supporting actors are hit and miss. But the truth is, you’ll have a blast watching this film. 

Jake Turnbull

Atomic Blonde at CeX

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