Film Review: ATOMIC BLONDE (USA 2017) ***

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atomic blonde.jpgAn undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

Director: David Leitch
Writers: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay), Antony Johnston (based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City” written by)
Stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Advertised as a female James Bond film with Charlize Theron as a top ass-kicking M16 spy, ATOMIC BLONDE tries its best to assume a British setting though Theron and most of the cast speak with an unchanged American accent. Who really cares, as the film delivers senseless action with dazzling visual and choreographed fight scenes courtesy of director David Leitch in his first solo directorial debut, himself a stunt coordinator and stuntman for stars like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

The film is written by Kurt Johnstad, based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, published by Oni Press. The film opens with a commentary of how the cold war has ended in 1989 flowing the collapse of the Berlin Wall and then goes on to say that the film is not about this subject. The film is about the cold war revolving the good guys, the British M16 and the Americans in this case trying to retrieve a list of double agents that if fallen into the wrong hands would…..It does not really matter as Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock says. The point is that top level female spy, Lorraine Broughton (Theron) has been assigned to aid fellow spy and wild card David Percival (James McAvoy) with this mission. As it turns out Percival has supposedly got the list from Spyglass, a Starsi agent (Eddie Marsan) and he is to be escorted out of Berlin. Not so easy, as every Russian and German spy is also out to get the list.

With the film setting in the 80’s, one can expect a solid 80’s soundtrack. And the film has a great one at that, and not surprising as the music is by Tyler Bates who has put together similar memorable soundtracks for films like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 1 and 2 and the two John Wick Films. The song are also appropriately chosen to fit the plot for example with Depeche Mode’s ‘Behind the Wheel’ during the defection segment and Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ at the film’s climax.

The film’s excellent cast includes McAvoy (SPLIT), always good in portraying crazies. Eddie Marsan who plays Spyglass steals the show with a dead serious performance amidst the over-the-top action. German veteran actress Barbara Sukowa has a cameo as the coroner who delivers a key line: “In Germany, we do not make little mistakes.”

The film’s best action sequence lasts a full 10 minutes as Lorraine fights off multiple attackers in ultra-violent hand-to-hand combat on a staircase while protecting Spyglass. If this is not enough, an exciting car chase follows right after where villains in cars appear out of nowhere to chse the two. Director Leitch dishes sexiness to the limit with same sex scenes between Lorraine and a French spy (Sofia Boutella).

The plot of ATOMIC BLONDE is quite difficult to follow and there is no use trying as the plot is pointless. The story’s twist in the end of who is the double agent makes little sense either. But cold war spy films in the 70’s were often difficult to follow. ATOMIC BLONDE delivers dazzling senseless action, that is the point of the film and that it succeeds.


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