Exclusive: ‘Atomic Blonde’ is a Stylish Espionage Spy Thriller, With Little Action in Between. A Review. #SXSW
Atomic Blonde is a film that I wished I loved more than I did. Hailing from David Leitch, co-director of cult hit John Wick, I expected a thrilling action piece with stunts equal to the Keanu Reeves hit-man. Instead what is given through Atomic Blonde is a slow-paced espionage movie, with very few action sequences.
Atomic Blonde is an espionage spy movie set days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Viewers follow Lorraine, played by Charlize Theron in a mission to secure a list of sleeper MI6 agents before it ends in the wrong hands. Audiences can expect a dive into the mental state of secret agents in their field, followed by an electric soundtrack and feel for the movie.
I do think that before anything else, David Leitch needs to be praised for his skills as a neo-noir director. The man sure knows how to give a vibrant look to his films and Atomic Blonde proves that he was just as pivotal to the gorgeous aesthetic in John Wick as his co-director, Chad Stahelski. Shots are still dimly lit, yet bright in the fractions of lighting. If you thought the trailer made this film look gorgeous it generally is the entire way. I said this in my review for John Wick: Chapter 2 but I think the story of how both David Leitch and Chad Stahelski progressed from stunt directors to film directors is admirable. These two have worked very hard to create projects demonstrating they deserve respect in film-making and it shows. Now that I’ve mentioned David’s former occupation as a stunt director, let’s move onto the action for this film. The fight choreography is not the same “gun-fu” style as John Wick, but it’s still better-than-average fight choreography. John Wick garnered some praise for its realistic action and I think Atomic Blonde fits this description as well, but in a different light. For many fight scenes Charlize Theron’s Lorraine actually takes damage instead of being an unstoppable driving force against anything coming her way. I have to admit though, I was very disappointed in the amount of action in this movie. There’s honestly not very much and aside from one glorious scene none of it really impressed me. The movie will go on for long amounts of time before any action will begin, and it usually ends fairly quickly. This might be less upsetting if the first trailer did not brand it as an action movie as much. However, the one fight sequence that actually was impressive is truly an achievement in action cinema. It’s a tremendously long one-shot fight sequence that had to take hours of careful planning. It does not even end in the same remote location as it started, and Charlize shines in this kick-ass sequence. With all this said, I think Deadpool 2 is in good hands with director David Leitch.
Now begins my problems with the movie. First, the film is riddled with heavy exposition everywhere. Much of the film is Lorraine debriefing her superiors in the MI6 on her mission that’s displayed through the film and there’s a constant stream of explaining the narrative. The plot is slightly convoluted and presented in confusing manner. This is really a spy movie before anything else so you’re given the typical spy mission scenario and debriefings in quick and hard to understand fashion. I found the entire mission to be uninteresting, as well as our protagonist Lorraine. We follow Lorraine doing her mission but none of it actually engages you into what she’s doing. The movie opens up with Lorraine bruised and damaged, and that does spark some interest as to how she got to this point, but at the same time I was never given an incentive to root for Lorraine. James McAvoy’s David Percival is a highlight of the film, he’s funny and sneaky, but by the end I’m not entirely sure what the motivation for his character was. I must admit though, there’s a nice monologue by him near the end that paints the life as a sleeper agent in a more somber manner. At the end of the movie something does happen to add to Lorraine’s character but I wish it wasn’t reserved to the end to finally show up. I do understand why it’s in its placement, but it really is the best part of the character and maybe it could’ve been sprinkled in a bit more cleanly throughout. Some may end up trying to call this movie a “slow-burn” but that would mean the third act needs to be more explosive than it is. In reality after the amazing one-shot sequence the film takes a slow pace once again and for plenty of time. I know some people are curious about the soundtrack, the songs are good but I felt they mostly served as a reminder to the time period of the movie. In other words, I don’t think they carried meaning to wherever they were being played and there’s a few times I felt that they didn’t match well with the context of the scene.
In the end, I don’t think Atomic Blonde is a bad movie and it certainly holds merits in certain aspects, but I left wanting more action and a more cohesive narrative to a story with more potential than given.
Atomic Blonde releases in theaters July 28, 2017.