Sometimes you see a trailer for a film and you think, yes, yes to that. I will see that immediately and they can have all my money, all of it! It is the kind of trailer which makes you automatically click ‘share’ or turn to your cinema-going buddy, make eye contact, lift your eyebrows at each other and share that nod that just means: you, me, that film – we’re going. That is what Atomic Blonde was for me. When it was released in the UK, I (and my cinema-going buddy, you will be happy to know) were there on day one.
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Fate of the Furious, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) has proved that she is an actress of great talent. When she hit the screens as Imperator Furiosa in 2015, however, people were reminded just how badass she could be. Sure, Tom Hardy was good in Mad Max, but it was Theron who stole every scene (and basically the whole movie).
Now, enter Atomic Blonde where Theron is the lead, with stunning platinum hair, fashion that had me wriggling with envy and a punch that can break people’s arms. From the opening scene, I knew I was in for one heck of a good ride.
The year is 1989, the city is Berlin and the Cold War is in full swing. Enter special agent, Lorraine Broughton (Theron). She has been sent to Berlin to recover The List (containing the names of all of the active special intelligence agents currently involved in Cold War activities. The List reveals their talents and, even more dangerously, their past actions). While in Berlin she meets David Percival (James McAvoy), a rogue-ish special agent who likes to bend the rules and do things that are less than by the book.
As well as Percival, Lorraine meets French special agent Delphine Lasalle, a woman who seems too innocent to be part of this ruthless, underground world. Lorraine and Delphine’s relationship goes far beyond that of colleagues and helps highlight Lorraine’s lighter side (not quite the cold, formulaic and serious woman she portrays herself to be). Just to confirm, yes, they sleep together and their love scenes are all kinds of steamy.
The story follows these three spies as they work together (and apart, because you can’t trust anyone) to recover The List and uncover the traitor who leaked it.
Sure, the plot is familiar and has surely been done before, but let's be honest, that's not why you are watching this movie.
You’re watching it for Theron’s badass, powerful and flawless fight scenes (but not actually entirely flawless, because she cracked two teeth during the making of this film). She can fight in a dress, she can fight in stilettos, and she can fight in a bra that looks so flimsy that it can barely contain boobs let alone hold them in place when she’s hurling her body around like she does (yes, this may be one of the things that I found least believable in this film – support is important, people!). She really can do anything.
It’s worth mentioning though that although Theron’s costumes were ridiculously sexy and fashion drool-worthy, it’s debatable that she should have been ‘dressed’ in them at all. She spent many a scene in her lingerie. It’s the classic trope. Man directs movie. Woman wears just enough to get a legal ‘R’ rating.
Theron had 8 personal trainers to help her prepare for Atomic Blonde. She also trained with Keanu Reeves the star of John Wick, which the director of Atomic Blonde co-directed. Basically, she put in a tonne of work to prep for this film. She’s also one of the producers, and that really, really shows.
What I love most about the action scenes is how haggard the combatants, including Theron, look in them. When they get punched, they don’t immediately get up. In one long 7 minute take, they move slowly, they breathe heavily, and after being so battered, they are barely able to fight. Instead, they’re staggering at each other while holding makeshift weapons. Theron looks like rubbish for a good third of this film – with a bulging black eye and covered it bruises. I loved that, it felt real.
Visually, the film is stunning. Because Atomic Blonde is based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, it has that comic book feel about it. Just like Sin City, its shots are very stylized with a repeating color theme of pinks and blues. Atomic Blonde uses light, contrast, and silhouette to great effect.
The soundtrack is to die for. Whenever a film starts, one of title cards I look for is who did the music score. I now know if Bear McCreary (Outlander), Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones) or Tyler Bates (300, Guardians of the Galaxy) pops up, then you are in for a soundtrack of brilliant proportions. Lucky for Atomic Blonde, Tyler Bates was in charge and his music choices and score are impeccable. As an aside, David Bowie’s Putting Out Fires should be used in every film. In Atomic Blonde, it’s used in the opening sequence. The song’s slow start, as well as its epic crescendo, work so perfectly in setting up the whole film. An opening song well chosen, Mr. Bates.
Atomic Blonde: what a cast, such action, what a soundtrack and, man, that fashion. I hope that Charlize Theron’s taste for action films is only just beginning because I want more of them. So many more of them.