Atomic Blonde – Tick of Approval Movie Review

Well after July being a pretty incredible for movies, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will see this great form carried on into August too! For the first cab off the rank; Atomic Blonde.

Now I was sold on this movie as soon as I heard the synopsis: “The female John Wick”. Seriously that’s all I needed to hear! Especially when you combine that with the always badarse Charlize Theron, a stacked supporting cast, and up-and-coming action director David Leitch. (Who was funnily enough one of the co-directors of John Wick!)

Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch and stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, & Sofia Boutella.

(LAST WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!)

Plot

Atomic Blonde explores MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton’s (Theron) latest mission to recover a list that has the potential to compromise every single intelligence agent working in field; all the while operating amidst a turbulent period in history just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now this is far from the most original idea for a spy film. Skyfall is a recent film of note which focused on this area. However for me I didn’t go into this movie wanting or expecting a super complex and intricate story. I just wanted to be entertained and I was!

The story is told primarily in flashback with Lorraine recounting the events of her latest mission to Gray (Jones) and Kurzfeld (Goodman). This plot choice runs the risk of completely sapping the tension from the film due to the fact that you already know that the hero is going to survive through the end of this story. Fortunately I was wrapped up enough in the investigation and thrilling fights placed into the story that it didn’t really bother me! The biggest problem I had was once the Lorraine finishes telling her story.

This is a movie that fits into a category of films which feature a fourth act tacked on to the ending. Some people will say that in this instance it works, however personally I didn’t like the way that this film resolved. The movie has an extra scene which shows that not only is Lorraine the double agent SATCHEL, but then states that she is an American and that the whole movie was an overly elaborate plan orchestrated by the CIA. I felt that none of this was really necessary to resolve the film; and that the point where The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ starts to blare through the speakers would have been a perfect spot to end the film because all this did was have me leaving the cinema confused.

The story of this movie isn’t particularly ground-breaking in any way, but I thought that it did exactly what it needed to do; which was keep us all entertained!

SCORE – 7/10

Characters

We’ve seen more than enough times over the years that Charlize Theron knows just how to be an awesomely tough bad-arse, so it’s no real surprise that from the moment she appears on screen she brings the perfect blend of coolness, intelligence and sex appeal. Her character is shown as extremely capable in an era when women were often underrated and disregarded which is certainly fun to watch.

Fresh off his star-turn in Split; James McAvoy delivers another enthralling performance as wayward MI6 agent David Percival; and is cementing himself as one of the most bankable stars going around. Everybody knows somebody like his character. Charming and affable when he wants to be, leering and creepy when he needs to be. McAvoy floats between the two in what is probably my favourite performance in the film

Sofia Boutella is an actress that has really grabbed my attention over the past two years. From Kingsman: The Secret Service onwards she has always been an excellent presence in all of her films; and this is no exception. Whilst much of her backstory and development is given through exposition, I thought that the way she was able to sell a broad range of emotions throughout her limited screen time was really impressive!

Toby Jones, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan and John Goodman all bring the gravitas to the film that you would expect from such talented and experienced actors. None of their characters are given the opportunity to receive much in the way of development, however their roles are all small enough that you are just happy to see them on screen showcasing their talent.

Now as I mentioned earlier, the film takes place in the final stages of Soviet occupation in Berlin just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. So with that you have the expected presence of Russian gangsters and ne’er do wells who all do their best to lend a slightly sinister feeling to the film. However despite their presence, there isn’t any one particular character who acts as the film’s villain. Now I certainly wouldn’t say that this ruins the film at all. But just felt that without a clear and menacing presence looming over the film, it just made it hard to feel the stakes that our hero was up against.

But in all honesty that is really the only major flaw that I found when it came to the characterisations in the film. The movie gets you to invest yourself in these characters with little to no problem! Whether it is cheering on Lorraine while she’s laying one of her many beat-downs, buying in to the serious dialogue being spouted by Jones or Goodman, or enjoying every time Percival arrives on screen; there is more than enough for you to appreciate here!

SCORE 8/10

Production

My biggest thing that I was able to take away from this film was that I am thrilled that David Leitch is directing Deadpool 2. He is able to take the goodwill he earned with John Wick and deservedly run with it in this film in a spectacular fashion.

Between Leitch’s direction, the work of the stunt team, and Charlize Theron’s efforts; the fight scenes are a marvel to behold on the big screen. From the one-take shots, to the dynamic camera-work, to the outstanding choreography; the film is easily successful when it comes to crafting cinematic looking fight sequences

Leitch’s past experience as a stunt-man and stunt co-ordinator makes clearly evident that he knows firstly what looks cool on screen but also what will still look real. One of the cool things we get in this film that we rarely see in action movies is the fatiguing effects that brutal hand-to-hand combat would undoubtedly have. Lorraine and her enemies often resort to throwing tired and clumsy punches whilst fighting for breath after particularly taxing fight scenes. It’s a really small and minor detail, but it is something that I really appreciated!

This film has a really cool look to it. The film is filled with a blend of deep darks and vivid white colours that really set the murky sort of feel of that Soviet dominated era. It’s something that I really enjoyed especially in combination with the bright colours used firstly to highlight Theron’s character and then also with the spray-paint title cards.

This movie isn’t going to get the massive buzz that surrounded Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Baby Driver, but I really enjoyed the soundtrack that ran throughout this film. Filled with gritty 80’s pop and rock, I thought the song choices were excellent at fitting in with the dark yet overly stylised tone.

I really enjoyed the way the eclectic feel of the film was able to blend in with some excellently crafted fight scenes. David Leitch has done a great job here in his solo directorial debut, and I am really looking forward to what we will get from him with Deadpool 2 and beyond!

SCORE 9/10

Genre

When considering the score for this category I had to ask myself exactly what I was wanting from a movie like this; an action, spy, thriller. I wanted to be amazed by the fight scenes, invested in the story, and cheering for hero/heroes. On that marking criteria, I have to say that Atomic Blonde hits the mark.

I think the weakest aspect of the film is probably the spy section. I’ve already bemoaned the presence of the fourth act in the film, but there is an argument that the story isn’t quite as riveting as you would hope from a spy thriller. The search for the list isn’t quite as intense or intellectual as I maybe would have hoped. Which is not to say that that particular section of the film is a failure. Like I said, it is entertaining; just not quite as epic or grand as it maybe could have been!

However setting aside my gripes and nit-picks for a moment, the action portions in this film are certainly up to scratch! Anytime Lorraine finds herself needing to kick a bit of arse she does it with no problem at all. Plus David Leitch has no problem in finding ways to shoot and choreograph it as entertainingly as possible!

Atomic Blonde is one of those movies that does exactly what you would hope that it do. It has no tremendously glaring flaws so at time you are left nit-picking a tad to try and spot its drawbacks. Because it all honestly it works superbly as an action film, and pretty well as a spy thriller; which is definitely nothing to sneeze at!

SCORE 8/10

Enjoyment

This is a damn cool film. It looks cool, the performances are cool, and the fights are cool. That is really the best way I can sum up how I felt about this film.

With all of the people jokingly referring to this film as “Jane Wick”; I will briefly say that I didn’t quite like this movie as much as John Wick. But to be honest for me to consider this movie a win, I really didn’t have to. To be honest this movie probably would have scored quite a bit higher with me had it not been for the last 5 minutes of the film which really try to flip your perception of the film, only for it to ultimately land on its head.

Be that as it may; I still really enjoyed the stylistic and vivid experience I got from this movie. If I had to point to one aspect of the movie as my absolute favourite part it would be the hand-to-hand combat scenes. In particular one fight where Lorraine and several KGB henchmen attempt to kick the absolute crap out of one another in a shot edited brilliantly to look as though it was captured in one take!

So if you like dark and gritty action shown in a really excellently styled way, then hell I can safely say that this is the movie for you!

SCORE 8/10

Overall Rating

So let’s take a quick second to recap what we’ve learnt here today about Atomic Blonde.

It’s a movie by the co-director of the first John Wick film which boasts action sequences which amazingly hold up to the high bar set by that film! It has Charlize Theron doing what she does best which is kick of a lot of arse and look amazing whilst doing it. And it also has a really vivid and excellent look that somehow manages to capture a dark and murky world whilst also keeping it lively and colourful. It’s a film that tells an entertaining enough story without breaking any tremendous new ground; but on the strength of its craft and its cast gives a great start to the slate of August movies.

I’m really looking forward to what David Leitch can do from here on in because at this point in his directorial career he has shown more than enough savvy to indicate that he could be an action director to watch and enjoy for many years to come. Because it goes without saying that his directorial debut much deservedly earns the tick of approval.

80% Approval Rating

 

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