This summer’s blockbuster films have been a mixed batch: Wonder Woman was amazing, Baby Driver was a dud, Spider-Man: Homecoming was good, but Atomic Blonde is even better. It’s a modern masterpiece and best of all; the film’s lead is a female. Charlize Theron plays secret agent Lorraine Broughton, a British MI6 operative sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent, and more importantly, to recover ‘The List’: a missing file containing the names of secret agents. She’s not alone on her mission. When she arrives, she’s teamed up with another British agent by the name of Percival (James McAvoy). Together the two of them try to uncover the truth; all while being hunted by the KGB in what proves to be a deadly game of cat and mouse.
It’s without a doubt the best action film of the year so far. It includes everything you would expect-: shoot outs, fist fights and a car chase -but they’re all perfectly paced. It’s not a chaotic jumble of flying fists and speeding bullets. The excitement develops slowly enough to be enjoyed. The action sequences are significantly scaled-down for a spy film but that’s why the story is so entertaining. It’s not overly dramatic. You’re not deafened by the constant sound of screeching tyres and needless explosions. Everything shown is actually vital to the story’s development.
It’s set in November 1989 just weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Stunt coordinator turned director David Leitch juxtaposes shots of the bleak outdoors with the bright neon hues of inside Berlin’s nightclubs, making for an artistically beautiful film. He captures the angst felt on both sides of the wall with his abundant use of bleak, muted colours and shots of protest footage too. His background as a stuntman really shows during Lorraine’s fight scenes; they’re messy and almost disgustingly violent. They look realistic and are a welcome contrast to the over-rehearsed, perfectly choreographed fight scenes that we’ve reluctantly become accustomed to. Everything in this film is practically perfect. The length of the fight scenes: perfect. The level of goriness: perfect. The 80’s pop soundtrack, which is by far the best soundtrack of 2017: perfect. The only thing that fails to fit into this category is the story itself. In truth, it’s too complicated for its own good but Leitch’s directing, Theron’s performance and the killer soundtrack are enough to let this slide. Just.
Lorraine may be the least threatening spy name you’ve ever heard but that doesn’t stop her being any less deadly. She’s violent and she’s sexy: a deadly combination. Charlize Theron was made for this role. It’s hard to think of anyone who could have played her character better. On second thought, perhaps a Brit could have. Or even just someone who knows how to perfect the Received Pronunciation accent because Miss Theron’s is wishy-washy. Questionable accent aside, it’s rare to find a film that is perfect in nearly every way. It proves that you don’t have to compromise art for the sake of blood, guts, and glory.