Maybe it’s because I didn’t live through it, but I’m kinda done with 80’s pastiche. It’s been played out for a while now, and it doesn’t seem to have any end on the horizon.
Now that’s not to say that it’s been done terribly. In Atomic Blonde’s case, it works pretty well. The music is used often as cool fight scene punctuation, and the neon colors make scenes pop, even when the only colors are black and white. Despite all that, though, I got pretty bored of the 80’s while watching this movie. I also got pretty bored of this movie.
Atomic Blonde follows Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), a British MI6 operative who is tasked with finding a list of undercover agents working in Berlin during the final days of the Cold War. This is after another British spy is found dead shortly after his acquisition of said list, which is hidden in a watch. Lorraine meets up with David Percival (James McAvoy), a third English agent working in Germany who’s gone a little crazy, having been there for a bit too long.
This film has a solid premise, being based on a comic series called "The Coldest City" by Antony Johnston, however it’s execution is not great. A lot of things are over explained, and the story still feels complicated. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes they just don’t tell you jack shit and expect you to figure it out, like how Lorraine somehow becoming best friends with some other random spy working in the city. I feel like this is just the writers adhering too closely to the comic and not doing enough to translate it to a cohesive script. Also, it’s runtime is a bit too long for my taste, especially when it’s advertised as an action movie.
This film does a lot of things most people have already seen in other better films, like James Bond, Bourne, etc. Charlize is a fantastic actress, however in this movie she’s merely a girl version of Daniel Craig’s Bond, with exactly as much charisma and emotion. Yes, she is a bad-ass and sexy as fuck, dominating all the dudes she comes across, but a good character this does not make. James McAvoy’s character on the other hand is way more interesting, and luckily we do get to spend a lot of time with him. Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) is also a neat character, a young French spy who’s fairly new to the game, who is basically in awe of Lorraine, seeing the English operative as a role model. And yes they do have the sex. It’s an ok scene, you see some boobs, but it’s not worth the price of admission.
What IS worth the price, depending your theater of choice, is the ‘Stairway Scene’. If you’ve seen any advertising for this movie, then you’ve probably heard about it. This is where director David Leitch’s true talent comes through. Having directed many of John Wick’s (2014) action scenes, this was the main reason I wanted to watch Atomic Blonde. The stairway fight is a beautifully choreographed dance of fists, knives and guns, and it’s all made to look like it’s one continuous shot, using the same techniques seen in Birdman (2014). It’s brutal, awesome, and grueling, however it feels disconnected from the rest of the film. It felt like a cool idea that they shot separately and then just inserted into the film.
One’s enjoyment of Atomic Blonde is definitely gonna come down to personal taste. Yes, that is true about all films, however this one fits nicely into the middle somewhere, the kind of film that will be played in syndication for a long time. If you love 80’s music and neon lights, you’ll probably enjoy this film. If you like cold war spy movies, then this is for you. If you like post John Wick action then there’s a couple slices of that in here, but probably not enough to hold you over from one to the next. If one or more of those things catches your attention then by all means, check it out for yourself. Just don’t spend too much for your ticket. You might not like it as much if you spend $20 as opposed to $13. As for me, I give it an Eh/10.