Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, Bill Skarsgard, Til Schweiger. Directed by David Leitch. (2017, 115 min). UNIVERSAL
There are some movies where a single scene not only makes the whole thing worth the price of admission, but ultimately elevates it to classic status. Psycho immediately comes-to-mind. It's an undisputed masterpiece, of course, but it goes without saying the shower scene renders it legendary.
Atomic Blonde may not be a masterpiece - and probably not a classic we'll be talking about 50 years from now - or even 10 - but it's another movie with one scene so jaw-droppingly awesome that we just go...wow.
The plot itself is as generic as they come: Near the end of the Cold War, everybody's after a list containing the identities and activities of spies, stolen by a rogue KGB agent who plans on selling it to the highest bidder. Britain's horse in this race is MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who forms an uneasy alliance with David Percival (James McAvoy). They must also try to smuggle a defector - who has memorized the list as a bargaining tool - to West Berlin.
The usual complications ensue along the way...double-crosses, story twists, characters who aren't quite what they seem and, of course, a love interest (Sofia Boutella). None of it is too surprising, but Atomic Blonde isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. This is one of those movies where style matters more than substance, and as such, it's terrific entertainment. The film is fast-paced and visually impressive, with kinetic gunplay, a unusually-shot car chase and some phenomenal close-quarters fighting.
Which brings us to the 'wow' moment: About half-way in, Broughton has to fight her way out of an old apartment building with her defector in-tow. In a single, unbroken, 10 minute sequence, she takes on several henchmen in a violent, bloody ballet of knives, fists and guns. It's a brilliantly choreographed and exhausting scene that ranks as one of the most impressive action set-pieces I've ever seen. It must have been a logistical nightmare to pull off (and one of the featurettes shows how they pulled it off).
Elsewhere, Atomic Blonde is bolstered by flashy production design, a booming soundtrack of industrial-tinged music from the era and, of course, another dedicated physical performance by Theron. She's cool, beautiful and intimidating, though not the invulnerable, one-woman wrecking crew that has drawn some comparisons to John Wick. David Leitch may have directed both films, but the overall tone of this one is a bit lighter and Broughton is cut from a different cloth. She's not driven by revenge, and as the stakes get higher, we do get fleeting glimpses of kinks in her armor. Despite her cool demeanor and formidable fighting skills, she isn't indestructible, often taking as much damage as she inflicts.
Stylish to a fault, there isn't a lot of depth, but Atomic Blonde delivers lot of sexy, ultra-violent fun. Theron once again proves she's a formidable action star with another character, like Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road, we wouldn't mind seeing again in the future. And if nothing else, the apartment fight alone is a keeper.
- FEATURETTES: "Welcome to Berlin"; "Blondes Have More Gun"; "Spymaster"; "Anatomy of a Fight Scene" (this is the best of the bonus features); "Story in Motion".
- AUDIO COMMENTARY with director David Leitch & editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir.
- DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES
- DVD & DIGITAL COPIES