Armed with lead actress Charlize Theron, supporting actor James MacAvoy, and director of John Wick (2014), David Leitch; Atomic Blonde has plenty of talent to utilize, and it does… to an extent.
Atomic Blonde follows the story an British spy (Charlize Theron) on a mission to obtain a list in Germany that contains the names of various secret agents.
The overall film is like a sports car, it looks good, it kicks ass when it puts the pedal down, but it ultimately lacks substance and practicality. All these issues echo throughout its over-complicated screenplay. Had the story taken a more simplistic approach and the editing not been such a damper, I’m sure I could have enjoyed it as a whole. It also takes a little while before you realise this film has severe pacing issues; we’re quickly thrown deep into a slew of exposition in the first and second act – this exposition eventually stops and what we’re left with is a story that never quite builds to its climax.
On a more positive note, this film was carried by Charlize Theron’s hardened performance, she adds a lot grit and badassery to the film; in particular Charlize nails a lot of the smaller details that make her performance whole, her mannerisms and subtle gestures make her character feel real and tangible. Audiences also get a respectable performance from James MacAvoy, and while this isn’t his best work he does offer a fairly entertaining character, just not enough to turn heads.
The visuals and stunts are where this film truly shines, from its cinematography to its colours and production design, it captured everything the style was aiming for – however, style over substance is the best way to describe this film, and it truly went all out to the point of transparency. The 1980’s vibe felt extremely forced, even down to its soundtrack, this style of film has gradually become more prevalent in recent years and I feel Atomic Blonde marks the tipping point. While the film’s poppy songs are certainly good standalone pieces of music, much of the music fades in and out of the scenes in sometimes awkward ways.
The stunt-work mixed with single take shots add so much raw realism to the fight scenes, the only times I was enjoying myself in the film was during a fight scene, and I give credit where it’s due, as director David Leitch was a stuntman himself, it truly shows.
There’s no reason this film needed to be as complicated as it was, there’s no reason why this film needed a forced 80’s style; had the writers and director taken a far more simple approach to the story I could have even indulged myself in a sequel. Atomic Blonde has style and grit, but completely lacks structure, a vital part to any great film. With neon bright visuals and some satisfying fight choreography, Atomic Blonde could have excelled – had it not suffered from a muddled story with minimal payoff.