Dan M., here….
Atomic Blonde isn’t a perfect movie. It has an overly complex plot and is about 20 minutes longer than it needs to be, but all of that is overcome by some of the best action sequences in recent memory with an absolutely badass performance by Charlize Theron.
I assume the pitch for this movie went something like this:
INT. STUDIO EXEC OFFICE – DAY
Steve confidently enters Bill’s office. Bill is head of the studio.
We aren’t having a great year, Steve. Every script and idea brought to me has been garbage. What am I paying you for?
Bill, I think I have it. I really think I have it.
You’d better or it will be our asses next quarter.
What if John Wick, Jason Bourne, & James Bond…. had boobs?
We zoom in on the cigar that slowly falls out of Bill’s mouth as his eyes widen, he appears to climax.
The movie starts when Charlize Theron is sent to Berlin right around the fall of the Berlin Wall to recover a list of undercover agents names that is hidden on a watch that was stolen off her dead lover. So the setup is, well, you know… every spy movie ever. Theron is tasked with meeting up with Percival, played by James McAvoy and working with him to find the list before it is sold to the highest bidder. Throw in some Russians, the CIA, MI:6, a double agent mystery, and a French operative and you have enough pieces to move around for twists and betrayals. It seems like too many pieces to weave together into a cohesive plot, where you’d think that removing some would’ve probably helped the film as a whole. But here’s the amazing thing:
NONE OF THAT MATTERS!
I want to make that clear. This movie is complex for the sense of being complex. It is told through flashbacks as Theron recounts her previous 10 days to her bosses, which sounds redundant, but die to the incredible action sequences and performances, particularly by Theron, I was completely satisfied.
Charlize Theron is just as awesome as Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, and Keanu Reeves put together in their respective spy/assassin movies. She owns the role and I’d take another Atomic Blonde story over Daniel Craig going through the motions for Bond after whatever they did in Spectre. It is refreshing that studios are starting to put female characters in these roles. I can tell you right now that this movie could’ve been made with a Henry Cavill, Tom Hiddleston, etc. and it would’ve been 10 times worse with the same exact script and action because any male actor they put in this role would not have owned it as much as Theron did. The entire dynamic of the film is immediately more interesting and compelling with a strong female character and that is what Theron brought every second.
David Leitch co-directed John Wick before directing this movie and the action has a very John Wick feel which I loved. However, there is a set piece in this movie that lasts at least 15 minutes and is so relentless and brutal that it reminded me more of The Raid. The sequence, which takes place in and around an apartment, was just breathtaking. I will rewind it 10 times when this movie is on blu ray. It was better and more intense than any of the action sequences in either of the John Wick movies. It happens about an hour into this two hour movie and as we left people were talking about it on the way out. It has to be seen by everyone. Any studio doing a superhero film, spy film, or any film with fights that doesn’t approach David Leitch after this movie is an idiot. Give him a Black Widow movie for Marvel immediately.
The final thing I really appreciated about the movie was that it was mostly self-aware. It knew what it was and played some of the action scenes in a “yeah this is ridiculous and brutal but I mean it is pretty awesome, right?” attitude which my audience accepted pretty early on. It even played a short sex scene between Theron and the female French operative for a laugh in the spirit of “of course two guys won’t mind hearing Theron describe lesbian sex” which was directed right at the audience. The movie failed to show much self-awareness with the wild plot though.
Overall, two of the best action sequences of the last decade and a great performance by Charlize Theron is enough to overcome a needlessly complex plot that makes the movie 20 minutes longer than it should be. I want everyone to see this movie and I want David Leitch to release another action movie as soon as he can.