Magazine article Screen International

'Atomic Blonde': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Atomic Blonde': Review

Article excerpt

Sleek and superficial, this high-octane action film tests Charlize Theron’s new-found box office powers

Dir: David Leitch. US. 2017. 115mins

Like its stylish, lethal heroine, Atomic Blonde gets the job done with brutal efficiency - and yet, for a thriller with such a large body count and bullet wounds, it’s an oddly bloodless affair. Despite a smorgasbord of high-octane action filmmaking, its thimble-deep characters and strained political commentary repeatedly stall what should be a wonderfully trashy shoot-‘em-up. Playing a superspy sent into Berlin at the end of the Cold War, Charlize Theron exudes all the icy cool one could want, helping to sell a film that tries too hard to convince us of its badass credentials.

Statuesque and steely, Charlize Theron makes Lorraine seem menacing even when she’s completely still

Atomic Blonde arrives in American theatres on July 28 and UK screens on August 9, hoping to capitalise on Theron’s commercial cachet following Mad Max: Fury Road and The Fate Of The Furious. Considering that it’s directed by David Leitch, one of the two filmmakers responsible for the 2014 cult smash John Wick, action aficionados should turn out in droves.

Set at the tail end of 1989, the film stars Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an elite MI6 spy assigned to Berlin to rendezvous with local station chief Percival (James McAvoy), who might know the whereabouts of a mysterious man (Eddie Marsan) with access to a top-secret file that contains the identities of Western agents working in the city. Lorraine must find this man before the KGB does, but she’s not sure whether she can trust Percival.

Based on the 2012 graphic novel series The Coldest City, Atomic Blonde reeks of sleekness. Leitch and cinematographer Jonathan Sela drape each widescreen scene in grungy, low-lit ambiance in order to capture the urgency of a divided, restless city just as the Berlin Wall is about to collapse. The film’s narrative is equally flashy: Atomic Blonde is told in flashbacks as Lorraine is interrogated by her MI6 boss (Toby Jones) and a stoic CIA operative (John Goodman) in London, the action darting back and forth between the tense interview and her time in Berlin. Screenwriter Kurt Johnstad hasn’t just crafted an action movie but also a mystery, teasing the audience with questions about how Lorraine’s face and body are so bruised and what happened during her mission.

Leitch and his John Wick directing partner Chad Stahelski used their experience as stunt coordinators to craft a visceral, balletic series of fight sequences that were shocking in their intimacy and intensity. …

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