Movie Reviews: 'Atomic Blonde'
Has 2017 had enough badass female protagonists? I ask because as of now, Wonder Woman is dominating the domestic box office, but before that, there was Dafne Keene as X-23 from Logan, Brie Larson's Justine from Free Fire, and despite the controversy, Scarlett Johansson kicked Major ass in Ghost in the Shell. Today's feature add's Charlize Theron to that roster in David Leitch's solo directorial debut, Atomic Blonde.
Based on the Oni Press graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, the story revolves around Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron). Equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, she is willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on an impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to retrieve a priceless dossier from within the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through a deadly game of spies.
There's just no way I wasn't going to love this movie unconditionally. Unlike David Leitch's previous film John Wick, the reception is a lot more polarizing. I'll respond to the biggest criticisms soon, but for now, here are the film's 2 major selling points.
The first one is quite clearly Charlize Theron, who was a producer on top of starring in the film. I could feel the passion and commitment she has to the performance oozing from the screen. She's already made her case several times before that she's a badass, but this might actually be her best performance since 2003's Monster. That passion only helps to elevate everyone else she interacts with, including James McAvoy as Percival, Sofia Boutella as the stunningly beautiful Delphine, Eddie Marsan as Spyglass, Toby Jones as Eric Gray, and John Goodman as Emmett Kurtzfeld.
It's time for everyone to grovel at the feet of director David Leitch, one half of the team behind 2014's sleeper hit John Wick. Before that film, he and his partner in crime, Chad Stahelski spent the majority of their career as stunt choreographers and/or stunt men on films such as The Matrix, Fight Club, 300, V for Vendetta, and several others. That sort of experience makes him the perfect choice to direct any film with this much visceral, stylized action. I can't spoil the details, but there are two, arguably three set pieces that may go down in history as some of the best in the genre, and one of them involves a weaponized house appliance.
Now, as I mentioned before, not everyone is going to be on the same page with this movie, and I can pin point the exact reasons why.
The biggest issue people take with the film is the story, and even then the complaints go in completely different directions. On the one hand, you have people saying that the plot was too confusing, that they couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on. I can't agree with that, because unless you just weren't paying attention, the story was fairly straight forward.
Conversely, there's another group who feels as if the plot was too predictable. This one I can at least understand where they're coming from, based on certain casting decisions and the trail of breadcrumbs that came with it. But in this genre, why is predictability a bad thing? Movies are about the journey, not the destination. I don't need every movie to reinvent the storytelling wheel, I just need that wheel to be sturdy enough to carry the other elements that make the experience worth the price of admission.
Finally, I have to shine the spotlight on composer Tyler Bates, who might just be the musical MVP of the year. He's already been the secret sauce sprinkled on top of franchises such as John Wick and Guardians of the Galaxy, but he's also crushed it in television with Samurai Jack Season 5 and the upcoming Punisher series on Netflix. I love that this movie is set during the 80's, because that means we get to hear some fresh new arrangements of New Order's "Blue Monday" and Nena's "99 Luftballons," as well as the classics from various chart toppers of that decade.
These are only my initial thoughts on Atomic Blonde, as I definitely plan on seeing this one multiple times. As of now, it's pretty much tied with John Wick 2 in my top 20 films of the year. It's firing on all cylinders for me, continuing the winning streaks for everyone both in front of and behind the camera, for comic book movies, and for female driven films as well.