Atomic Blonde, billed as a worthy extension of the film making expertise shown in the recent John Wick films with some extra bells and whistles attached; a strong female lead in Charlize Theron, breaking the mould of the generally male dominated action genre, the use of a classic 80’s soundtrack advertised to be used in a fashion similar to the soundtrack used in the hugely successful Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and of course the perfectly choreographed action sequences seen in the aforementioned John Wick films, what can go wrong right? Well, an unnecessarily long running time is all it takes to bring down what should have been a well lubed up machine.
The plot of the film is quite a simple one, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) an undercover MI6 agent is tasked with finding a stolen list containing the identities of undercover agents in Berlin during the Cold War, whilst also trying to figure out who she can actually trust during the whole operation. In the beginning the story really plays out well and manages to keep you entertained and intrigued with the use of the great soundtrack and the introduction to interesting characters such as David Percival (James McAvoy) an agent embedded in Berlin who has become somewhat of a loose cannon, all told in a very fast paced and interesting manner. However, this manner of film making really doesn’t last long as the impact of the soundtrack loses traction, as instead of being used to intensify action sequences or build tension, it is pretty much used to cover up the drabness of the over encumbering amount of montage clips used throughout the film, primarily of people changing outfits, Charlize Theron bathing or people drinking Stoli Vodka and Jack Daniels, working to really break up the film and put it at an unnecessarily slow pace for a film which was advertised as an action flick.
The action sequences themselves, which were prominent throughout the marketing campaign for the film, along with the great soundtrack, were actually far and few between in the grand scheme of things, with only around 3 big action set pieces within this overly long drag. To add insult to injury, the first two are filmed in a very choppy manner which is quite surprising considering the amount of comparisons being made between this film and John Wick, famous for its perfectly choreographed action sequences filmed in a minimal amount of shots. However, credit it where credit is due, they really pull it out the bag with the last big action sequence, shot all with one fluid camera shot with some great choreography and brilliantly raw performance from Theron, but as stated before they could have amped the sequence up more so if they creatively worked the soundtrack into it, as it would have made a nice break from purely just grunting, screaming and meaty slaps.
Much like the soundtrack and the action, the plot itself also gets lost within the film as it seems to play out extremely slowly between the, almost constant, barrage of montages and artistic shots and leaves you losing more and more interest in how the whole thing pans out, as what I imagine is meant be a big twist in the film ends up being something you aren’t all that interested in anymore and just when you think its over, the film carries on with more twists and turns which really have little meaning now they have lost your attention. The plot also isn’t helped by the fact that, even though the story itself is being told in a very slow manner, the way it is filmed seems to jump from one place with one person to another place with another person in what sometimes feels quite nonsensical manner, with the relationships between a lot of the characters all becoming a blur, partly because the film plays out in quite an erratic manner and partly due to the story being stretched very thinly and becoming extremely uninteresting.
Overall, Atomic Blonde had a huge amount of promise but really lacked in the departments which mattered, the action, which seemed to be one of the main marketing tools for the film, wasn’t what it was advertised as, the use of a great soundtrack slowly becomes saturated and overused as they decide to put all the right songs in the wrong parts of the film and the story itself, a story which could have been the real meal, ended up being a damp squib. The saving grace of this film is its stellar cast, especially James McAvoy who plays probably the stand out character of the whole film and puts in a great performance, not to dissimilar to his performance as Bruce in Filth except the intensity is dialled back slightly, well I guess dialled back quite alot.
An Atomic Gu.