Movie Review: "Atomic Blonde"
When an MI6 agent is killed for the sensitive information—known as The List—that he carried on him, Lorraine (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to retrieve it. The Cold War is at its peak and, once in Berlin, she meets her contact, Percival (James McAvoy). However, the two quickly find themselves under heavy fire from hostiles. Lorraine now believes that she is working with a traitor, who is informing to the hostile forces of her presence.
Lorraine has to find out who killed her fellow agent, find The List, and discover who the traitor is. She must also do all of this while fighting her way through hostile forces that seem to know her every move. Unfortunately, Lorraine’s superiors grow suspicious of her methods and her intentions, as they suspect she is not telling them everything. It is the middle of the Cold War, and Lorraine has found herself in Berlin with seemingly no allies, and enemies around every corner.
The Pros & Cons
The Action (+10pts)
Charlize Theron & James McAvoy (+6pts)
Writing & Timeline (-10pts)
The Soundtrack (+2pts)
Sexualized Charlize (-2pts)
Pro: The Action (+10pts)
The action was definitely where this movie was at its strongest. It was a film that was absolutely packed with action sequences and guess what, no shakey cam! Believe it or not, this movie utilized awesome action choreography that was not unlike John Wick. Where this movie differed from John Wick, was that the best action sequences of this film did not involve guns. The action in this movie was brutal, well-shot and the characters walked away battered and bruised. With every fight, Charlize's character seemed—understandably—a bit weaker than her previous brawl, which was an element that made each subsequent action sequence feel more dangerous and suspenseful than the last. I had my issues with the movie, bit the action was certainly not one of them.
Con: Satchel (-3pts)
I honestly do not know why this story point was even in the film. Basically there was this mystery person whose alias is "Satchel", and we knew literally nothing about them. All we knew was that Satchel was bad, and absolutely had to be caught. We knew that Satchel was most likely a character we had seen, but the mystery was finding out who it was. This was an extremely dumb storyline, because the filmmakers gave us no reason to care about what Satchel was up to.
If you are going to present a mystery like this, you have to at least mention what it is that this person has supposedly done. Otherwise, why should the audience care about it? The filmmakers basically said: one of the characters goes by another name and all the other characters take it very seriously so you should too. Unfortunately, due to having so little development, I had a hard time being invested in the Satchel storyline.
Pro: Charlize Theron & James McAvoy (+6pts)
Charlize Theron was great in this role as she has been with so many roles before it. On the surface, it would seem like she portrayed this character in an emotionless way. However, she was able to convey—very subtly—the emotional pain and distrust that her character felt. We never really learned the depth of it, but we knew that this was an extremely layered character that has bottled up a lot of pain, and we learned this through Charlize Theron's performance.
What can be said about James McAvoy? He absolutely transforms into his characters, and he did so again with this one. After being blown away by performances in Split, I expected to never be surprised or further impressed by this actor. Yet James McAvoy impresses me once again. Not that this role could possibly be more challenging than Split, but James McAvoy seems to give everything he has into every role he takes on. He transforms into new characters, adds intrigue and depth and does so while making audience members—such as myself—temporarily forget about his past iconic roles. It would be hard for anyone to argue against James McAvoy being one of the best actors working today, and this movie was more evidence to support his talent.
Con: Writing & Timline (-10pts)
The plot for this movie was extremely simple. An MI6 operative has been hunted and killed, while he was in possession of a secret list. Now MI6 and the CIA want to get it back, while enemy operatives are trying to retrieve it. It was a fairly simple plot, yet the filmmakers tried desperately to make it more complicated than it needed to be. They kept jumping back and forth between timelines—from the timeline of Lorraine running around in Berlin in the past, Lorraine being interrogated about the events that transpired while she was in Berlin.
Then there were the plot holes that came from making the whole movie about Lorraine recalling—to her interviewers—the events that transpired in Berlin. We saw scenes of James McAvoy‘s character on his own, even though Lorraine was nowhere to be found, so had no way of knowing about these events. This raised the question of how she could be telling the interviewers about those events. It was a minor plot hole, but a plot hole nonetheless. There were several other similar issues that I do not want to get into to avoid spoilers, but this movie had an over-complicated plot that begins to fall apart the more you think about it.
Pro: The Soundtrack (+2pts)
While I do not think anyone will be raving about how great this soundtrack was, I do think the film utilized its music very effectively. Each song set the tone of this film very well, made the scenes a lot more exciting, and kept the movie feeling fun. This did not go a long way in making up for this movie’s problems, but the movie was certainly better for using these songs than it would have been otherwise.
Con: Sexualized Charlize (-2pts)
Charlize Theron naked in a bath tub. Charlize Theron standing nude in front of a mirror. Charlize Theron putting on lingerie, which we were supposed to believe was spy-gear. Charlize Theron engaging in some girl-on-girl action.
This movie consisted of many sexualized scenes involving Charlize Theron, and it became pretty repetitive. Do not get me wrong, she was in great shape for this movie and was able to pull off these scenes. However, these scenes felt extremely unnecessary, and felt like a desperate attempt to get men into theaters to see a female led action movie. It was just obvious pandering, and I wonder if the filmmakers ever considered that audiences just want decent action, regardless of the gender of the main character.
Grade: C+ (78pts)
Atomic Blonde was a decent action movie that relied on action choreography rather than shaky cam. Its two lead actors definitely added depth to this film—with Charlize Theron capturing subtle emotional pain and James McAvoy flawlessly transforming himself into yet another interesting character. The movie starts to fall apart, however, when you begin analyzing the plot. The timelines made no sense and created an over-complicated story, and the "Satchel" storyline was so underdeveloped that it ended up wasting screen time that could have been spent elsewhere.
If you are going into this movie hoping for some good action, you will not be disappointed. If you are hoping for an interesting story, then I suggest you find another film. To be honest, however, it was not a bad movie. It had its strengths, but they were mostly balanced out by its weaknesses.