Quite frankly, I have no idea what happened in this movie. No, this isn’t some complex multi-narrative experience like Dunkirk. Atomic Blonde just makes no goddamn sense. At its core, it’s a neon-lit Charlize Theron killing dudes in various degrees of brutality, but there is, apparently, a plot that went with that as well. We find ourselves in the final days of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall is about to tumble, but this isn’t that story. It’s a tale of espionage, former lovers and a list of operatives who, if in the wrong hands, could not only bring down MI6, but also potentially start World War 3. Stakes are high, or at least we’re told they are. It’s never actually felt. But still, Charlize Theron is here is kick a bunch of ass and have a lot of sex. What more could you want from cinema?
Director David Leitch knows how to shoot an action sequence. His career started out as a stunt coordinator, only recently moving into directing with John Wick and only just now directing by himself. But his former career shows. The stunt work is comparable to cinema’s finest. You feel every blow, you react to every shot, and when an extended one-shot hallway fight goes down, you can’t look away. It’s an unforgivingly violent encapsulation of everything that makes this film so fun. A lot of the shot sees Theron just running up and down stairs, but when the enemies come, they instantaneously wish they hadn’t. The shot boasts so many of the film’s high points, whether it’s the stunt work, cinematography or Theron’s dedicated performance.
The film even boasts an epic 80s soundtrack that bounces us from scene to scene. But no matter how impressive the soundtrack may be, even with plenty of generic “look at me” songs, the recent success of Baby Driver has spoilt me. After seeing the way that movie matches music with its action, nothing else can even compare. Everyone that tries, even films made simultaneously (both this and Baby Driver first premiered at SXSW earlier in the year), just can’t live up to Baby Driver’s hype. But, alas, everyone involved looks to be having so much fun, and it shows in their performances. McAvoy is clearly having a hoot doing whatever the hell it was his character was doing (I still don’t understand him…), whereas Theron is slowly turning into a modern day action star and I love it.
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