Atomic Blonde has people talking. Erik Davis on Twitter writes, “ATOMIC BLONDE hits so freaking hard and @CharlizeAfrica is wildly badass in it. Fun twisty spy thriller w/ great music & wild fights #sxsw.” Bend the Neil has lots to say as well: “It’s as if someone decided to make a Bourne film with Charlize Theron, but with John Wick-level violence. #SXSW.” Atomic Blonde was all this and more, and I’ll explain why this new addition to super spy cinema is a must see.
I’m writing this article partially out of fear.
I’m afraid people are tired of seeing the same old cliché action movies. I almost didn’t see this one for that very reason. I mean the title even rhymes with Bond! Despite the worries I walked in with, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the time I walked out.
Atomic Blonde is not just another spy- action movie. It’s better.
Yes, it contains the gratuitous violence, steamy sex scenes, and intense gun fights expected from spy thrillers. But it’s the unique, refreshing, and artistic ways it portrays each of these that makes this movie special.
Let’s start with the violence. In Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron redefines what it means to “fight like a girl.”
She’s one of the few stars in the action movie genre who doesn’t use a stunt double in any of her scenes. In preparation for the film, Theron worked out four hours a day for two and a half months: all the while learning martial arts, boxing and wrestling throws (Davidson at Delish). Davidson writes that she “twisted her knee, bruised her ribs, and cracked two teeth while getting in shape for the role” (Delish). So, her ferociousness on screen was not just movie magic. Every wince, grunt, and scream heard when she takes hits are reflections of the pain she went through in training. Check out a neat video for more on this here: https://youtu.be/GdB1XP8rpx8
And all that training paid off. The hand to hand combat in this movie is staggering to witness. I remember one of the first combat scenes. Like a cobra, Theron lashes out at an agent, striking him in the throat. Then, she kicks his leg out from the side and pulls a dresser down on top of him. She moves with inhuman speed and strikes with deadly precision.
And she doesn’t need fancy spy gadgets like James Bond. She’s more comparable to Jason Bourne, because she only has her body, a pistol, and the environment around her as weapons. I’d argue though that she’s even tougher and more impressive than Bourne. She’s sort of a combination of Bourne and Bond. She’s got the edginess of Bond and the resourcefulness of Bourne.
For one, there’s the setting. Atomic Blonde is set in the middle of the Cold War. Many of the action sequences take place amidst the protest of the Berlin Wall. It’s quite spectacular to see the sheer amount of people at the protest on the big theater screen. Next, the soundtrack is superb; it matches the different scenes well. Lastly, the realism of the battles is quite remarkable. Each punch, kick, and gunshot seems so real that the audience feels like they’re part of the action. This is one of the main reasons that this is a must-see theater showing. The theater speakers convey the power behind each of Theron’s blows, and every gun- shot sounds like a thunderclap. The theater experience increases the realism and intensity of the movie, and it’s worth the big bucks.
My criticisms of this film include the plot and the enemy agents.
The directors tried too hard to make Theron’s character mysterious, and this led to a confusing story. It was meant to be complex but at times, it just felt convoluted. Additionally, the movie shifted from her mission in Berlin to an interview scene in which Theron’s character reports to her superiors. I was not a fan of these frequent shifts from fast paced action to slow paced interrogation. I think the interrogation should be one scene at the end of the film. That way, the story would flow better and be easier to follow. However, some people may see the interrogation scenes as much needed breaks from the brutal violence.
My last criticism deals with the enemy agents that our protagonist faced. I remember Theron beating the crap out of one agent, stabbing him, and then shooting him in the stomach. As she drove away, he leapt onto the hood of her car while it was still moving! She ran him over to finish him off. There were several other instances of ridiculously hard to kill enemies. But, who am I to judge?
Maybe there was a zombie apocalypse the directors forget to mention? Maybe these were the same super soldiers seen in The Bourne Legacy? Perhaps they were robots from the future trying to terminate our blond badass? Or, maybe the directors simply ran out of money and didn’t want to hire any more stuntmen? Who knows?
If that sounded like a lot of criticism, understand that it wasn’t my intention.
This movie is an excellent addition to the action movie genre. And while its fighting scenes are sometimes an overkill, I like that the directors tried to portray to us just how brutal fights can be (especially between highly trained secret agents).
I really hope everyone gets the chance to see this one. You don’t want to miss it!