Atomic Blonde – Movie Review
Atomic Blonde – R
Release Date: Fri 28 Jul 2017
MI6 Agent Lorraine (Charlize Theron) is sent to retrieve a stolen list of agents before it can reach the KGB in late-cold-war Berlin.
Atomic Blonde is directed by John Wick director David Leitch. While Leitch and his co-director on John Wick proved they could make visceral action scenes, such is not the case with this spy story. Part of this problem is the story itself, and the rest lies in the adaptation and final cut of the film.
Lorraine is narrating the events of the film to an MI6 and CIA agent. This removes any stakes for her character up until the last few scenes that take place after her debriefing. The story is constantly chopped up as if letting a scene breathe for more than a couple of minutes will lose the audience’s interest. This is particularly frustrating as the movie sets many, many scenes to music only to abruptly cut off a song so Lorraine can tell us what her character learned. It always feels like the movie is worried about the audience staying engaged and following what is going on. It repeats information before and after action scenes.
Now there is one particularly well-executed action sequence in the film where Lorraine is protecting a man from a group of enemy spies. This scene does not have any music. The tension is there because we don’t hear a familiar song ironically describing what we’re seeing. They aren’t cutting to the beat – in fact, the entire sequence cleverly disguises cuts to make it appear as a single shot. It’s telling that the best scene in a movie that is almost entirely driven by action set to 80’s music has it’s best scene when they turn the radio off.
Atomic Blonde is not a bad film. It is a wasted opportunity. Theron and James McAvoy are great, but are let down by editing ADD and a plot that waits too long to start twisting.
Amber, Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: