Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Review - Atomic Blonde
Lorraine Broughton is in pain. A man she was close with was killed, so that explains the inner pain, but we don't know how she got all those cuts and bruises. We'll find out soon enough, though, that she got them in quite fantastic fashion.
So begins Atomic Blonde, the most ass-kinkingest movie of the year. Charlize Theron stars as the top secret agent in MI6, a modern feminist James Bond with a killer bod and a particular set of skills. After a colleague (and probable lover, the film never makes it clear and is better for it) is shot while retrieving a MacGuffin in Berlin, Lorraine was shipped in to find the MacGuffin and bring it back home, or else the enemy Russians would know the identity of every British and American agent. But Berlin during the time of the Wall is a dangerous place, and Lorraine runs into trouble before she even gets to meet her contact, Berlin station chief David Percival (James McAvoy). And that's just the beginning.
Hold onto your butts. This is gonna be one helluva bumpy ride.
Atomic Blonde is adapted from the graphic novel The Coldest City and directed by David Leitch, and you couldn't find anyone better-suited to the material than the man who co-directed the relentless John Wick. This one ups the ante on that in just about every possible way: The pumping '80s New Wave soundtrack sets the tone right from the very first scene, when New Order's "Blue Monday" kicks in. The cinematography uses the neon lights of the '80s in stunning ways. Charlize Theron is on fire in every way, oozing charisma in every frame AND doing her own stunts. And then, there's THAT SCENE.
About halfway through the film, there is an eight-minute fight sequence that looks for all the world like it was accomplished in a single take. It's jaw-dropping, and epically brutal, even given how brutal all the fight scenes in the film up until that point have been. I've never seen a fight scene that puts you right in the middle of the action before - you feel every blow to the body, every knife stab, every gunshot, right along with Charlize and her male assailants. It elicited every reaction you can think of from the test audience I saw it with - who all erupted in applause when it ended.
And that's not the only impressive piece of direction on display. Almost immediately following, there's another long single take of a car chase (think Children of Men meets The Italian Job). There's another fight scene that takes place in silhouette in front of a movie screen showing Tarkovsky's Stalker. There is an off-the-charts hot sex scene between Charlize and Sofia Boutella (as an intrepid Parisian operative). The film even manages to a tricky plot that doesn't reveal its hand until its very last minute. And there is a shocking amount of perfectly deadpan humor. As punishing as the film is in its action sequences, it never forgets to lighten the atmosphere with a little laughter.
Atomic Blonde is action filmmaking at its absolute finest. Even in its quieter moments, director David Leitch and cinematographer Jonathan Sela (another John Wick alum) never let up - there is always something to tantalize your senses, be it the stylish lighting, the kickass costumes, the best score of the year, or just Charlize Theron's face. The aughts have found their new action goddess in Charlize Theron, making good on all that Imperator Furiosa promise in spectacular fashion. She's the real deal here, a mega-talented, award-winning actress who never forgets about the character when she's doing her own stunts (how great is it that in the past two months we've gotten both Charlize in this AND Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman?!). That's a rare thing, and Atomic Blonde follows her lead, never forgetting that there's more to the movie than just the (amazing) action. It's the best film of the year so far.