Atomic Blonde - This Super Cool, Super Fun Movie Cold War Rocks
Dir: David Leitch
Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, James Faulkner, Bill Skarsgard
This is in many ways a pretty standard throwback of a Cold War spy movie, brought up to date with plenty of what could be termed the “post-Raid predilection for bone crunching, ultra realistic, brutally realised violent fight scenes that appear to be shot old school practical, and generally in one seamless take – but which we know are subject to all sorts of digital trickery to fool us into thinking that’s what they are.” Or something like that.
And in the case of one half of the John Wick team Leitch’s Atomic Blonde, it is one of those very scenes that provides the movie’s extremely high highlight, as MI6 agent Theron finds herself in the middle of a protracted fight that starts on the stairs of an apartment block, moves into – and promptly demolishes – one of those apartments, before finding itself driving down the street and running over heavily bleeding bad guys. All of which appears to be one continuous take, running for several inconceivable minutes – with Eddie Marsan taping up his bullet wounds in the background. Of course, if Birdman has taught us anything, it’s that there is digital trickery afoot here – but who cares? If you can’t see the join – and you most definitely can’t – just go with the flow. It’s a bravura piece of contemporary bloody action cinema, brilliantly choreographed and staged, and delivered with such visceral impact that you may well find yourself somewhere around the edge of your seat, more than likely with you breath on inadvertent hold.
And the rest of the film is pretty good too. True, it never matches the sheer finesse and energy of this sequence, but it knows how to have fun. Leitch adapts the graphic novel The Coldest City into a ballsy, visually stylish movie, replete with striking and inventive on-screen titles throughout, a well-reconstructed Berlin just before the wall falls, and a banging ‘80s soundtrack that could give Baby Driver a run for its money, complete with the likes of New Order, Bowie, George Michael, Public Enemy and a brilliant use of the great Til Tuesday’s Voices Carry.
And then they’re Furiosa herself. Theron is not simply Jane Wick here. She’s not Wonder Woman is stockings and thigh-highs. She’s her own beast – and this is a deadly beast. As sexy and charismatic as she is brutal (and all of those attributes are – rightly – required here), she moves effortlessly through the double dealing and identity shifting that any good Cold War spy movie requires. OK, so it’s not up to much plot-wise – but then again, when was the last time you saw a movie about a bunch of spies running round killing each other whilst hunting for a micro film? How quaint! It’s so old fashioned it almost feels new again. Add to that a terrific cast – McAvoy particularly enjoying the sleaze of his turn, but also room for Marsan, Goodman and Toby Jones – and Atomic Blonde has a lot going for it.
It probably doesn’t match the sheer absurd fun of both John Wicks, but it’s not far behind. Nothing new here. Nothing great. But it really knows how to own your Saturday night, pure entertainment-wise.
(But watch out for the trailers. One of them - not the one below - show you the end scene!! Ridiculous, people)
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