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‘Atomic Blonde’ (review)

Produced by A.J. Dix, Eric Gitter, Beth Kono,
Kelly McCormick,
Peter Schwerin, Charlize Theron
Screenplay by Kurt Johnstad
Based on The Coldest City by Antony Johnston
Directed by David Leitch
Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy,
John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan,
Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones

 

Atomic Blonde is not what it seems to be.

I went in expecting a female John Wick movie and got something even better. I loved the trailers. I was really looking forward to seeing this film.

After reading the graphic novel I was a little worried that they may have abandoned the story and this would just be a “loosely based on” type of action film.

I was wrong.

Thank god I was wrong.

The new film from director David Leitch and screen writer Kurt Jonstad is one part John LeCarre spy yarn, a generous splash of John Wick action, a shot of James Bond and a twist of La Femme Nikita all shaken and not stirred into a powder keg of an espionage-action film.

Set against the backdrop of 1989 Berlin during the fall of the Wall and the end of the Cold War as we knew it and based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde is all Charlize Theron at her most seductive and badass.

Theron plays an MI6 minder agent sent into the heart of West Berlin to recover a list that has been stolen with every known Western and Eastern spy and their operational networks.

In a race against the Russians, she is to meet with the head of Berlin Station, David Percival (brilliantly portrayed by James McAvoy), and help him get back the list and the man who originally stole it, a double agent named SPYGLASS. Everything goes to hell when her cover is blown and the Russians move in. To tell you any more would be to spoil it all.

Double crosses, dead drops, double agents and a healthy dose of red herrings all culminate to an edge of your seat thriller with fantastic action sequences that would make the aforementioned John Wick fans swoon. A myriad of bone breaking ballets ensue where the action is never confusing or lost in a shaky camera and terrible editing. Superbly choreographed and expertly shot fight scenes are beautiful and exhausting where you feel every hit, kick and throw. Every gun shot is a precise and deadly explosion of energy that is as brutal as it is deadly.

The original graphic novel, The Coldest City reads like most any other well written spy book. What Litch and Jonstad have done is injected it with adrenaline and set it to a “greatest hits” of 80’s must have music. They have retained the feel of the book as well as the very smart dialogue and intricate plot devices and twists of the original story. They have even added a few new ones that I enjoyed very much.

It would be very easy to create a stylized and almost caricature version of the time period, the end of the 80’s. The film makers have actually lovingly recreated the turmoil and clash of cultures that was Eastern Europe during the end of the Cold War. This not only is important to the story itself but it adds to the kinetic and often unpredictable nature of the business of espionage at hand.

I love a well made spy film and this is definitely one. I now add this to my list of MUST HAVE films. I highly recommend this and would almost go so far as to say it is one of my favorite films this year, so far.

 

 

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