Some fanart of Charlize Theron as James Bond has been doing the rounds of social media recently. After seeing Atomic Blonde, it’s not hard to see why.
Based on the graphic novel, The Coldest City, the film comes from David Leich, co-director of John Wick.
The story takes place in East Berlin, days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a British spy, tasked with finding a double agent with the help of David Percival (James Mcavoy).
Charlize Theron is impossibly cool as Broughton, with an icy aloofness and killer style that beats the hell out of any Bond in recent memory. The soundtrack and visual aesthetic of the film pair perfectly with it’s magnetic lead, propelling the audience through the runtime with pulsing 80’s beats and and flashing neon.
James Mcavoy brings a greasy sort of charm to his portrayal of Percival, and he works well as a swaggering foil to Theron’s detached calm and immaculate fashion. However occasionally his portrayal comes off as cartoonish and forced, particularly near the films climax.
John Goodman and Toby Jones fill out the supporting cast as intelligence officials, but are underutilised and essentially just spout exposition.
Sofia Boutella puts in a solid performance as french operative Delphine Lasalle, and shares a memorably steamy scene with Theron early on. This definitely isn’t a film to watch with your parents.
The actual plotting of Atomic Blonde is it’s weakest point, but I’ll mention it only briefly, because it’s a minor consideration next to how good it is at everything else.
In John Wick, Leich based his film on a superbly simple premise, which never got in the way of our enjoyment of the action onscreen.
Retired super-assassin wants revenge for his murdered puppy. Done. Take my money.
Atomic Blonde sets up so many plot threads that it occasionally becomes tangled, and we are kept guessing far beyond when we are kept caring.
Thankfully, due to its strength elsewhere, the film’s the muddled story feels more like a missed opportunity than a crippling flaw.
Leichs’ particular flair for action choreography is on full display throughout the whole film, and the set piece sequences are some of the best I’ve seen. Fights are messy, brutal and visceral in a way that so many blockbuster flicks have lost touch with. Theron is never mindlessly dispatching improbable hordes of bumbling enemies, she’s taking them down one painful encounter at a time.
Lorraine Broughton is lethal and skilled, but always believable, she gets hurt, and she stay’s hurt. The scenes of Lorraine struggling through her injuries help ground the film and keep the violence affecting.
While Wonder Woman has been making headlines as the aspirational female hero film that we needed, I would argue that Atomic Blonde is doing something just as important. This movie casts a powerful woman as the hard drinking, sexually dominant and effortlessly cool spy-a character that has till now almost exclusively been portrayed by male actors.
Haphazard plot aside, this movie proves that Charlize Theron can go toe to toe with any action hero, and that she deserves her own franchise. Luckily, I can practically hear a sequel being green-lit as I type this.
Running Time: 115 MIN
Director: David Leitch
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella
Production Studio: Denver and Delilah Productions, Closed on Mondays Entertainment, 87Eleven
Distributor: Focus Features / Universal Pictures