|Colours by Dario Argento|
Atomic Blonde proves one thing. It's basically impossible for an action film to get an 18 certificate anymore. Ouch.
Set during the last weeks of communist rule in Berlin and told in flashback during a government debriefing, Atomic Blonde is the story of an undercover M16 agent who gets sent to Berlin to both solve a murder and retrieve a list of government secrets.Things don't go easily for her. Of course.
Few things aside I enjoyed this. It's under 2 hrs long which is always a plus, it's funny, it's vicious, it's full of cracking action and it moves like a freight train. It has all the tropes of a spy film, the double talk, the silences, the looks, the double crossing, the eavesdropping but it's all done in such a stylish way that it never feels stale. It also looks fantastic. The colour scheme in places looks like it was ripped from a Dario Argento film which made me geek out. Just a little bit like. It's evocation of late 80's East Berlin is pretty much spot on. The drabness, the look of desperation on faces, the sheer misery. Like something out of Reeling In The Years.
Charlize Theron plays the lead, Lorraine Broughton and she just fuckin rocked it. I was expecting her to kick the shit out of dozens of blokes and my god she did it well but I wasn't expecting the subtlety she brought to her role too. Loads of meaning conveyed in sighs and glances. You can see the toll her job is taking on her without her mentioning it. She was great. She has screen presence to burn. James McAvoy as David Percival has a whale of a time as a fellow M16 agent who loves his undercover life in Berlin. Like a younger version of Bond who went a bit too mad on the women and the coke. Reminded me of his recent role in Filth too. Eddie Marsan pops up too as a Stasi agent who wants out. It's not a big role but Marsan adds a touch a calm to the storm and gets one great laugh amongst the chaos.
It's not all perfect, there's a few downsides. The framing of the flashbacks are both unnecessary and interrupting. It's choppy and ruins the flow of the film in places. It adds nothing but annoyance. Also 2 plot devices are extremely predictable, one you'll know the answer to the second it's mentioned and the other involves a character included as a way of moving things forward and something you see coming a mile away, you don't want it to happen and it's disappointing when it does.
The action though, jesus, we're here for the action and the film delivers it in spades. Brilliant stuff, clearly choreographed, easy to make out, no horrible shaky cam and absolutely wince inducing. This is director David Leitch's first full length film and he handles it all like an old pro. I can't wait to see what he does with Deadpool 2. A couple of set-pieces stood out for me. One involves a famous Russian cinematic auteur and a piece of violence I've only ever seen in a Jason Statham film. The other is a near ten minute long action sequence done in one go* that involves hand to hand combat, shoot outs and car chases and some absolutely blistering brutality, oh the brutality!. It's here that Theron really follows up on the brilliant physicality she showed in Mad Max Fury Road. She's immense.
*These scenes are rarely done in one go, if you know where to look you'll spot the joins but when it's this much fun who cares.
Lastly the soundtrack. It's just deadly. A heady mix of 80's classics, both original and cover versions and all well placed too. One scene played out to the sound of George Michael is an cracker. Only one song choice failed for me and that's because it's a song that is chronically overused and here it feels fierce out of place. That aside it's the best 80's soundtrack since Grosse Point Blank. IMO.
The couple of things I mentioned earlier aside I found this great fun. It's always great to see a woman lead in an action film in a world of films for lads. I'm generally not a fan of sequels but I'd happily go and see a follow up to this. I hope it does well enough to get one.