When I saw the trailer for Atomic Blonde, my first thought was “John Wick but with a woman”. And when I saw that it had the same director, I was sure. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just I was concerned that it was going to try and match John Wick by following the same steps and style but ultimately falling short. Atomic Blonde is yet another film to prove me wrong this year, it doesn’t try to be a new take on John Wick, Atomic Blonde is it’s own thing.
The only thing that Atomic Blonde takes from John Wick is the way the action is done, which is the only thing it needs to. The steady camera work for John Wick as well as Keanu Revees actually doing the majority of his stunts is what made John Wick so popular and the same is done here. David Leitch did seem to take more of a hand to hand combat approach for Atomic Blonde, so while keeping with the fundamentals of John Wick, Atomic Blonde still manages to put its own twist on it.
Atomic Blonde goes in a very different direction for both its theme and story. Set around the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and with a more vibrant yet still gritty style, this is where Atomic Blonde sets itself apart. Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is a M16 agent who is sent to Berlin to retrieve a list containing an account of every agent currently in the field, including herself. She comes across agents and specialists from plenty of countries along the way and the setting really suits it. Giving it an event to not focus on but circle round does help the film in making you aware of the world the characters are in and gives the film it’s own identity. The vibrant theme I mentioned earlier helps give the film a modern feeling but doesn’t take anything away from the situation.
Atomic Blonde does take a while to get going and the plot meanders quite a bit as there is no clear direction the characters are heading in for the majority of the movie. For the first half of the movie you do frequently wonder things such as “what is Lorraine doing?”, “What’s her plan?” and “Is she getting any closer to achieving her goal?”. The film also throws names around aimlessly and you lose track of who is being spoken about and just genuinely who those people are. There are a number of twists towards the end which do pay off but at the expense of not having a concrete villain. This is particularly confusing at the start when the film seems to ebstablish a villain but then we never see him again.
The third act of Atomic Blonde is brilliant, there is a hotel fight scene which is one of the best I’ve ever seen and gives John Wick a run for it’s money. As I mentioned earlier the third act comes with some twists and turns as well as some great dramatic moments.
The score to this film is another thing that is top draw, every song fits in with the film and are placed at the rights points.
In terms of performances, while Charlize Theron is good, James McAvoy is great and actually outperforms her in my opinion. I think McAvoy might actually be at a point in his career where it’s just impossible for him to put in a poor performance. The monologue he gives towards the end is mesmerising and his fight with Sofia Boutella is intense to say the least. However I do have to give Theron major credit for going the extra mile and putting herself through vigorous training similar to what Keanu Revees did for John Wick so she could actually do the fight scenes herself, making the experience feel complete and real.
While it does suffer from its fair amount of issues, Atomic Blonde does achieve what I imagined to be David Leitch’s goal of getting the movie to stand on its own as a solid, fresh and separate take on his earlier work while still keeping the foundation. Atomic Blonde is filled with top quality action along with intense and dramatic moments which mesh perfectly with the style and theme of the film.