This film on paper has everything, yet on screen it just flat-lines.
The titled atomic blonde is Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), an MI6 operative sent into the depths of Berlin during the cold war to obtain a list containing sensitive information which would expose all current undercover agents on an international scale.
The execution of the plot is what essentially damages the film. With a film attempting to build deception upon deception, there is a general lack of feeling deceived, more a feeling of disappointment as you find yourself two steps ahead of the plot.
The thrills of this spy thriller come stylistically. The soundtrack is impressive and relentless on the ears. This soundtrack is vital in this film, for when the plot underwhelms it’s the music we fall back upon, and boy, does it deliver – a far cry from being dissatisfying! The soundtrack goes hand-in-hand with the action, with the music using the back-to-basics approach of those ‘old school classics’ never being a let-down, is mimicked with the fighting, using the back-to-basics method that anything can be a weapon if used with enough force.
Leaving those gun fights at the door, this film wants to showcase the brutality and stamina of its female lead, Broughton, by referring back to your standard fist fight, with the odd kitchen utensil thrown in for good measure. The casting of Theron was no mistake, as the actress oozes the sexual appeal for Broughton, whilst giving a substantial case study to how a woman can be ruthless without needing a personal tragedy as an excuse to act so ‘unwomanly’. This film literally gives the two fingers up to that notion and it works within the stylistics of the film but is let down by the mediocre plot.
Whilst Theron is seductively deadly, I do appreciate the choice of director David Leitch not to be afraid of damaging the aesthetic of his lead. The choice to make a more realistic representation of the nature of Broughton’s work, Leitch forsakes the myth that his female lead must remain visually perfect throughout, by making an example of her heavily bruised body, especially with her half swollen face at one point turns away that old fashioned notion.
Falling into that old ‘style over substance’ trap, Leitch misfires on his plot, but makes up for it stylistically.
Atomic Blonde is currently playing in all UK cinemas.