- Actors: John Goodman, James McAvoy, Bill Skarsgard
- Disc Format: 4K, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
- Dubbed: Spanish, French
- Region: Region A/1
- Number of discs: 2
- Rated: R
- Studio: Universal
- Release Date: November 14, 2017
- Run Time: 115 minutes
There is nothing more upsetting than being misled by a film’s marketing campaign, and coming to this realization in the middle of a disappointing film experience. From the action-packed trailers of Atomic Blonde, one might have expected that the film would be the female equivalent to the John Wick franchise, but in actuality it is far less an action movie than it is a spy film that just happens to have a few action sequences. But since the trailer shows all of these action sequences and little else, audiences may be disappointed by how much of the movie is missing this intensity and by how many of the key sequences were already seen in the advertisements. There is still a decent film in Atomic Blonde, but it doesn’t feel like the same one that was promised by the high-octane marketing campaign.
Set during the Cold War in Berlin, an undercover MI6 agent named Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron with a rarely convincing British accent) is sent to investigate the murder of a fellow agent. There is a list of double agents that is missing, and Lorraine must find it before others are also killed. Partnering with an embedded station chief named David Percival (James McAvoy), Lorraine must solve the mystery and find the list before her own identity is discovered and she becomes the next target. Little does Lorraine know, the list is tied to a man named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), and everyone seems to be out to find him or kill him, from double agents to the KGB.
The plot seems purposefully sparse, but that does not stop the narrative from becoming convoluted with unnecessary characters. One of the major changes made from the graphic novel was the decision to make Lorraine bisexual, so that there are multiple sex scenes including a male fantasy lesbian liaison that does absolutely nothing for the narrative. If nothing else, it simply gives the film more reason to provide delays between the action sequences. The other focus which takes away from the visceral excitement is the mystery at the center of the film, but it is not nearly engaging enough to retain the suspense needed in-between the occasional scenes of fighting.
Although there is not much emphasis on the action (Atomic Blonde is rated R for “sequences of strong violence,” whereas John Wick was rated the same for “strong and bloody violence throughout”), the sequences that are included happen to be quite impressive. Even if some of the haphazard choreography in early sequences seems to be trying to show a realistic depiction of a female spy, the movie really takes off in the stylistic battles near the close of the movie. There is an impressive single-take fight scene followed by a stylishly shot car chase that is more astonishing for its cinematography than for any fight choreography, but it is a welcome relief from much of the movie’s attempt to simply depict characters as cool and sexy, even when they don’t do all that much.
In order to succeed, Atomic Blonde relies on Theron’s ability to carry the film, which is mostly effective. While her uneven accent can be explained away by one of the sillier plot developments, this does nothing to get rid of the self-aware posturing that Theron does for much of the movie. Often it feels like the definition of a vanity project, with Theron seeming all too aware of how cool she looks from sequence to sequence, even if it only serves to distract from the narrative. McAvoy, on the other hand, manages to chew the scenery in a role that is distinctly against type, but never feels less than committed to the role. He manages to indulge the style of the film without losing sight of the character, which can’t be said of his co-star, who might as well be in a perfume ad for much of the movie.
The 4K Ultra HD presentation of the film really becomes noticeable in the neon-riddled misé en scene and sepia toned cinematography, with colors that seem to pop off the screen. Those impressed with the period-accurate pop soundtrack (mostly using German-language versions) will also find that the immersive audio on the disc will make full use out of your home theater system. There are no special features on this disc, but there is a Blu-ray copy also included, and that contains the extras. There are a variety of featurettes about various characters/actors in the film and the Berlin setting, along with a handful of deleted/extended scenes, but the highlight is an anatomy of one of the fight scenes and a commentary track with director David Leitch and editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir. There are also animated storyboards for two of the sequences in the film, and the package comes with a code for a Digital copy. Atomic Blonde is also available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 7/10