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Atomic Blonde

Review: Atomic Blonde

Have you ever dreamt about something that seemed so amazing that you woke up in a state of peace and reflection – but moments later a full on anxiety driven realization crashes over you that it was quite possibly the worst, nonsensical dream you have ever had the misfortune of conjuring up in that traitorous mind of yours?

Atomic Blonde is that beautiful – maybe even badass – dream that plays you like a fiddle, then leaves you in a puddle of your own tears of pain. If continuing down this particular path doesn’t faze you, take note that there will be spoilers and I have no intention of holding back.

Let’s start with the beauty. Atomic Blonde has an abundance of it. It’s all the edginess of the 80’s that we love it for, from the fashion to the rebel attitude. The costume designers did their part perfectly: trench coats, loose and distressed clothing, boots, messy hair – the works.

If you imagined that Charlize Theron would rock that era of fashion, you’d be one hundred percent correct. Actually, she looked so good I wondered how a spy with that much edge kept her identity under wraps. Maybe she wanted to stand out for a little challenge. Or maybe she was hiding in plain sight. Since she gets her ass beat by all her adversaries and their mothers, I’d make a guess that it didn’t work out for her so well.

Let’s face it. We do not just watch movies for the clothes they wear. The next amazing thing I would like to point out is the fight choreography and accompanying camera work. There comes a point during the film that Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is tasked with keeping an asset safe. Touting a record of never having lost anyone, she is fierce as things ramp up and her skills are put to the test. And she is tested.

What starts off as confident sparring on her part quickly devolved into brutal brawling that neither side seemed like they could even finish by the end. Broughton’s face looked like she made out with a meat grinder, and the fight was so long, I started to wonder if maybe some part of her wasn’t bionic. The scene was shot from beginning to end with no cutaways. It’s difficult to imagine the amount of precision it would take to accomplish that sort of scene without having a good amount of luck on your side.

Speaking of luck, Broughton gets lucky with a French woman she meets at an upscale bar. I am by no means a prude, but the girl-on-girl action was fine on it’s own without taking it as far as it did. I’m all for that, but it was too much and really didn’t add anything to the story.

Story. We covered costume design, fight choreography and cinematography, and lesbian sex, but I haven’t said anything yet about how the story was written. There’s a reason for that. I wanted you to dream peacefully before I violently shook you awake. Sorry to disappoint you, but the story lacks content. Not only does it lack content, but it tries so hard to be cool and force plot points, that it twists itself into a jumble of ideas that don’t really connect. Try to stick with me. It’s time to wake up.

The beginning of Atomic Blonde is a typical chase scene – one guy running after another. The guy being chased has something valuable, a McGuffin if you will, and the one doing the chasing really wants what he has. The pursuer gets it and as the other guy dies, he mentions a woman set him up. This is happening as the Berlin wall is set to come down.

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I must tell you that the wall’s demise has nothing more to do with the story than to serve as a way to keep track of time. It has been relegated from a symbol of rebellion and cohesiveness to something cool to add in the background.

Broughton makes an appearance on screen as she makes her way to an inquiry with an MI6 agent (Toby Jones) and a CIA agent (John Goodman) on what happened during a mission where she was supposed to meet with an undercover colleague, and help their higher ups determine whether he has turned into a threat or if he has harmlessly gone rogue.

A flashback cuts right to the very first plot hole. She’s a spy, right? If a spy is going into enemy territory, why would she get into a car with two people she hasn’t vetted? As it turns out, she met one of the men a long time ago, but couldn’t quite place him. A series of events causes the car she is in to flip, and her colleague, David Percival (McAvoy), shows up to make sure she is okay and to take her with him.

Let’s talk about the McGuffin for a second. It’s a watch that contains a well-hidden list of spies. Their lives will be in danger if the list falls into the wrong hands. One spy’s secret identity is more important than all the others because he or she is known as a double agent, codenamed Satchel.

Percival made a promise to a scientist with the codename “Spyglass” (Eddie Marsan) that he would keep him and his family safe if he delivered on a certain task he was supposed to handle. The deal fell through, but the scientist begged Percival to help anyway. Besides, he memorized the list, so he holds some value, right? Percival reluctantly agrees. The scientist is the asset I mentioned earlier that Broughton was protecting.

She kept her word. They made it through a march which left them too exposed. While they were still getting shot at, she had an amazing defense set up where people would hold up black umbrellas in solidarity over the wall coming down, and the pursuers couldn’t see them to take their shot. But… Percival shoots Spyglass so it was all for naught. Cue the 10-minute long fight scene where Broughton is fighting to save him, who is injured but not dead, followed by a car chase that ends in their car plunging into deep water and the scientist drowning. This particular series of events sort of rendered her badassery pointless and left us scratching our heads.

Remember the French woman – her name is Delphine (Sofia Boutella) – Broughton had sex with? Well, it was was more than a one-night-stand. She is also a spy, but with French intelligence. Ta da! She had heard of Broughton and wanted to meet her so she could learn something from her because she is new. She also thought she could help.

Delphine knew things about Percival and Broughton couldn’t keep her safe. And you guessed it… he killed her. She had absolutely no strong point for being in this film except for shock value in the sex scene, so it had the emotional kick of an apathetic 3-year-old in need of a good nap.

I have been telling people that if they are easily impressed by action and cinematographic skill, they would have no problem sitting through this and coming out the other side feeling like they rode the hell out of that roller coaster and would get back in line for more. But… my mom fits that category to a T and even she was disenchanted with it by the end.

So, ladies and gentleman, I would suggest you use your time to go on an all night bender, which you all know the consequences of, instead of watching this film which will leave you feeling like you went to sleep and entered a never ending nightmare of questions and self-betrayal.

Grade: C-

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