Set right before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Atomic Blonde sets its sights on being one of the most action-packed films of 2017. The film follows MI6 intelligence agent Lorraine Broughton’s (Charlize Theron) assignment to ensure the safety of Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a man with a photographic memory who holds the list of some highly classified agent information that everyone on all sides seems to want. Theron is assisted by David Percival (James McAvoy), another agent, but one who isn’t really interested in working with Lorraine. Add to that the possibility of a double agent and an interrogation and things start to get a bit murky.
David Leitch’s film is stylish and pops with the occasional color amid steely grays and metallic hues. The setting is as dim as the situation but Leitch isn’t interested in exploring much of the political setting surrounding the coming down of the Berlin Wall that exists within the film throughout, but feels more like an afterthought. The plot itself is extremely thin and any in-depth characterizations are practically non-existent. “Atomic Blonde” is more concerned with being highly stylized (and it is) than anything else.
Because of this, it lacks any kind of emotion or true connection with the characters, save for Sofia Boutella’s Delphine Lasalle, who, out of everyone, exhibits the most raw sense and range of emotion. Despite this lack of connectivity, what the film does do well is energize itself with its intensely executed and highly well-made action sequences. Most of the action is hand-to-hand combat and it really transitions the film from spy thriller to simply being an action film through and through. The action scenes are spectacularly well-choreographed and what’s best is that they’re not chaotic in the sense that you can’t tell what’s happening. It’s obvious there was great care put into the stunt scenes and it really shines through as a standout in the film.
Although the plot barely exists, most of “Atomic Blonde” does play out like a mind game. The stakes are there and the action sequences are tight. However, there is never any real, authentic investment with the way things turn out. The film’s finale becomes surprising and, at the same time, unsurprising twist in events. It also brings into question the entire point of the film, which McAvoy’s character brings to attention in the latter half of the film while looking directly into the camera and addressing the audience. Plot-wise, the film is decidedly lacking in several areas. Despite that, Charlize Theron and the rest of the cast bring their A-game in their performances. Theron, in particular, walks a fine line between a cold and shell-like exterior (and nails it, of course), but lets her guard down in the most intimate of moments with Boutella’s character, arguably the kindest and most human of them all.
Although the plot barely exists, most of "Atomic Blonde" does play out like a mind game. The stakes are there and the action sequences are tight. However, there is never any real, authentic investment with the way things turn out.