David Leitch imbues a stylistic fervour in Atomic Blonde; a picture illuminated by its indelible neon glow, portraying the city of Berlin in an affectionate, striking light – and yet the film never compromises on its commitment to brutality. Similar to the likes of Sin City and Drive, the filmmaker maintains an almost cartoon-like approach to give it a licence to display graphic violence, sex, and pretty much everything in between.
Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, hired by the British government to head off to the German capital to work alongside David Percival (James McAvoy) and help to reclaim an all important list, that if left in the hands of the KGP, could well prolong the Cold War by decades. As she arrives, she finds herself an instant target, but Lorraine lives by the notion of keeping her friends close and her enemies even closer, the problem is, she finds it difficult to differentiate between the two. Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) seems to be the man with the information, while she finds an ally in Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) – but with several people hunting her down, she has to ensure to not only get the job at done while the clock is ticking – but to stay alive in the process.
Leitch cleverly ties in this overstated, overtly cinematic narrative with the real world, using the events of the fall of the Berlin wall as a setting to depict this complex tale. Tapping in to the socio-political context of the time, exploring that sense of hope and change around the city, while also veering into the intensity that existed, it’s fascinating twist on a historical occurrence we know all too well. That being said, and while this title triumphs greatly from a visual perspective; the narrative takes a few too many convoluted turns, and sadly for Leitch – a fair few of them are all too easy to predict.
Stylistically Atomic Blonde succeeds however, and the soundtrack is emblematic of this notion, with a punky 80s vibe that is not only used to add to the coolness that emanates off the screen, but it helps drive the narrative forward, as such an imperative aspect of the some of the film’s most memorable scenes. Conversely, the film’s very best sequence features no music at all, and is all the better for it, as a brutal fight breaks out between our hero and several men trying desperately to kill her in an apartment block stairway. All we hear are the thumps and groans, in what may just be the very best choreographed combat scene you’ll see on the big screen this year (you can definitely tell Leitch comes from a background in stunt coordination).
It’s this which gives us hope that Leitch is the perfect choice to take over the helm of the Deadpool franchise, for when Atomic Blonde is brilliant, it’s thanks to moments that can mostly be accredited to the man in the director’s chair. There’s a remarkable tone, an atmosphere that he has created and injected into proceedings which makes for such engaging cinema. And in the meantime the film works as a love letter to the city of Berlin, capturing that intangible essence of the place – making for a truly special setting, in a pretty special movie.
Atomic Blonde is released on August 9th