Until a few weeks ago, I had not even heard about the latest action movie of the summer, Atomic Blonde. Somehow it had managed to slip under my radar, despite sounding like a biography of Donald Trump in the last few weeks.
Charlize Theron stars as the lead assassin/spy who is being interviewed about her latest mission by CIA man John Goodman and MI6 guy Toby Jones. Tasked with infiltrating the German capital in the final days before the Berlin Wall came down, her mission (should she have chosen to accept it) was to recover a stolen list of agents and, along the way, uncover a mole who is leaking information. Yes, the same storyline essentially as the first Mission: Impossible film which I have a soft spot for, so they had better do a good job. She is accompanied by James McAvoy who is the main British man in Berlin.
Okay, first things first, I did not enjoy this movie. But there are a few positives and I shall quickly get through those so I can moan. Theron is great as a female spy and that is something that cannot be denied. She is cool, calm, badass but, at the same time, vulnerable. I love my Bond films but I never really get worried about Bond- it’s not like he is going to die anytime soon. The drama there comes from how he will overcome the villain. With this film, I genuinely became concerned about the star at times and whether she would survive, albeit for one of my upcoming faults. Secondly, it is quite a pretty film, if a little dreary and grey sometimes. However it is West/East Berlin so you can’t expect much better. Finally, one of the action scenes is truly epic. It takes place in a dingy block of flats and plays out as mostly one continuous shot and it is very cool.
But that is about it because this film bored the living daylights (Bond pun intended) out of me, save for the one fight scene. Talking of those, there is the one good scene even though there is only about three or four in total. Half are drowned out with music befitting of the time period but not with the film they have created. Seemingly inspired by recent hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and Baby Driver, the songs come thick and fast. The former uses them in quieter moments and to tie you into an alien world with human music. The latter uses musical cues to match the beats of the story and action. Here, the songs do neither and detract from the action occurring on screen; they are just there to make the audience think “OOOOO, I LIKE THAT SONG.” The one action scene is noteworthy for its excellent lack of music.
But perhaps the spy plotline is compelling? No. The fault I noted that detracted from the jeopardy was that Theron’s character is alive and talking about the mission in an interrogation. So we know she survives. This can be done well in films, but not here where they try and make her seem vulnerable. The actual details of the story make almost no sense either. Events happen with little consequence and meaning and left me very much confused. I had to look up the plot afterwards to check what really occurred, something I haven’t had to do in a long time. Perhaps it is meant to feel ambiguous, as if you are a spy in an unknown world of traitors but there is such a thing as too ambiguous. But then there is the oddly obvious nature with regards to the mole. I won’t spoilt it (although if I could it might help to explain it to you better) but I felt like I knew who it was for the entire film… Then they made it seem like a shock towards the end when I felt like I already knew who it was. But suddenly, it seemed like a twist happened- someone else was apparently the mole which I quite liked… Although it doesn’t play like a twist… And then a final bit of dialogue made it seem what I originally thought was true… “What?” I hear you say. Exactly.
I have seen other critics more excited about this film but I feel like they must have watched something different to me. I was not invested in the story or the world that the film portrays and Theron may have given a nice kickass performance but I didn’t care for her character. The action is dull except for one great scene and music is used cheaply instead of cleverly. It’s not even a dumb action movie to switch your brain off to. Get busy living.