Tuesday 15 August 2017

Film: 'Atomic Blonde'

I came out of this totally fatigued after having my senses pummeled into almost giving up - specifically eyes and ears, though also my poor brain! They still hurt on the morning after.
Merciless violence which would have been understandable were it played as comic-book farce with an underlying charm or irony, only this full-frontal assault was bereft of all humour that I could trace. All so damned serious!

It's Berlin, 1989, just a few days before the wall was knocked down. (Good to see the then-divided city as the location, both East and West, for more than 90% of this film - even though for much of the location work, in reality Budapest was used). 

All the action takes place entirely in flashback from an interrogation in London of British secret agent, Charlize Theron, by her boss (Toby Jones) with CIA in attendance (John Goodman) - both Jones and Goodman having little otherwise to do. 
Theron had been sent to Berlin on a mission to recover a list of names of double-agent operatives which the nasty Russians have got wind of and whose possession of same could bring the whole of western intelligence crashing down. One man (Eddie Marsan) there has got the entire list committed to memory and so has to be got out and brought back to London. 
Assisting the operation (or is he?) and already there is crew-cutted James McAvoy, another British agent, who fires on all cylinders when it's called for when he lets rip like there's no tomorrow. But it's Theron who delivers most of the full-throttle, physical action, single-handedly despatching countless numbers of police, armed agents and assorted anti-Western rotters, coming at her in groups rather than singly. However, that's no problem for her many efficient talents, even if she has to use her hands as weapons with unerring aim and against their firearms. Spurting and splashing blood and cracking bones abound. 
Nonetheless, it's not relentlessly uninterrupted noisy combat. The many fights are interspersed with periods of repose, mainly during Theron's interview, heavy with long silences and sarcastic responses. There is also a certain romance which Theron engages in to achieve her aim (all in the cause of duty, you understand) while on her Berlin mission. 

The many twists (double and triple) really started to leave me breathless, particularly when the final scenes came about. It was all so much to take in that by the time the final credits appeared my head hurt! Trying to play it back in my mind afterwards - was this character really working for this side all along? - was futile so I gave up and consigned it to the out-tray of give-up-on-it confusion. I don't know if it was supposed to all tie up neatly and make sense, but if that was the case it was lost on me.

This is only director David Leitch's second full-length feature (after 2014's 'John Wick' with Keanu Reeves, unseen by me), and he does invest some most effective work in the many well-executed combats here, though in the final analysis it's all adrenalin-pumping, superficial excitement.

I did like the film's energy but felt the overall cold, gloom-ridden seriousness of the whole enterprise played against making it completely satisfactory 'entertainment' for me. 
There's an impressive soundtrack of hits and electro-pop of that time.

There has been a dichotomy of views on this film. From what I've seen, the majority have liked it, and many of these by a lot. However, there is sizable and vocal opposing opinion, including some outright detestation. I certainly wouldn't go so far as the latter. While not quite sitting on the fence, I'll start slipping down on one side.................6.


  1. Charlize Theron could have been a great actress--and there's still time--but she's decided to go for the easy paycheck and the big budget Female Bond Kickass Movie.
    I won't be seeing this.

    1. Her role here is presented as something of a cypher, Bob. It's not as intriguing as the makers expect. It's more "Oh, so what?" She didn't have to use much emotional depth, only in the unexpected 'romance', though even there I was wondering if this was for real or was she playing the other to get what she wanted? I didn't much care, actually. Theron seems to be on a downward slide, which this film confirms.

  2. Dear Raybeard, I came out of just watching the telly previews totally fatigued. And I agree with Bob. When Charlize first hit the scene I thought she was going to be a amazing actress. But the parts she picks these days...... I feel she is just becoming a disposable actress.

    1. Yes, M.M. This film won't do anything positive for her C.V.
      It's not a film to sleep through - rather one to keep you awake. Not exactly a mess either, though it does come dangerously close to it. What made it of particular interest to me was that I was living in Germany at the time of the fall of the Wall, and Berlin is one of my favourite cities, having spent five stays there. Were it not for that my rating might have been lower.