David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde could be this year’s Salt in which Charlize Theron does some serious spying and butt-kicking… against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall. Cleverly, the film opens with a disclaimer, emphasizing such political turmoil. Then writer Kurt Johnstad pulls a quick about face by removing the wall from our focus. Once or twice, I doubted this would all hang together. Note to self: have a little faith, Rich!
Ever the professional, Theron seeks to impress winning our empathy like a courageous athlete. She could be this generation’s Sharon Stone -- alluring and fiercely intelligent -- all the while building a résumé of substantial performances. Remember Monster? In Atomic Blonde, she remains equally brave when sharing her emotions, not wishing to hide behind sunlit curls. As such, the film’s desaturation serves to draw more attention to her eclectic spirit.
Next to her, the extended fight sequences carry fury and precision. Only months of practice and careful camera blocking can achieve this heightened perfection. Also, I got to witness a brand new use for keys. Now I’ve seen everything. Mind you, the violence doesn’t bury itself in details. Although these encounters appear fleeting, their impact feels much more indelible.
Overall, Atomic Blonde might challenge John Wick: Chapter 2. While Leitch’s film doesn’t always carry the latter’s easy-going panache, both productions rate as energetic, kindred spirits.
Time to rhyme:
Charlize Theron lights up Atomic Blonde
Though some characters end up conned.
Not far behind, there’s James McAvoy
Of his performance, much good to say.
Spies make for a compelling story
More fun than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
John Goodman appears leaner than usual.
In terms of rank, he’d make a fine admiral.
Even Sofia Boutella evolves, while keeping under wraps
A kiss she might share, with whom perhaps?
The yearly top ten it might not make
Yet Atomic Blonde works for its own sake.
Action fits the longest take
Watching it flow, steady breath intake.
A return I’ll wager most firm
As critical thought follows due term.
(Released by Focus Features and rated "R" for strong violence, language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.)