David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde opened to a full house at its Canadian premiere (at the Fantasia Festival). Anticipation was high for this supercharged slugfest. Expecting action? It’s here. Hoping for plot twists? Satisfactory. Is it effective overall? Open to interpretation.
Charlize Theron is beautiful, her co-star James McAvoy is sexy with intensity, and careful attention was given to the sets. At home, Theron is always bathed in blue light. Location shots depict Berlin’s quaint little streets like a tourist pamphlet. 80’s music lovers will be happy with the soundtrack. However, the alignment between song selection and the corresponding action may either be a roaring success, or completely cheesy. It’s hard to tell if the film is being serious or if we’re to assume a certain level of cheekiness. It comes off almost bratty the way Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” appears ever so efficiently when one character is telling another a secret that probably should not have been shared. This manner of matching the action to a song is either brilliantly mastered, or completely over-the-top depending how much importance we attribute to it. The hyperbole continues with Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” accompanying an airplane scene, and a song by Queen preceded by a reference to joining the Queen. Whether tongue-in-cheek or not, the music is a fun throwback.
Deceit is the big word, here. Every enemy is an ally, and vice versa. Once one lie is uncovered, a new one surfaces. Had this concept been touched on with a bit more focus, it could have packed a tighter punch. And speaking of punches…
Wow, Theron. Wow.
The combat scenes are violent because they come on suddenly and with realistic blows. Whatever choreography is present to protect the actors is outshone by real fists hitting flesh and real bodies crashing into walls. Apparently Theron asked her co-stars if they were okay after she’d beat them up for the camera.
The claustrophobic sets (staircases, compact car interiors) are captured by impossibly positioned camera crew (read: invisible). CG is used extremely well here to blend the possible with the near-impossible on set. For that alone, Atomic Blonde is worth a look. The rest is gravy.
Atomic Blonde starts nationwide this Thursday.