July 28, 2017

R: July 28th, 2017 | R: 115 minutes | R: R

As the Cold War comes to a crashing end, the stakes get even more dire for a kickass British spy deployed to Berlin. With some truly explosive action, you have to wonder: does Atomic Blonde have enough power to blow its audience away? This highly stylized 80s-themed action flick places a major emphasis on style over substance, but also proves that sometimes that’s all a film really needs. As the Berlin Wall comes crashing down, a British spy is sent to Berlin to prevent their entire spy network from coming crashing down with it. Sent to locate a list of counter agents before the Soviets have a chance to get their hands on it, she is tasked with evading the ever-watching Soviet spy network. Quickly, she realizes that her own allies may have secrets of their own and that her mission may be much more deadly than first indicated.

Atomic Blonde masterfully feeds into some of our biggest vices. There is no shortage of gratuitous violence, yet somehow it also seems to be much more captivating than many other action films. The action lasts a while and often feels like it has some real stakes. Although there are several truly unbelievable sequences where our female spy singlehandedly fends off several attackers, it still seems like less cannon fodder than many other action films. Rather than fighting a horde of henchmen who never passed target practice, most of the fights in Atomic Blonde are between only one to two attackers and are almost exclusively all within extremely close quarters. This departure from typical action lends itself to some truly violent scenes, some that last an extremely long time to the point of becoming dark comedy. Yet it was also a breath of fresh air – watching the heroine actually struggle to fight, to slowly lose stamina after each fight, and to actually get progressively injured made it far more interesting. Instead of watching our hero constantly fight a barrage of attackers without ever getting tired and never suffering more than a cut lip, we get some brutal but different action than we are used to.

Additionally, the film certainly does not stray away from gratuitous sex. Even with an indulgent lesbian sex scene, Atomic Blonde manages to avoid over sexualizing its female lead. The lead character is meant to be a badass action heroine. Thankfully, the film avoids the femme fatale trope. The heroine does not seduce her way to success and does not use her femininity to win any fights or to gain any access. In conjunction, the male attackers never hesitate or hold back against her. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t wear some suggestive outfits or somehow manage to engage in hand-to- hand combat while wearing stilettos. But for the most part, it would have made no difference whether the lead was male or female. It was nice to see a woman just kicking ass without holding back.

Overall, Atomic Blonde truly succeeded in its collected style. The attention to the setting was impressive. Everything felt extremely Berlin in the 80s. With its grimy, neon settings, it is a truly nostalgic trip that feels engaging, fresh, and cohesive. Yet all of its action and style helps glue the film together over a confused plot. Several of its curveball twists are predictable, and others simply do not really have much significance beyond showing how ruthless the heroine is (which was hard to miss to begin with). Many plot elements felt unnecessary and only served as a means to get us to the next major action sequence. Despite not being spectacular, the plot was still just good enough to keep it from weighing down the film.

Atomic Blonde is the epic badass action movie to see this summer. It is a nostalgic trip with plenty of gory violence and style that will only further make you appreciate Charlize Theron. Atomic Blonde is a thrill that perfectly satisfies our carnal vices.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Johnny Johnny (Senior Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you to another place.
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