Since we decided to focus on heroines in August, I decided to go check out Atomic Blonde. I hadn’t seen a single trailer for this movie, which doesn’t surprise me because women led films often get the short straw in promotion. I had seen a couple of articles talking about Charlize Theron being James Bond Badass material. So, I went into the movie with no preconceived ideas. There are no big spoilers in this review.
It is 1989 and the eve of German reunification. Lorraine Broughton is an MI6 agent, she is being called in to debrief her recent mission to Berlin. Told in flashbacks, this movie switches between the present and the past as Lorraine disdainfully recants the job to her superiors. She was sent to Berlin to find a list of names which details every active field agent in Germany, including a double agent known as Satchel. A previous agent, James Gasciogne was shot and killed for the list by KGB agent Yurl Bahktin.
From the moment Lorraine touches down, her cover is blown. After surviving her first attack by the KGB she meets up with the other British agent in Berlin, Percival. He discusses what he knows with her as he drops her at her hotel.
Lorraine heads to Gasciogne’s apartment. It has obviously already been searched many times, but she does find a photo of Gasciogne with Percival, who never mentioned knowing him. We begin to get the first hints that Percival cannot be trusted.
The movie has an amazing soundtrack and is visually pleasing. Set against the fall of the Berlin wall, we see the chaos of 1989 Germany as a metaphor for the chaos of the life of a spy. The action scenes are thrilling and keep you on the edge of your seat, but the story and the pacing in between the action, do not keep the viewer motivated to stay awake. I was literally dozing off. The problems with this film outweigh the good.
Lorraine is an unsympathetic heroine. Her character has zero depth and nothing to motivate you to root for her. The fact that we know she didn’t die, takes all the stakes out of her danger. Though we get a small glimpse of a possible connection Lorraine had with Gasciogne before his death, she is so cold, it really doesn’t affect the viewer in any emotional way. I actually felt more for Percival and found myself rooting for him to be able to continue to be the feral cretin he is.
While tracking the list, Lorraine meets french agent Delphine Lasalle and they begin a sexual relationship. Again, Lorraine seems emotionless and for me this seemed to only be a way to have sex in the film. Which was unnecessary and started to turn this potential badass female role model into a cheap thrill for men.
When I read an article comparing this film to Wonder Woman, it bothered me. The magic of Wonder Woman, was a woman directed it to be an amazing movie. You could watch this film and be immersed in it. I never had a moment where I felt like I was watching something made to get a guy off. Gal Gadot was just a badass who didn’t need to prove it. Sadly, Charlize Theron did not hit those notes. Yes the fight scenes were epic and kudos for her doing them. But often the camera would be at an angle to watch her skirt ride up above her garter or other such props that you don’t see women directors needing to include. And so this movie falls victim to the male gaze. If that does not bother you, then perhaps you too will just feel rather bored in between the action scenes.
When looking back over this film, I felt mostly annoyed that my brain was picking all of this apart and when I write a list of what stood out to me the most, Bill Skarsgard seemed to steal every scene he was in and that was not what I wanted from this movie. I mean don’t get me wrong, he is impressive, but I wanted to leave this movie on the female power high I had walking out of Wonder Woman and I didn’t even get the female power lift I left Ghost Busters with.
Though the ending was surprising and enjoyable, I felt like I could have waited to rent this movie and watch at home.
2.5 out of 5 stars.