"In November 1989, after 28 years, the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended.
THIS IS NOT THAT STORY."
As a toddler, a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall I lived in Germany. I know I've been to Berlin but I can't remember it. I do, however, look back fondly on my childhood in Germany - what little of it I do remember - during the late 80s and early 90s. Why am I telling you this? Well my last film review turned in to an epic love letter to my best friends as I drew parallels between my life and the lives I was watching on screen.
THIS IS NOT THAT STORY.
See what I did there?
Atomic Blonde instantly identifies itself as a subversive storyline. We're introduced to the iconic timeline but we know that story we're about to see has nothing do with it; despite being a story about spies in Cold War Berlin. The graffiti graphics. The killer soundtrack full of original 80s hits and modern cover versions. The many many pairs of leather studded boots that Theron wears. It's all very punk.
You could be forgiven for thinking that film tries a bit too hard to be cool. And it does. The overly stylised sequences and fight scenes were a bit offputting until I remembered that it was by the same folks that brought us John Wick - a series that I LOVE - AND it was based on the graphic novel The Coldest City. Suddenly I was able to forgive the comic-esque aesthetic. I was able to allow the grey and neon tones wash over. I was able to forgive the fact that Theron's Lorraine Broughton is the most stylish spy you've ever fucking seen. Oh and they swear. A lot. None of that stiff, stone faced British stereotyping you see in most spy movies. She even jokes about her outfits not being appropriate for proper spy work.
Speaking of stereotypes, they are all featured. The deep cover spy gone rogue. The Russian heavy. The American asshole. The beautiful bisexual French beauty played by Sophia Boutella - my favourite sub plot and the one whose stereotypical ending disappointed me the most in the whole film. Everything about this film is something that you've seen before but here it is being done again, the only difference is that we have a female lead and its a decent effort.
Where Atomic Blonde really succeeds, for me, are the action scenes. I love a bloody good bit of violence and there are several excellent sequences. It is obvious that both Theron and McAvoy - who is reliving his sweary rebellious character from Filth throughout the movie - put a hell of an effort into their physicality for this movie. In fact Theron trained with Keanu Reeves while he was preparing for John Wick 2 and there are some very obvious similarities in style if you are familiar with both films. The standout sequence is a ten minute gut wrenching blood mess of a fight where you can actually feel the characters exhaustion and determination. All music is cut from the soundtrack - a popular editing trope to try and amp up the drama - so you can hear every punch, squelch and slice. I loved it.
Who is it for?
If you like John Wick, Filth, the Jason Bourne movies, and you don't mind a fairly seethrough plot with a double twisty ending and you can appreciate the cross between irreverent humour, sweary grit, high 80s fashion, and excellent stunt choreography then this is for you.
If you're expecting a Debbie Harry biopic or have trouble following a twisty plot line - don't laugh, I actually heard people complaining about this - then you'll be disappointed.