Charlize Theron stars in stylish action movie
All neon lighting and filled with recognizable tunes by New Order, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, George Michael and other superstars of the era,
“Atomic Blonde” revels in its 1980s setting. You might think you have the movie pegged; there’s so much style here it threatens to overwhelm everything else.
Then comes the action, and director David Leitch’s origins as a stuntman are on full display. (He also codirected “John Wick.”)
Mostly consisting of Charlize Theron’s MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton taking on groups of bad guys with little more than her bare hands and whatever makeshift weapons she can find, the fights are shown in long takes that emphasize the extreme toll they take on all involved. Combatants bruise and bloody each other; they stagger and wheeze, fall down and struggle back to their feet to keep on fighting. Leitch stages one sequence, starting in a stairwell and ending in a car chase, in one unbroken take lasting at least 10 minutes — an astonishing piece of choreography and endurance for all involved.
It’s November 1989, the Berlin Wall is about to fall, and Broughton has been dispatched to Berlin to retrieve a microfilm, containing a list of active agents in the area, that’s been stolen by a ( possibly rogue) KGB agent. She must work with Agent David Percival ( James McAvoy), whom her superior warns her has “gone native” in the city’s underground culture. There’s also a young French intelligence agent ( Sofia Boutella) who quickly takes more than professional interest in Broughton.
Considering the major plot twists, one is almost painfully obvious, while another — perhaps the most important one — somehow receives both too much and too little explanation, which is an oddly impressive feat when you think about it.
Theron is magnetic as the ruthless, taciturn spy, in addition to giving a remarkable physical performance. Like Keanu Reeves in “John Wick” and Liam Neeson in “Taken,” this is the kind of role that could help define a career. It might not stick the landing as a twisty spy thriller, but as a showcase for its star, “Atomic Blonde” is a knockout.
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout and some sexuality/ nudity. 115 minutes.
Charlize Theron, left, and Sofia Boutella appear in a scene from “Atomic Blonde.”