Atomic Blonde

| November 14, 2017

If you love action movies and you missed Atomic Blonde (2017) in the theater, you owe it to yourself to check it out immediately! From John Wick-director David Leitch, Atomic Blonde delivers much the same sort of brutal action as John Wick. Granted, there’s probably less of that action in Atomic Blonde than in John Wick, given that it’s presented here amidst the twists and turns of a more traditional spy thriller. Still, what he delivers through Atomic Blonde is some of the most exciting close-quarters combat I’ve seen in a non-martial arts-based flick in some time.

The story opens on a battered and bruised Lorraine Broughton of MI6—imagine Charlize Theron as James Bond and you’ve just about got it—attending a debriefing where the story of her last assignment unfolds. Framed by tense debriefing scenes with her MI6 handler (Toby Jones) and an antagonistic CIA operative (John Goodman), we learn of Lorraine’s escapades days earlier in Cold War Berlin immediately prior to and during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Thus we watch Lorraine kick ass on both sides of the Berlin Wall to the totally rad sounds of the 1980’s, as she attempts to retrieve a stolen dossier for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The contents of said dossier: the identities of every active secret agent in the world!

If you’re thinking that plot point sounds an awful lot like Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible (1996) or any number of other spy movies centered on a master list of secret agents, you’re right. It’s pretty standard fare narratively, taking that tried-and-true spy story and complicating it with all the double-, triple-, and quadruple-crosses you can handle as Theron’s Lorraine and her contact in Berlin (James McAvoy) play a predictably deadly game of cat-and-mouse.

Yet there’s a lot setting Atomic Blonde apart from its spy thriller peers. The film’s aesthetic presentation is that distinct 1980’s nostalgia-chic that’s so immensely popular at the moment, all striking neon lights and a wall-to-wall 80’s soundtrack featuring the likes of Queen, The Eurythmics and Flock of Seagulls. Also, Leitch’s approach to action is a very modern one with its emphasis on close-quarter fisticuffs and gunplay that you see in the likes of his own John Wick or something like The Raid to a certain extent; it’s far-removed from the style of the Timothy Dalton Bond movies of the era in which Atomic Blonde is set. And more importantly perhaps, at the center of it all is a kickass female lead.

Though Lorraine indeed kicks a lot of ass, laying waste to a host of baddies all the way across Berlin in a solid handful of fight scenes, the film very nearly hinges entirely on the success of its most impressive, central action scene. Yes, there are other exciting confrontations between Lorraine and those who would take the list for themselves throughout the rest of the film, but truly none of them compare to the ten-minute masterclass exhibition of cinematic brutality that finds Lorraine in a grueling showdown with a crew of Russian baddies in an apartment complex stairwell and out onto the streets of Berlin where a car chase ensues.

One of the things that makes this sequence so impressively thrilling is that the ten minutes in question are presented as one continuous, long-take shot from the time Lorraine enters the building on foot until a car spirals into the air mid-chase. It’s an exhausting ten minutes for audiences and characters alike that makes the film well worth seeking out. Though the film will no doubt feel bogged down by its convoluted narrative twists and turns thereafter, this sequence will have action fans returning to Atomic Blonde time and time again. (I’ve watched that sequence three times myself already, to be honest.)

Atomic Blonde arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on November 14, 2017 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Special features on the home video release include:

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • “Welcome to Berlin” featurette
  • “Blondes Have More Gun” featurette about how Theron came to kick so much ass as Lorraine Broughton
  • “Spymaster” featurette centered on cast and crew interviews about David Leitch
  • “Anatomy of a Fight Scene” featurette with Director David Leitch discussing the long-take stairwell shot
  • Storyboard comparisons
  • Feature Commentary with Director David Leitch and Editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: Video and DVD
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