Thanks to Universal Pictures Australia we had the chance to see Atomic Blonde before its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!
The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the truly iconic moments of the 20th century. It’s featured in loads of movies, but seldom as the impetus for a cold war thriller. Based on a graphic novel by Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde sees soviet and western intelligence agencies desperately trying to prevent too much information about their activities leaking out during the liberation. It features Charlize Theron as the titular blonde Lorraine Broughton and James MacAvoy as agent James Percival, with an excellent guest cast that includes Eddie Marsan, John Goodman and Toby Jones in an icy, desaturated, chrome-on-black Berlin.
The film is stylishly made, has a fun ’80s soundtrack, looks genuinely great and has some thumping great action scenes but ultimately remains uninvolving, with flat characters you won’t care about. It suffers the malaise of being one of those movies where everybody is so hardboiled you can’t tell who you’re supposed to like. This is especially glaring the moment Eddie Marsan‘s nebbish informant appears and instantly becomes the heart of the film whenever he’s onscreen. No-one gives a bad performance, exactly, they just have no relatable human qualities.
It feels very much like a film adaptation of a graphic novel; every shot looks carefully constructed, the use of colour is highly stylised and the dialogue is sparse. This is a film that will look great projected on the wall of a retro-themed nightclub. Which is handy, because it features some of the most egregious product placement in recent memory. Every drink knocked back is pointedly identified as Stolichnaya vodka either by shot framing or even script lines.
Overall? It’s really not bad, but it’s forgettable. Go and see it if you like spy films, ’80s style, cold war nostalgia and want to switch your brain off.