Rated R
115 Minutes
Released July 28

I prefer not to read anything about a film before I see it. I want to experience on my own terms without anyone else’s opinion. Not so Atomic Blonde. I wish that I had some knowledge about it before I experienced it – and I mean “experienced” here, in every sense of the word. You can’t watch this movie as an innocent bystander. I knew that this was a spy drama set in the 1980’s. I had no clue that I was about to be drawn into a visceral knockdown drag-out world of kill or be killed action. This movie will hit you over the head – be ready to jump into the fight. This is one of the best movies of the year and that is due to the degree of high art to which Charlize Theron has lifted her brand of performance, and to the incredible skill and creativity of a team of filmmakers who are veterans of the stunt world.

Pay attention – there is a lot going on. No one in the story knows where anyone’s loyalty lies or who holds the “List,” an item more valuable than life itself. “Trust no one” is the motto of Theron’s hero, MI6 agent “Lorraine Broughton.” “David Percival,” played beautifully by James McAvoy, warns her “if I were following you, you wouldn’t know it.” The story is set in the ‘80’s amidst the rapidly changing chaos that brought down the Berlin Wall. The balance of the whole world was shifting at that time. The narrative, based on the graphic novel series “The Coldest City,” is an allegory for the political machinations of that time. The vivid portrayal of 1980’s Berlin brought to mind vivid stories of a friend of mine who ferried escapees from East to West Berlin in the back of a dry cleaning truck.

The sound track and music by Tyler Bates draws you into the time period. David Bowie, George Michael, After the Fire, Siouxsie and the Banshees, A Flock of Seagulls and more, skillfully blended into the visuals. Cinematography by Jonathan Sela pulls at your emotions – comic book hues of greys give way to scenes washed in shades of red, and bright colors bursting out of the screen towards the end.

Director David Leitch is a legendary stunt coordinator and second unit director who has worked on some of the greatest action films. He hired another stunt coordinator, longtime friend Sam Hargrave, to be his second unit director. Hargrave also appears in front of the camera at the beginning of the film.

Although there is more to be said about the superb and unbelievable fight choreography all through this movie than there is space in this review, please pay attention to the fight on the stairs about 2/3 through the movie. This long scene took two weeks for Leitch and Hargrave to design, rehearse and shoot. To capture this scene, Hargrave executed an amazing fall backwards down the stairs as operated the camera. Their goal was to have every action scene draw the audience in as a participant – to have them experience the exhaustion, the hurt and the perseverance it takes to be in such fights. They could not have done it without Theron, who Hargrave says is “in the top one percent of actors who do action.” She trained tirelessly, determined to master the moves the directors laid out. This groundbreaking film and the performances of its cast will be studied in film classes years from now.

 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

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