Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde

The Tide is High

In the late1980s, Berlin was a frightening place to be and not just because of all the David Hasselhoff music. However, it is here in the beating heart of the Cold War and just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, that Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), the titular Atomic Blonde and an MI6 undercover agent, is sent. She is tasked with investigating the murder of a fellow agent and recovering a list which contains the identities of double agents which could extend the Cold War by untold years.

We first meet Broughton at the end of this mission, submerged in an ice-bath – battered, bruised and self-administering some medicinal Stoli. It’s not your typical introduction. We quickly cut to her post-mission debrief run by her MI6 superior (Toby Jones), alongside a growling CIA operative (John Goodman), while MI6 Chief ’C’ (James Faulkner) watches through a two-way mirror. They have one simple question ‘what the hell happened over there?’

Through a series of hazy flashbacks, intercut with the ongoing and increasingly hostile debrief, we begin to piece together what may have gone down.

Theron continues her subversion of the action film genre in another role that announces anything you can do – Mr Bond/Bourne/Wick – I can do better. Broughton is a full-on bad-ass heroine and the perfect foil for the former stuntman and current Director David Leitch to take on after his uncredited work on John Wick. Their partnership is immense, with Leitch planting Theron in the heart of the frame and holding on her through luxuriously long takes, which showcase both Theron’s own unflinching physical commitment to the action role and Leitch’s balletically bonkers directing style.

This is all played out alongside a thumping 80s electronic soundtrack, which blends some occasionally on the nose choices with some nailed on atmospheric enhancers. This is all visualised by cinematographer Jonathan Sela who conjures a murky, grimy, yet neon infused world, which captures both the underbelly of a city going through such monumental change and the darkness of Broughton and her fellow cold war comrades.

Such as her local contact, David Percival (James McAvoy), the frankly tank-top-tastic slimy local station chief who is perhaps in need of a rotation back to HQ sooner rather than later. It’s almost as if Bruce, McAvoy’s corrupt, junkie cop from Filth, decided on a career change and became a spy. Percival attempts to steer Broughton and her investigation through the city, where they encounter a steady stream of competing operatives (standouts being Sofia Boutella and Eddie Marsan), all with their eyes on the List.

While the plot stretches credibility and has perhaps one too many twists for its own good, in many ways this doesn’t really matter. It is the visceral action, free flowing direction and the joy of seeing Charlize Theron once again putting in a performance of such immense physicality that pulls you in. With Atomic Blonde, it is hard to imagine seeing a better action film or indeed a better action performance, this year.

★★★★

Review by Will Malone 

The Info:

  • Director – David Leitch
  • Starring – Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, John Goodman
  • Writer – Kurt Johnstad (screenplay), Antony Johnson (novel)
  • Year – 2017
  • Running Time – 155 mins

If you enjoyed this, then try Nocturnal Animals.

This was originally published at the Canberra Film Blog on 1 September 2017.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth may well be the first film I can recall that has its final shot in the actual trailer. Thankfully though, without the context, this does not detract from what is a stark, startling and surprisingly imposing period drama, which is entirely deserving of the almost universal praise it has garnered.

Directed by William Oldroyd and based on the Russian novel, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, screenwriter Alice Birch transposes the story from Siberia to the windswept moors of Victorian north-east England.

Here, Florence Pugh enters from stage left as Katherine, a young woman quite literally sold and then subsequently trapped into both a loveless marriage and the confines of a family house. Taking advantage of her husband, Alexander (Paul Hilton) and his father Boris (Christopher Fairbank) absence on business, Katherine begins to explore her new surroundings and meets an outspoken groomsman Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), embarking on a dangerously obsessive and rebellious affair. (more…)

McLaren

McLaren

Bruce McLaren

As a lifelong Formula One fan, I am a little ashamed to admit that it took Roger Donaldson’s intimate portrait of the life of Bruce McLaren to expose me to the origins of the name McLaren, one of the stalwarts of Formula One.

After 2005’s The World’s Fasted Indian, Donaldson continues his exploration of Kiwis with petrol in their blood and this time transports us back to a 1940s service station and workshop in Remuera, New Zealand. It is here where Bruce McLaren learned his trade and laid the foundations for what was to come. That is, an impressive, but tragically cut short racing career, which saw McLaren quickly rise up through the motor racing ranks, to become one of the most influential drivers, team owners and constructors in motor racing history. (more…)