Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron stars as Lorraine Broughton in director David Leitch’s action thriller, ‘Atomic Blonde.’
Photo Courtesy: Focus Features

Title: Atomic Blonde

Director: David Leitch (‘John Wick’)

Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones

Effortlessly assimilating into a powerfully established environment, and commanding undivided attention and approval from both the culture’s leaders and supporters, rarely happens in any type of setting. But in the new thriller, ‘Atomic Blonde,’ Charlize Theron naturally reaffirms her place as a serious contender and leading woman in the action genre. In the mystery film, the Academy Award-winning actress once again proves her ability to impressively fight her way out of any harrowing situation through impeccable stunt work. Her character’s ability to command respect as a leading government assassin in the turbulent political environment in the late 1980s further proves the cause for implementing more female protagonists in action movies.

The drama was directed by David Leitch, who first gained experience in the action genre by assisting Chad Stahelski in the helming duties of the hit 2014 drama, ‘John Wick,’ although the former’s work was uncredited on the movie. Leitch’s first credited directorial effort is on ‘Atomic Blonde,’ whose screenplay was written by Kurt Johnstad. The film, which is based on the Oni Press graphic novel series, ‘The Coldest City,’ is set to be distributed in theaters on Friday by Focus Features. The theatrical release comes after the action thriller had its world premiere at this year’s SXSW.

‘Atomic Blonde,’ which is set in 1989, follows MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) as she enters a debriefing with her strictly business superior, Eric Gray (Toby Jones), and tough CIA chief and colleague, Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). She recounts the events of the past ten days, which are shown through flashbacks, and what happened to her during her latest mission in the still-divided Berlin.

Lorraine’s journey began in West Berlin, where she’s sent to investigate the murder of a key agent. Not only is MI6 concerned about the agent’s death, but they’re also worried about the whereabouts of the list he was supposed to bring home. The list, which includes the names and whereabouts of every British intelligence asset, has gone missing.

In order to find the absent list, Lorraine meets with her contact in the German capital, embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy). The German authorities believe he’s a corrupt former Berlin bureau chief who’s gone rogue, and began selling black market goods to East Berliners.

David’s also being pursued because he’s connected to an East German operative who’s only known as Spyglass (Eddie Marsan). The operative is also being sought after by numerous people, due to the fact that he has committed the entire list to memory. He’s also wanted because as he tells Lorraine that he knows that a double agent, known as Satchel, may be within their reach in Berlin.

MI6’s most lethal assassin must rely on her surveillance, and fight off any lethal enemy assassins, as she searches for the list throughout a city that’s simmering with revolution and double-crossing traitors. While Eric and Emmett regularly question the decisions she made while she was in Berlin, Lorraine ultimately proves that her actions helped secure her survival in the tumultuous city.

The sleek and stylized ‘Atomic Blonde’ enthrallingly continues Theron’s success in the action genre, after she starred in such noteworthy entries as the 2015 Oscar-winner, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ and this spring’s box-office hit, ‘The Fate of the Furious.’ The actress’ stunning stunt work throughout her latest thriller made it seem as though she was truly trained by MI6 to track and kill any perceived threat. Scaling down a wall to escape from Berlin officers who were targeting her, and shooting and throwing punches at rogue assassins who were pursuing her and Spyglass throughout a deteriorating building, were just some of the brazen and bold sequences that Theron effortlessly embraced during filming.

Production designer David Scheunemann also skillfully helped maintain the gripping visuals in ‘Atomic Blonde,’ as the mystery drama powerfully reflected the distinct surroundings of both Berlin and London, where Lorraine met with her MI6 superior and their CIA colleague for their debriefing. From the moment the complex protagonist stepped off the plane in Berlin, to the scene where she walks through the streets of the English capital city on her route to her meeting, the film stunningly reflects the vibes of both settings. From the gritty, graffiti-filled buildings and streets that reflect the German capital’s deteriorating state right before the Berlin Wall was demolished, to the pristine and aristocratic architecture of the British capital, Scheunemann and his team brilliantly utilized both cities’ locations to the plot’s advantage.

In addition to the enthralling locations, ‘Atomic Blonde’ also features a striking and eclectic soundtrack and score that powerfully highlights the diverse emotions and situations that Lorraine is contending with during her assignment. From David Bowie and Queen’s hit 1981 rock song, ‘Under Pressure,’ to George Michael’s 1988 Grammy Award-nominated pop track, ‘Father Figure,’ and Public Enemy’s legendary 1989 hip-hop tune, ‘Fight the Power,’ the music grippingly highlighted the MI6 assassin’s drive to battle the authority that’s trying to oppress her in difficult situations. Despite her continued prosperity as an MI6 agent who can successfully fight her way out of any conflict, Lorraine still seems as though she wants to forge a meaningful and lasting personal connection, which is a dream she knows is highly unlikely in her line of work.

Naturally assimilating into a intensely established society, and commanding unwavering attention and approval from both the culture’s leaders and supporters, rarely happens in any type of setting. But in ‘Atomic Blonde,’ Theron effortlessly reasserts her place as a serious contender and leading woman in the action genre. The once again proves her ability to impressively fight her way out of any harrowing situation through impeccable stunt work, which furthers the cause for implementing more female protagonists in action movies.

Technical: A

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B+

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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