By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
Since debuting in March at South by Southwest, a number of accolades have been thrown at director David Leitch’s action/spy/thriller “Atomic Blonde,” namely that it is the “female James Bond.”
As someone that has seen his fair share of action/spy/thrillers over the years, I take umbrage to that … “Atomic Blonde” is better than any James Bond film I’ve seen (although, admittedly, that’s only about half of them).
The year is 1989. The Berlin Wall still stands, but is precariously close to crumbling. Protesters line the streets of Berlin, while less reputable characters run the rest of the city. The CIA, KGB and other Cold War era intelligence agencies are also widely represented.
Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is an undercover British MI6 agent who is brought in to get to bottom of the murder of a fellow agent, return his body to Britain and find out who has taken possession of an item that could jeopardize intelligence agents, agencies and missions around the globe.
At the behest of an MI6 superior, Eric Gray (Toby Jones), Lorraine teams up with David Percival (James McAvoy), a fellow Brit whose exploits indicate that he’s maybe been in Berlin a bit too long.
While dodging danger on both sides of the wall, the duo must also avoid interference from CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman) and a French woman, Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), who has taken a shine to Lorraine.
The breakneck tempo of the film is established quite literally from the jump. In the first five minutes of the movie there’s a foot chase, an assassination, and a bruised and naked Lorraine drinking vodka in a bathtub full of ice.
From there it’s pretty much 115 minutes of car chases, gun play, and brutal, unrelenting violence. Make no mistake about it, “Atomic Blonde” is very deservedly an R-rated movie. A very, very good R-rated movie.
The most important thing to keep in mind about that MPAA rating and its relation to the overall quality of the film, is that the two aren’t related. Much like “Logan” earlier this year, “Atomic Blonde” isn’t exponentially better because it’s bloodier, more violent, or can use some additional curse words. It doesn’t hurt to be able to include those things, but there are plenty of really bad movies that lean heavily on those elements.
No, the bottom line here is that “Atomic Blonde” is just a really good movie. Over-the-top, spectacular action sequences; interesting, polarizing characters; intrigue; chilling cinematography; and excellent storytelling, thanks in large part to screenwriter Kurt Johnstad who crafted the story from the graphic novel series “The Coldest City.”
On top of that, you have outstanding lead performances from Theron and McAvoy, and solid supporting turns from the always-stout Goodman, the ever-shady Jones, and the seemingly now in every movie Boutella.
The short of it: “Atomic Blonde” is ridiculous, bloody, brutal, and – most importantly – a helluva a lot of fun. You can keep your James Bond and your Jason Bourne, I’ll sign on for more tales of Lorraine Broughton.
★★★★1/2 of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.