In the era of #MeToo, having strong female characters in mainstream movies is more important than ever. But just having a strong female lead is not enough to guarantee success. You still need to tell an interesting story and “Atomic Blonde” isn’t able to do that.
Written by Kurt Johnstad and directed by David Leitch, “Atomic Blonde” tells the story of Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), an undercover MI6 agent sent to Berlin right before the wall falls. A list of double agents has gone missing and everyone wants it. As Broughton digs into the deep underworld of the city, discovering allies who may be foes and foes who may be allies such as David Percival (James McAvoy) and Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), the fight to find the list and avenge old colleagues comes to a head.
The action scenes are intense and dynamically filmed. The viewer really feels the pain of each blow and the desperation of each agent as blows are exchanged and bullets fly. The attention to detail is exemplary.
But that in itself is the whole film. A random collection of fight scenes. The plot itself is thin. The McGuffin isn’t memorable, the double crosses are relatively easy to anticipate and there is nothing to really distinguish the film from other spy-action flicks.
Theron as Lorraine Broughton can go toe to toe with male spies like Ethan Hunt from “Mission Impossible” and James Bond from… well, you know. She’s every bit as intense and dramatic, tough and imposing. But she’s not that interesting. More information about her backstory, perhaps some personal vendettas and hidden motivations would have gone a long way towards fleshing out her character and giving us an emotional stake in the story. We ultimately don’t have reason to care.
As it stands, “Atomic Blonde” utilizes style over substance and relegates the film to forgettable.