The Films of David Leitch
Atomic Blonde (August 19/17)
Based on a graphic novel series, Atomic Blonde, which unfolds in the late 1980s, follows secret agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) as she's tasked with retrieving an invaluable list of Soviet spies - with problems ensuing as it becomes clear that said list only exists in the mind of Eddie Marsan's Spyglass. It's clear immediately that filmmaker David Leitch isn't looking to deliver a gritty spy thriller here, as Atomic Blonde boasts an impressively striking visual sensibility that's heightened by a series of captivating action sequences - with the movie's obvious highlight an extraordinarily engrossing seven-minute set piece detailing a battle involving gun battles, hand-to-hand skirmishes, and even a car chase. The problem is, then, that scripter Kurt Johnstad has delivered a pervasively convoluted narrative that holds the viewer at arms length from beginning to end, with the almost impossible-to-comfortably-follow storyline exacerbated by Leitch's padded-out, wheel-spinning approach to the material (ie it often feels like the entirety of Atomic Blonde's midsection is devoted to Lorraine's tedious investigation). Theron's strong (if somewhat one-note) work as the ass-kicking protagonist ultimately does compensate for the movie's meandering vibe, while the aforementioned action beats go a long way towards buoying one's interest during the narrative's more overtly meandering stretches. And although Leitch attempts to tie everything together in the third act, Atomic Blonde's mostly head-scratching atmosphere ensures that climactic revelations are unable to pack the punch (or even coherence) that the filmmaker has surely planned - which does, in the end, secure the picture's place as a middling actioner that could and should have been much better.