Four in the morning, and I’m zoning… Review of Atomic Blonde

There are worse James Bond movies.  Much worse.  But does that mean that Atomic Blonde was good?

Everything about this film was excellent except for the plot itself.  The plot is terrible, makes no sense, and it is impossible to work out why anybody is doing anything.

The core problem is that there is no clear antagonist.  Without the thesis of the antagonist — ‘Here is what I’m doing and why I’m doing it’ — nobody else in the drama really makes any sense.  There has been a trend to much about with the dynamics of the antagonist, a need to have the ‘true villain’ be somebody unexpected.  But this subterfuge only works when the real antagonist and all the pretender antagonists have clear motivations.

All of that is lacking in Atomic Blonde.  A final Shakespearean monologue by the antagonist reveals only that the antagonist had orchestrated all of the events of the movie because they ‘fucking love Berlin’.

And yet the movie itself is glorious.  Without exception, the acting is excellent (some accents aside).  It is beautifully shot, with colours cascading across the scene to illuminate the edges of a grey and cold East Berlin.  The film is weirdly vibrant.

What the film lacks in plot, it makes up for in brutal — absolutely brutal — action sequences.  The vast majority of these are exceptional, but the film flirts too closely with farce at points.  After one character is brutally pummelled into a smear on the wall, he somehow gets back up for some more punishment.  The tension built up by the battle is released in laughter as the two belligerents, exhausted, try to fight each other a little bit more.

But were the fight scenes enough to pull the movie together?  No.  The fights never seemed like a vehicle to convey information, and it was never entirely clear what the stakes in the fight were.  As a result, it is a beautiful mash of images, but completely lacking in any depth or meaning.

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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