Atomic Blonde isn’t subtle. On about the 89th shot of Charlize Theron walking coolly down a Berlin street wearing sunglasses to an ‘80s new wave hit, I wondered if it wasn’t a little excessive. Yes, of course—it’s absolutely excessive. But also: great! Excess is great! Sunglasses and Charlize Theron and '80s jams are all great.
Theron plays a British spy (OR IS SHE?) trying to out-spy some other spies (OR ARE THEY?) who murdered this one other spy (HRRMMM??) and there’s also a mega-list of spies to track down (SPY SPY SPY!). Look, no one can explain the plot of a spy movie without sounding dumb or crazy or both, and the hallmark of a good one is giving up and saying, “Whatever, it’s fun!” (This is what I am doing here.) Atomic Blonde is a hyper-stylized graphic novel adaptation with all the bright lights and artsy gore this usually entails, but more importantly, Theron’s spy is so perfect that I want to climb inside her life, boots, hair, and sunglasses, even though I abhor violence, hard work, and heightened political climates.
Am I obligated to mention that this action film is excellent on its own merits and not because of, or in spite of, a woman being the lead? How exhausting, but there, I said it, for all of the knuckle-draggers. I hope people see this film because it’s cool and not because of all the overwrought think pieces we’ll get about how women can win at the box office, even though this has been proven over and over again. Leading women aren’t a gimmick, and women audiences aren’t a niche market—we’re just regular folks who want to see the best of our gender fighting bad guys and being awesome. Spies are fun, but especially when they're impossibly over-the-top badasses in shades.