Action Atomic Blonde

'Atomic Blonde' Blu-ray Review: Charlize Theron battles Cold War tensions, double agents and the patriarchy

November 14, 2017Ben MK

James Bond may be the granddaddy of the spy thriller, but over the past two decades, a number of contenders have emerged to take the genre in darker, more suspenseful and grittier directions, from Brian De Palma's Mission Impossible, to the Jason Bourne series, to Daniel Craig as 007 himself. But while the world waits for Craig to reprise his best-known role, a new challenger has arrived on the scene.

In Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron is Lorraine Broughton, a lethally blonde MI6 agent who specializes in kicking ass and taking names. It's the type of role Theron has played with aplomb once before, as the no-nonsense, battle-hardened Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. And even though Atomic Blonde isn't nearly as quintessential as George Miller's magnum opus, it does offer moviegoers something they've been craving more of since Wonder Woman, affording its star ample opportunity to inflict a vicious beating on her male opponents.

Directed by David Leitch and scripted by Kurt Johnstad, who in turn adapts the story from the graphic novel "The Coldest City," the result isn't particularly original, borrowing heavily from the espionage action-thrillers that have come before, not to mention Leitch's own debut film, the deliriously violent and utra-cool John Wick. The novelty here, of course, is having a female lead character, and while even that has been done before — see Luc Besson's La Femme NikitaAtomic Blonde makes a compelling case for why the concept deserves another go-round.

From Theron's total commitment to her role — she takes a licking and keeps on ticking — to the film's centerpiece action sequence — a brutal stairwell-fight-turned-car-chase that seems to last for a good 20 minutes, sans edits — there's no shortage of moments throughout Atomic Blonde that will leave audiences either cheering, howling or grimacing (thanks to the regular doses of uber-violence). James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones and John Goodman also star, but by the end, the truth is pretty self-evident. Blondes really do have more fun.

Contrasting the cold, concrete-colored visual palette of turbulent 1980s Berlin with scenes bathed in bold hues of purples, blues and reds, Atomic Blonde looks as stylish on Blu-ray as it did in theaters. From the production design recreating Cold War Eastern Europe to the bloody and bruised aftermath of fights on the actors' faces, this 1080p transfer doesn't flinch. And likewise, neither does the disc's DTS:X sound mix, which brings to life every bone-crunching beatdown, every burst of gunfire, and especially the electronic-infused score and gloriously retro 80s soundtrack, full of danceable tracks from the likes of The Clash, David Bowie and George Michael.

Universal's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Deleted/Extended Scenes (7:23) - Six scenes ("Russian Driver," "Hidden Stash," "Nice to Meet You," "Not Afraid of Love," "Broughton's Promotion" and "Watch for Sale").
  • Welcome to Berlin (4:33) - A look at Production Designer's David Scheunemann's rendition of 1980s Berlin.
  • Blondes Have More Gun (7:01) - Charlize Theron talks about what drew her to the role and Director David Leitch and Stunt Coordinator Sam Hargrave give viewers a look at her fight training and the making of the film's long-take fight scene.
  • Spymaster (4:18) - A look at what Leitch at his team at 87Eleven Action Design bring to the movie.
  • Anatomy of a Fight Scene (7:52) - Leitch walks viewers through the making of the film's long-take fight scene.
  • Story in Motion (3:54) - Storyboard versions of two scenes ("Agent Broughton" and "The Chase"), with optional director's commentary.
  • Feature Commentary with Director David Leitch and Editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir - The pair talk about the production design, the visual effects, the cinematography, the music and the score, the film's original title, the sound design and the visual design, the cast and their performances, and more.

Atomic Blonde is available from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment as of November 14th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English DTS:X, Spanish and French DTS 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles. The total runtime is 1 hr. 55 min.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on July 28th, 2017.

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