Atomic Blonde 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Leading up to my viewing of ATOMIC BLONDE, all I heard was that this was a female version of JOHN WICK. The trailers, TV spots and even some critics sold ATOMIC BLONDE as exactly that. So I’m guessing a lot of people went into the film expecting a mindless action film with Charlize Theron instead of Keanu Reeves killing bad guys. But while ATOMIC BLONDE definitely has some JOHN WICK-esque moments, the film is actually more of a cross between TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY and JOHN WICK. But while both of those films are at the top of their respective genres (spy drama and action movie), ATOMIC BLONDE doesn’t reach the greatness of either film.
ATOMIC BLONDE follows Lorraine (Theron) as she’s asked to assist Agent Percival in Berlin after his partner gets killed by a Russian KGB agent. Percival (McAvoy) and his partner were trying to get “the list” from a KGB defector named Spyglass, but the list was stolen after Percival’s partner was killed. Lorraine is out to find it, but she quickly discovers she can’t trust Percival and as good as she is, he always seems to be one step ahead of her. To make matters worse, the list also contains the name of a British double agent, who Lorraine also has to track down.
Maybe the best part of ATOMIC BLONDE is that it’s set in Berlin in 1989, right before the fall of the Berlin Wall. That gives director David Leitch all the reason he needs to include about a dozen of recognizable 80’s pop hits throughout the movie. Even if I loved almost every song (I’m an 80’s music nerd), not every song fit in with the moment of the film. For example, there was a scene when one of the Russian agents was questioning a group of teens and he made a big production of pushing play on a boombox that belted out Nena’s classic 99 Luftballons. While I like the song, it just felt awkward and forced to be used at that moment in the film in that manner. That happened on several occasions.
The TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY comparison comes in through most of the film as everyone is trying to guess who the double operative is and where the list is. But this part of the film feels a bit clunky as it’s never fully fleshed out and not enough time is spent having Lorraine do “spy” things and unravel the mystery. The best part about spy films is watching the characters do spy things and ATOMIC BLONDE lacks in that department. Instead, the big reveals are done through normal dialogue or just hidden from the audience completely. You might be thinking that it’s a waste of time to pick apart the plot of an action movie, but I would argue that ATOMIC BLONDE is more spy drama than action film since the spy aspect of the film dominated the majority of the two hour runtime.
But when it does come to the action, ATOMIC BLONDE is a blast. Charlize Theron clearly went all in during the training for the action scenes and the effort paid off as she was completely believable as the super tough agent. Leitch lent an over stylized lens to the entire film, but he held back on the action scenes and the self control was appreciated as it allowed the audience to witness the action rather than fight back nausea from quick editing. The action scenes are a lot of fun and although I appreciate the desire to wrap them around an intense spy drama, I think Theron’s skills would have been better in an all-out action movie.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: ATOMIC BLONDE arrives on 4K with a strikingly clear and detailed presentation. I thought the Blu-ray was a little saturated, but the 4K looks amazing. The colors are rich and vibrant, you see details in clothing, faces, backgrounds and settings that weren’t visible before. The fight scenes almost have a 3D quality to them thanks to the improvements in detail and color. David Leitch’s filming style is to over use a particular color at various points in the film. Although a bit gimmicky, what that does is heighten the importance of color definition, otherwise everything kind of blends together. That’s another reason why the 4K is so impressive; everything stands out, regardless of what color is dominant. The feature also features Dolby Vision, so I’m sure those equipped with Vision will be even more impressed.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is a nice upgrade over the DTS track found on the Blu-ray. This is one of those tracks that really adds to the movie experience as things are constantly flying around the screen (at least during the fight scenes).
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does include the Blu-ray, which includes the following special features:
Commentary with David Leitch and Elisabet Ronaldsdottir: David had a strong vision for the film and he enjoys talking about it. He heaps praise on everyone involved and gives some insights into certain scenes and challenges on the film. Overall, this is a nice commentary.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (7:23): Seven quick scenes that don’t offer much to the film. I assume all of these were cut to speed up the pacing in the film.
Welcome to Berlin (4:33): This is a quick featurette looking at the main settings of the film and the importance of setting the film in the late 80’s.
Blondes Have More Gun (7:01): Half of this is a look at the character of Lorraine and the other half is focused on Charlize Theron and her training for the film.
Spymaster (4:18): This featurette focuses on director David Leitch and his vision for the film.
Anatomy of a Fight Scene (7:52): This is an interesting fearturette in the way it’s structured. It’s a picture in picture breakdown of the big fight scene towards the end. David Leitch takes us through how it was filmed and why he shot it the way he did.
Story in Motion (3:54): Here you get two animated storyboards with optional commentary from director David Leitch.