“In The Third Man, there’s no one getting kicked in the face.”
Director David Leitch isn’t saying the classic post-war thriller suffers from lacking a critical face-kicking element – but let’s just say his new movie takes full advantage of that missed opportunity. Set in East and West Germany in the winter of 1989 – the moment in which the Berlin Wall finally came down – Atomic Blonde sounds on paper like a John le Carré novel, pitting weary spies against each in pursuit of a list that could leave them all exposed. The former stuntman-turned-filmmaker, however, says he wanted to make something that was “not your daddy’s Cold War spy movie.” Silencers and poison were out. The business end of a corkscrew was in.
Three years ago, Leitch and his partner, Chad Stahelski, revitalized the action genre – and Keanu Reeves’ career – with the revenge thriller John Wick, which turned dozens of brutal headshots into the sort of choreographed ballet unseen since John Woo left Hong Kong. While the latter went solo for that movie’s recently released sequel, the former turned his attention toward the continued reinvention of Charlize Theron as a formidable action star after her electrifying turn in Mad Max: Fury Road. In Atomic Blonde, the Oscar-winning actor’s experience as a dancer feeds into an elegantly lethal performance as Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent who partners up with a shifty Berlin station chief (James McAvoy) to retrieve “the List” before it falls into enemy hands.
Working in a style he called “neon-noir,” Leitch builds the movie around a handful of gorgeously rendered action sequences, each with their own distinct flavor of brutal excess. While on the set of Deadpool 2, which he’s directing for release next summer, Leitch walked us through five of Atomic Blonde‘s standout set pieces – from Theron fending off Berlin cops with available household items to busting up multiple attackers in close quarters. (The…