An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:
Extras:
Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

92
Details:

Studio and Year: Universal - 2017
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 114 minutes
Genre: Action/Thriller

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC/Dolby Vision/HDR-10
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS:X, Portuguese, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Spanish
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Toby Jones, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Sophia Boutella, Til Schweiger
Directed by: David Leitch
Music by: Tyler Bates
Written by: Kurt Johnstad
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: November 14, 2017
"Just When You Thought it Was Safe to be a Double Agent"

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My Take:

Charlize Theron stars as elite MI6’s most lethal assassin and the crown jewel of her Majesty’s secret intelligence service, Lorraine Broughton, in Atomic Blonde. When she’s sent on a covert mission into Cold War Berlin, she must use all of the spycraft, sensuality and savagery she has to stay alive in the ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. Broughton must navigate her way through a deadly game of spies to recover a priceless dossier while fighting ferocious killers along the way.

Adapted from Antony Johnson’s graphic novel, “The Coldest City”, Atomic Blonde is an espionage action thriller set in the late eighties, featuring a high stakes game of cat and mouse where everything is as it seems. I have only seen teaser trailer for this film, but my interest was piqued enough that I wanted to check it out. I have to say that I found the script’s first act to be somewhat muddled as I attempted to navigate the introductions of the characters and central plot. Once things became clearer, it got better.

This film isn’t a dyed in the wool spy game thriller. I don’t think it runs deep enough, narratively speaking, to prove wholly acceptable in that vein. However, there is enough meat on the bone, and thematic maneuvering, to make for a solid action film, that teems with style, superb production elements, and one of the best fight sequences of recent memory. Charlize Theron absolutely kills it in the lead role. Her blend of charisma, steely cool demeanor, looks, and physical preparation, elevate this film, nearly on its own.

The camera work, especially during the action/fight sequences is terrific. The extended encounter in chapter 15, which lasts the entire chapter, is so good, I watched it three times. It’s a period piece and the use of the 80’s music, props, vehicles etc. all served to compliment the proceedings. I thought that the supporting turn by James McAvoy was solid, but was disappointed that Sophia Boutella’s character didn’t have a meatier part in the story. I like her and it was nice to see her in a role where she wasn’t covered in make-up.

Atomic Blonde isn’t perfect, and succeeds more due to the total sum of its parts, rather than being a thoroughly engrossing spy/thriller. At the end of the day, it works, and left me wanting to sit down with it again.

Replay Value: 3.5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sensuality/nudity.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
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UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
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DTS:X Rating: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Atomic Blonde comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 48 Mbps and lossless DTS:X/7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.3 Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD Atomic Blonde was derived from a 2.8K source, rendered from a 2K DI, and up-converted to 4K. From a cinematic perspective, this film was shot with a specific visual aesthetic in mind and that comes through in this presentation. At times the image is nearly devoid of color, while at others, has a pleasingly diverse palate, that sets the mood of a scene. Shot digitally the image has a smooth aesthetic, with clean delineation that draws out plenty of detail, in both close-up and wide-angle camera shots. Blacks are deep without compromise to fidelity, as the layers of detail seen with them is readily apparent. Contrast abounds as the richness of the depth seen in grays, whites and mid-tones pops in the film’s variety of low level sequences. Fleshtones are wonderfully lifelike, and consistent throughout the presentation.

As I alluded to earlier Atomic Blonde isn’t a colorful film however its cooler chromatic hues, sepia tones and variants of blue/red benefited from UHD's wider color gamut, appearing warmer and pleasing to the eye. There is intermittent use of visual elements that utilize high dynamic range. I wasn't especially impressed with its application although some of that may be owed to the nature of the photography. There were instances where bright elements looked appreciably vibrant (such as the opening sequence in the street or the scene that takes place later in the theater), but none really stood out.

This Ultra HD rendering makes the most of the film’s elements, which are excellent. Looking at the 1080p version, which is solid in its own right, the difference is noticeable, but not what I would describe as night and day. That being said, there is no question about which of the two makes for the most engaging viewing experience.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I recently added the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel to my review system. This was to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for Atomic Blonde, I was reminded of my recent review of The Dark Tower, where I similarly found the HDR renderings to be very close. As I alluded to earlier, this film’s elements aren’t consistently lent to use of overtly bright color, but I did take a close look at the rendering of contrast, chromatic depth and delineation during scenes containing dark and bright highlights. When I switched back and forth between the DV and HDR-10 renderings, I felt that the DV presentation revealed better definition in the darkest portions of the image, and slightly deeper primary color reproduction. These differences aren’t especially noteworthy, but in the grand scheme, made for a more pleasing image. At the end of the day both looked excellent, leaving me satisfied with what I saw.

In listening to the DTS:X surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety that made effective use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a blend of atmospherics and discrete effects. When applied it creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Where this mix excels is in its use of the platform at ear level. There are a multitude of set pieces that show off the track’s blend of music, weapon fire and smaller object sounds that create a wonderfully involving listening experience, that broadens the soundstage. I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere as well as the integration of discrete object placement. I think that it complimented the source material and drew me into the film when it mattered most.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
  • Resolution/Clarity:
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Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 
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Atomic Blonde comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 31 Mbps and lossless DTS:X/7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.3 Mbps.

This is an excellent high definition rendering that sports plenty of fine detail and crisp definition that provides discerning dimensional perspective. Colors range from warm and vivid to cool, reserved and almost tonally neutral. This is obviously a creative decision that draws definitive visual boundaries and works quite well. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation. Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages. The various wide-angle shots of Berlin great. Framed at 2.40:1 images onscreen have excellent depth, and a stimulating visual aura. I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous compression related noise. Atomic Blonde looks great on Blu-ray.

The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (DTS:X core) soundtrack doesn’t disappoint. This is an active audio presentation that utilizes the entire system to create a theater like experience. Sound staging is quite good as both the front and rear channels are seamlessly integrated. Sound effects traverse the room during the large fight sequences. Dynamics are energy filled and impact felt with discerning articulation and clarity. This is an active mix that makes regular use of the low frequency effects to accentuate its dynamic presence. The result is that where appropriate, points of contact resonate with tactile bass impact. Dialog has refining presence with clear vocal character and excellent room penetration. This is an entertaining audio presentation that compliments the film while making for an excellent home theater experience.

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1 Atomic Blonde Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2 Atomic Blonde Blu-ray
    • Deleted and Extended Scenes
    • Welcome to Berlin – The ultimate setting for a Cold War spy thriller, Berlin becomes a character of its own. Go behind the wall for this making-off.
    • Blondes Have More Gun – Lorraine Broughton has one impressive set of skills. See what it took for Charlize Theron to fully transform herself into this tenacious character.
    • Spymaster – David Leitch spins the spy genre on its head through exemplary action sequences and complex characters. Hear from cast and crew what it was like to work with this cutting-edge director.
    • Anatomy of a Fight Scene – Director David Leitch breaks down the incredibly detailed long-take stairwell shot in this anatomy of a fight scene.
    • Story in Motion: Agent Broughton – See Agent Broughton as you never have before in these motion storyboards.
    • Story in Motion: The Chase – Gascoigne is on the run. Find out who's after him in this motion storyboard.
    • Feature Commentary with Director David Leitch and Editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir
  • Digital HD Copy
Final Thoughts:

Adapted from Antony Johnson’s graphic novel, “The Coldest City”, Atomic Blonde is an entertaining action/thriller that, while not perfect, succeeds more due to the total sum of its parts, thanks in part, to a terrific performance from star Charlize Theron. It comes to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in this Ultra HD Combo Pack that features excellent overall image quality, terrific lossless surround sound, including an invigorating DTS:X immersive sound mix and a worthwhile assortment of bonus materials. Atomic Blonde should be at the top of the Blu-ray rental queues of curious genre fans. If you’re so inclined, and are set up for Ultra HD Blu-ray/DTS:X sound, just go ahead and pick it up.
 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews


Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems