You absolutely have to go see Atomic Blonde, the new film about the pioneering female pilot who flew the Enola Gay B-29 bomber that dropped an atomic warhead on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. The film is more than just an exhilarating action adventure story, it’s also a powerfully moving historical drama about the resiliency of the human spirit.
Charlize Theron stars as Elsinore Perth (aka the “Atomic Blonde”), an audacious woman with a passion for flight who perseveres in the face of the rampant misogyny dominating the military at that time in our history. Theron plays Perth as feisty yet dashing, with a take-no-prisoners attitude that wins over any man dumb enough to step in her way.
After becoming the most accomplished and daring civilian aviator in the world by the early 1940s, Perth became maniacally obsessed with circumventing the regulations that prevented women from entering combat divisions of the United States Armed Forces at the time. Perth determines that the only way to use her ample skills to serve her country effectively is to disguise herself as an 18-year-old boy named Billy Bishop so that she can be admitted to fly combat missions. This leads to some wonderful comic set pieces that recall classic films such as Some Like It Hot.
As Bishop, a preternaturally talented pilot and all around wiseass, Perth rises quickly up the ranks of the U.S. Army Air Forces until she’s flying some of the most dangerous missions of the war. She soon holds the record for bombing runs dropping incendiaries and other payload on dozens of Japanese cities.
Theron deserves another Oscar for deftly switching between Perth’s boyish persona as Billy the flying wunderkind, and Perth herself, a more feminine but equally irascible character. By the time she flies the fateful mission to drop Little Boy on Hiroshima, killing 126,000 Japanese and winning the war for the United States, I was moved to tears by Elsinore Perth’s derring do.
As the credits rolled, I had a lot to think about but was pleased to see real photos and even some newsreel footage of the real life “Atomic Blonde.” Even better, this historical footage was followed by some brief talking head interviews with powerful women of today including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Theresa May, Sheryl Sandberg and Condoleezza Rice. Each describes how she was personally inspired by Elsinore Perth’s pioneering work as an indomitable female trailblazer in a traditionally male profession.
My only quibble is that Theron’s hair color appeared more auburn to me than blonde. I don’t know the color of the real Elsinore Perth’s hair, but if Atomic Ginger didn’t work as a title, they should have just taken cinematic liberty and allowed Theron her classic blonde look.
TL;DR – Based on true historical events, few films can match Atomic Blonde’s potent combination of awards-worthy dramatic acting, pulse-pounding action and suspense, and gorgeously lensed flight sequences.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“Charlize Theron is back, baby, and she’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“The movie seems to sweep U.S. complicity in war crimes under the rug a bit too casually for my tastes.” – Epock Tines, The Baffler
“It has beautiful cinematography, a star performance that is shocking in its authenticity, a careful eye for nuance and detail and an irresistible blend of action, drama and even comedy that should spell automatic success.” – Dian Rizki II, Austin Chronicle
“When it takes to the skies Atomic Blonde really soars with thrilling recreations of Perth’s bombing runs.” – Kokia Cookei, Empire Magazine
“If you’re the kind of person who deplores the modern vogue for debunking historical figures, and who welcomes the opportunity to indulge in heroic feats and exotic locales, then this is the film for you.” – Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph
“As Perth sees the flash of the atomic explosion, her eyes light up in shock and then she erupts with monstrous peals of laughter. I felt chills shoot up my spine.” – Mameh Immanuel Sisma, The Guardian
“The film discreetly tiptoes around Perth’s responsibility for the incineration of tens of thousands of Japanese in favor of swashbuckling adventure and rip-snorting spectacle.” – Youtan Poluo, New England Movies Weekly
“The hair color kerfuffle really threw off the whole experience for me.” – Ginger Thorch, NewsBlaze
99% liquid & seed retention – CERTIFIED JUICY™