Main cast: Charlize Theron (Lorraine Broughton), James McAvoy (David Percival), Sofia Boutella (Delphine Lasalle), Bill Skarsgård (Merkel), Eddie Marsan (Spyglass), Jóhannes Jóhannesson (Yuri Bakhtin), Roland Møller (Aleksander Bremovych), Til Schweiger (The Watchmaker), Toby Jones (Eric Gray), James Faulkner (C), and John Goodman (Emmett Kurzfeld)
Director: David Leitch
Atomic Blonde is set around 1989, during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Given that the French, the Brits, the Russians, and the Americans had all played their political games with Germany up to that point, there is a massive scrambling to cover their tracks should the wall comes down, as nobody wants their sins and misdeeds exposed in the aftermath. Right in the middle of the mess is a list containing the names of all the undercover agents that are ever involved in the Cold War, from all sides, so there is a massive scramble from all countries involved to get their hands on it.
When this movie opens, an MI6 agent, later revealed to our heroine Lorraine Broughton’s lover, is killed by Russian agent Bakhtin, who takes the list from that agent. This brings us to Lorraine, who is sent by her boss C to Berlin to locate that list. She is to make contact with Percival, MI6’s top undercover agent there, but the two don’t trust one another; also in the mix is Delphine Lasalle, a French agent who soon becomes Lorraine’s lover, and the Spyglass, an agent who wants to defect to Britain in exchange for the list (which he has memorized). Given that we are talking about secret agents, though, expect plenty of double crosses and twists to hit everyone up, down, left, right, and center.
This movie is comparable to those Bourne Identity movies, if we want a more recent point of reference, in that it is aiming for a gritty, more down to earth vibe. No gadgets or unrealistic explosions here; it’s just guns and stabby things. Unlike Jason Bourne, Lorraine has yet to display any superhuman invulnerability to damage – she gets beaten up as much as she beats up her opponents, and there is a nice kind of realism underneath all the otherwise physics-defying punches and kicks being thrown all over the place.
Charlize Theron is good in her role, as she displays an appropriate level of toughness as well as enough vulnerabilities to balance off the toughness. Lorraine claims to be cold and heartless, but her action sometimes implies a degree of caring for certain things or people, so this gives her character a bit more depth than the usual “tough girl spy” thing. James McAvoy is pretty good, too, but his character looks and behaves like the bad or tough guy roles he’d done in the past, so I’m getting some déjà vu from him here. Sofia Boutella… I suppose she tries, but her role is badly written enough that she doesn’t get to be more than the lesbian chick with a constant mildly constipated expression on her face. And really, John Goodman is really getting around, because this is yet another film he’s in, with him enunciating and gnashing his jaw like he does in all those roles too.
There is plenty of fun to be had here, despite the overall drab color scheme the movie favors, but there are some noticeable issues too. The script tries very hard to be clever, so eventually I get fatigued from all the twists and turns. I don’t care anyway. I sort of see it coming, but the movie would have ended on the perfect note if it closes with Lorraine smoking defiantly in the interrogation room after asking C what she should wear when she visits the Queen. It has been clear enough at that point that she is the actually mole in the MI6, so bam, the credits could have rolled as the viewers soak in the implications. But no, Lorraine has to be the good guy, so what follows are unnecessary scenes telling me that no, she’s actually an American agent playing both the Russians and the Brits, so she’s the good guy, yay. Thanks for spoiling the momentum, people!
At the end of the day, Atomic Blonde is worth a watch, but I don’t love it as much as I just like it, if I am making sense here. It has a killer soundtrack though!