When an agent is murdered is Berlin, MI6 sends in Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent in to retrieve a dossier that has gone missing. Lorraine is teamed up with David Percival (James McAvoy), an agent who knows Germany inside and out and can move between East Berlin and West Berlin with ease.
Percival has promised a man known as Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) that he would help Spyglass and his family escape East Germany and get to safety. Not only did Spyglass create the dossier, he has also committed all the information it contains to memory, making him a valuable asset.
While searching for the watch containing the dossier, Lorraine and Percival are being hunted by the KGB and East German soldiers all hoping to get their hands on the valuable intel it contains. Not knowing who she can trust, Lorraine must not only find and deliver the watch and help Spyglass escape, she must also survive a mission with more dangers than she anticipated.
Taking place in Germany in 1989, Atomic Blonde is a classic 80’s style spy thriller set in the days before the Berlin Wall is torn down.
Fresh off the heels of The Fate of the Furious, Charlize Theron ditches the dreadlocks for a platinum blonde wig and gets down to business being a bad-ass. Weaving her way through East Berlin, she takes on hordes of attackers and dispatches them thoroughly. What I like is the realism with which this is done. If you watch a James Bond film, Bond will work his way through his enemies, barely receiving a scratch. Theron’s character gets her share of beatings and it shows. But she does not let that slow her down. She also has her occasional moments of softness in the film, showing her range even within one role.
I’m convinced that James McAvoy is one of those actors who isn’t really acting. Rather, he just shows up to set and is James McAvoy. He’s slightly unhinged, a little mad, but gets the job done. He is a delight to watch. John Goodman, Toby Jones, and James Faulkner play the group of higher-ups debriefing Lorraine after the incidents. Their roles in the film seem a bit extemporaneous until you get to the meat of the story and realize just how important they are. They aren’t given much to do, but that’s fine, given the scope of the story.
Most of director David Leitch’s credits are for his stunt work. He takes that experience and delivers high-adrenaline, action-packed fight scenes. He doesn’t sacrifice the story either. The plot is one we have seen time and time again. A list of agents falls into the wrong hands and must be retrieved while other agents go rogue, trying to get the information for nefarious reasons. This is my lone complaint about the film. It recycles something we’ve seen too many times. However, the way it is told earns a pass for its use of a cliché.
Packed with more twists and turns than I can count, the film keeps you on your toes. Once you think you have it figured out, the plot hits you with a right then turns around and hits you with a left and then another right. If you’re not paying attention, it can make your head spin. Ultimately, you will be left with your mouth hanging open, unable to believe what they pulled off.
With a heavily 80’s stylized feel and killer soundtrack (you can never go wrong ending a film with Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure), Atomic Blonde is easily one of my favorite films of the year. Don’t skip this one.