Produced by Charlize Theron, Beth Kono, A. J. Dix, Kelly McCormick, Eric Gitter, and Peter Schwerin
Directed by David Leitch
Screenplay by Kurt Johnstad
Genre: Spy-Fi – Contemporary
Country of Production: United States
Premiered: March 12, 2017 (SXSW)
Released: July 28, 2017
Atomic Blonde takes place in 1989, just as the Berlin Wall is about to collapse (along with the East German regime). The story concerns a piece of microfilm that contains The List, which is a list of every intelligence agent on both sides of the Iron Curtain who is active in Berlin. It begins with MI-6 agent James Gascoigne (Sam Hargrave), who is killed by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin (Jóhannes Jóhannesson), who steals The List.
The story is mostly told as a series of flashbacks, as MI-6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is being debriefed by MI-6 executive Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). Broughton had been assigned to go to Berlin to recover the list, and to assassinate Satchel, a double agent who had sold out to the Soviets years ago and who was responsible for Gascoigne’s death.
Upon arriving in Berlin, she is “made” right away; she is ambushed by KGB agents working for Aleksander Bremovych (Roland Moller), an arms dealer associated with the Soviet agency. After escaping, she meets up with her contact, David Percival (James McAvoy). After not finding any obvious leads, she begins by searching Gascoigne’s apartment, where she finds a picture of him with Percival. While there, she is caught by the West Berlin police. Since only Percival had known that she was going to the apartment, she began to suspect his motives.
Bakhtin declares his intention to sell The List to the highest bidder. Percival kills him and takes The List for himself, intending to meet with Bremovych to give it to him. In the meantime, he offers to escort Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a defector who had originally stolen The List and memorized it, across to the West (along with his wife and kid). Playing both sides, he tips off Bremovych and shoots Spyglass while Broughton is conducting him toward the border. Despite her best efforts, she is unable to save him.
Earlier in the story, Broughton had encountered Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), an inexperienced French agent, and become sexually involved with her. After she fails to save Spyglass, she goes to Lasalle’s apartment, but arrives too late to save her; she had been killed by Percival. Lasalle had proof that Percival had been working with Bremovych; Broughton finds him, kills him, and takes The List.
At the debriefing, Broughton presents the evidence showing that Percival was Satchel and declares that she doesn’t know where The List is. This forces MI-6 to close the case.
The final scene shows Broughton meeting with Bremovych in Paris, showing that it was actually she who was Satchel. She gives him a fake list, but he admits knowing that it was a setup. She kills his men and, before killing Bremovych, tells him that she had been manipulating events from the start. She then meets with Kurzfeld, showing that she had been an American triple agent, working for the CIA all along.
Atomic Blonde is one of the coolest titles for both a movie and a main character that I’ve ever seen. It is perhaps a little bit misleading, as there is nothing in the movie having to do with nuclear weapons or atomic secrets; however, I was not disappointed, as this was an incredibly great film. Setting it in the last few days before the Berlin Wall came down was a nice touch. It began with a clip from Ronald Reagan’s famous speech, during which the president declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Yes, Virginia, even after all this time, Hollyweird is still putting Ronald Reagan in movies. Throughout the film, they would show television coverage of the ongoing protests by young East Germans, which took place every night before the Wall was finally demolished. I enjoyed this, as it provided a sense of history to the story at hand.
Broughton’s hotel room in West Berlin was really cool – it looked like it might have been something from out of Blade Runner.
The various twists and turns in the story were intriguing; yet, the film never got bogged down in too complicated a maze of who was working for whom. There was no shortage of action; Charlize Theron’s character was no dainty little thing – she could kick ass with the best of them, taking on multiple male opponents and defeating them all. The twist at the end during which it was revealed that she was actually a CIA agent was a nice surprise, as the American spy agency had not been much of a factor during most of the movie.
Charlize Theron stole the show, both because she was the “Atomic Blonde” and because she looked incredibly great. When she was all dressed up to go out to the nightclub, she was devastatingly sexy; a total femme fatale. She reminds me of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous icy blondes. In fact, had she been around during his time as a filmmaker, she might have actually become one herself. Theron has never looked better than she did in this film.
After she had taken her lumps from fighting off several KGB agents, she looked anything but glamorous. This was, of course, realistic; nobody can be expected to look her best after being badly beaten up. Her appearance as the victim of the beatdown she took from the KGB provided an interesting contrast to her sleek and sophisticated appearance at the club.
Sofia Boutella’s portrayal of Delphine Lasalle was also quite nice. Although not as glamorous as Theron’s character, she was quite nice looking; her dark hair provided a nice counterpoint to the Atomic Blonde.
I originally bought a copy of this movie on Blu-Ray because I was intrigued by the title. I was not disappointed – this was one of the best films that I’ve seen in awhile. I am happy to award an Ed Wood Oscar to the Atomic Blonde – both to the film and to Charlize Theron, the actress who portrayed the lead character.