(director: David Leitch; screenwriters: Kurt Johnstad/based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnstad and the illustrator Sam Hart; cinematographer: Jonathan Sela; editor: Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir.; music: Tyler Bates; cast: James McAvoy (David Percival), Charlize Theron (Lorraine Broughton), Toby Jones (Eric Gray), John Goodman (Emmett Kurzfeld), Til Schweiger (Watchmaker), Eddie Marsan (Spyglass), Sofia Boutella(Delphine Lasalle), Roland Møller (Bremovych), James Faulkner (Chief ‘C’), Jóhannes Jóhannesson (Bakhtin), Sam Hargrave (James Gasciogne), Bill Skarsgård (Merkel); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Charlize Theron, Beth Kono, A.J. Dix, Kelly McCormick, Eric Gitter, Peter Schwerin; Focus Features; 2017-in English with some German, Swedish and Russian)
“What’s refreshing is how this slight film has the balls to work in an homage to the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky … .”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Charlize Theron stars as the kick-ass action heroine in the stylish David Leitch directed film. Leitch is an actor and a former stuntman, who co-directed John Wick. He makes here his solo directing debut. Atomic Blonde is set during the Cold War, in 1989, during the final days of the Berlin Wall. The cartoonish story, filled with car chases, martial arts fights and double-crosses, is based on the 2012 graphic novel “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnstad and the illustrator Sam Hart.
It frames the story around a cold agency debriefing in London of its bruised top agent and of flashbacks of her ten day mission as they are being discussed. It includes the super-impositions of news broadcasts about the collapsing communist regime in East Germany and sarcastically it includes images of spies who continue to operate in Berlin even after the Wall comes down. It leaves the message that not trusting other countries or even your own spies is the norm. The lethal MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is assigned by her handler Eric Gray (Toby Jones) to operate in Berlin to get a list of undercover double agents from the West operating in the Soviet Union. The list was taken from the assassinated operative James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave). His wristwatch containing the list was stolen by the corrupt KGB agent Bakhtin (Jóhannes Jóhannesson). To prevent it from falling in to the wrong hands, Lorraine and the seedy Berlin station chief for British intelligence, the loose-cannon David Percival (James McAvoy), are assigned to work together to retrieve the list.
There’s also something about catching the ‘Satchel,’ one of the team members who is a double agent and causing the agency great concern. Others involved include an artistic lesbian French agent Delphine (Sofia Boutella), who gets our gal into the sack, and the surly CIA hot-shot and the laconic MI6 handler (John Goodman & James Faulkner) who are at the hearing. In the film’s most memorable action sequence, the Stasi turncoat Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) has the list memorized and it’s up to Lorraine to bring the package and his family safely out of the heavily fortified East Berlin to get the info.
Also, the treacherous KGB boss (Roland Møller) is after the list. Though the spy stuff is standard-issue genre fare, what’s refreshing is how this slight film has the balls to work in an homage to the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and how its success hinges on the joy of watching Theron crack open the skulls of Russian brutes while impressively doing her own martial-arts stunts.
REVIEWED ON 7/28/2017 GRADE: B-