The trailers for Atomic Blonde looked awesome. A nonstop action thrill ride, in the mold of director David Leitch’s breakout movie (that he co-directed) John Wick.
As it is, Atomic Blonde isn’t quite that sort of movie. It’s actually a spy movie with some espionage around the action. How’d it turn out?
Not as well as I had hoped, but the biggest problem is few of the movie’s secrets were all that secret if you’d seen the trailers for it. As someone who goes to the movies at least once a week, I’d seen them many, many times. A final reveal may be the exception depending on certain factors, but much of what happened in Atomic Blonde was, I felt, spoiled by the ad campaign.
Let’s get to it anyway.
Charlize Theron is Loraine Broughton, a highly-skilled MI6 agent brought in on a case in late November of 1989. What happened that month? The Berlin Wall fell, though Loraine is quickly dispatched to Berlin just before that fateful occurrence with a twofold mission. First, she needs to retrieve a list of every Allied operative in the region that a colleague of hers was killed for. Second, there’s a double agent somewhere in the region, and she needs to find this person. Her contact is one David Percival (James McAvoy), the Berlin station chief who, we are told, has “gone feral” as he doesn’t really have an embassy to answer to and he’s been on his own for the better part of the last decade. Neither Broughton nor Percival exactly trust each other as a Stassi defector (Eddie Marsan) is looking to get out of East Berlin before he’s killed by the KGB. Also in the mix are a CIA agent (John Goodman) and a French operative (Sofia Boutella), all playing off each other and each with their own agendas.
As I said, the movie isn’t as action packed as advertised, but what action there is is fantastic, particularly in the last half hour where a sequence involving Broughton trying to sneak Marsan’s “Spyglass” out of East Berlin takes a turn for the worst and she has to battle off numerous opponents, including one KGB man who seems nearly indestructible, in what I suspect was one long take. It was one of those situations where if there were any cuts in the scene, I didn’t notice them right away as Broughton and Spyglass work their way out of a building and into a police car to escape pursuit from an unknown number of enemy agents.
Featuring a decent spy story and a bunch of pretty darn good action sequences, a good 80s soundtrack, a distinctive Berlin punk scene aesthetic, and the Wall’s eventual fall giving most of the events of the movie a nihilistic subtext, Atomic Blonde may not have been quite as good as I was hoping, but it was still fairly cool in its own right. Eight and a half improvised weapons out of ten.