Atomic Blonde (2017)
***No plot spoilers***
I got this DVD for my birthday in March, and the first rainy day of this summer gave me time to watch it today. I don’t usually care for such ‘action blockbusters’, and rarely watch ‘spy’ films such as those featuring a certain Mr Bond. But Charlize Theron looked so good in the trailer, I couldn’t resist.
She plays a British agent, Lorraine Broughton, sent to Berlin by MI6 to recover a list of double agents. (Her British accent is somewhat hit and miss, to be honest, but there is a reason for that.) This is Berlin in 1989, a short time before unification, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The film is told in flashback, as Lorraine is being debriefed by her superiors. Berlin is full of spies, agents, and double agents. There are Russians, Stasi operatives, French spies, British spies, and CIA agents too. There is also the East German underground, happy to help the foreigners bring down the DDR.
The film kicks off with action, and keeps the momentum going, except when it returns to the present as she tells her story. Some great set pieces (and Charlize) kept my attention, and Lorraine soon establishes that she is not a woman to be messed with. She can fight, and fight really well. She can shoot a gun, use a knife, apply any handy utensil as a weapon, and drive any car like a rally driver. Her toughness is driven home, so we are in no doubt.
When she has a bath, she fills it with ice cubes first.
She smokes a lot of cigarettes.
She drinks a lot of vodka. Stolichnaya, of course.
She doesn’t trust anyone, not even her ‘own side’.
She can defeat any enemies, no matter how many of them appear at the same time.
And she looks good, really good in fact. (Charlize is 43, and looks better than ever)
She looks good in trousers.
She looks good in a trench coat.
She looks good almost drowning in a submerged car.
She looks good in a T-shirt.
She looks good in a short skirt.
She looks good in stockings and suspenders.
She looks good in a cocktail dress.
She looks good during her short lesbian affair with the French female agent.
She even looks good when she has been beaten up, and is covered in bruises.
(And she has a lot of outfits, considering her luggage)
Her contact in Berlin is British agent David Percival. (James McAvoy) He is unreliable, untrustworthy, and appears to have gone ‘rogue’, dabbling in Black Market goods. But he might know how to get the desired ‘list’, as he has a Stasi agent in his confidence. (Eddie Marsan, with a German accent) Of course, he is also tough.
He smokes a lot of cigarettes.
He drinks a lot of whiskey. Jack Daniels, of course.
He can fight too, but not as well as Lorraine.
He doesn’t trust anyone, not even his ‘own side’.
(He is badly-dressed and scruffy, but he claims it is to ‘blend in’.)
So the scene is set. Everyone wants the ‘list’, and will do anything to get it. No plot spoilers, but it won’t surprise you that nobody is quite what they appear to be. It is a ‘spy’ film, after all. It even has what I generally call a ‘double-quadruple-double-bluff’ twist ending. But if you have seen more than one similar film in your life, you should have guessed that reveal by half way through, if not sooner. The atmosphere is good, and the period well handled by using old cars, fashions from the 1980s, and some great contemporary pop music on the soundtrack. For me, the overrated McAvoy was perhaps the weak link in an otherwise solid cast. There is the estimable Toby Jones, John Goodman with a white beard, Bill Skarsgard as the DDR dissident, and the previously mentioned Eddie Marsan.
Then there is Charlize of course. She is nothing short of magnificent to look at throughout. (Did I mention how good she looks, wearing anything?) Her physical antics in the film are outstanding, even though obviously well-choreographed. I didn’t really care what else happened, as when she was on screen (in almost every scene) she was the only thing I wanted to watch. It is her film so completely, I also really didn’t care who else was in it. This was adapted from a graphic novel, and at times that shows. But it doesn’t matter. Charlize rules. She is just great.
I loved her in this film, so nothing else mattered.