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Agent Lorraine Broughton
The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, the steely and seductive top-level agent for the MI6 is an unapologetic warrior who’s equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, and who’s willing to deploy all of her skills to stay alive on the impossible mission of navigating through the deadliest game of spies.
Agent David Percival
A charming, conniving but reckless Berlin station chief, and Agent Broughton’s fellow MI6 operative, who runs a feral contraband game far from the prying eyes of London and relishes in the brutal and deadly environment that lets him run wild throughout the merciless city.
CIA Operative Emmett Kurzfeld
A high-ranking CIA operative who’s been dispatched from the U.S. to monitor Agent Broughton’s mission and run a joint assignment with the MI6 to recover a mircrofilm dossier of operatives that puts agents’ lives at stake if it falls into the wrong hands.
Agent Delphine Lasalle
An idealistic, young and adventurous French intelligence agent on her first real mission, forced to go head-to-head with the major players, whose captivation with Agent Broughton intensifies into a sizzling affair.
An enigmatic man who owns an elegant jewelry store and is entrusted with a watch that potentially contains the list of MI6 operatives that the agents are after.
A brilliant man, codenamed 'Spyglass,' thought to be in possession of a microfilmed list with the identities of all Western agents operating in Berlin that could jeopardize the West’s entire intelligence operation if compromised.
Oscar-winner Charlize Theron stars as elite MI6's most lethal assassin and the crown jewel of her Majesty's secret intelligence service, Lorraine Broughton. When she's sent on a covert mission into Cold War Berlin, she must use all of the spycraft, sensuality and savagery she has to stay alive in the ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. Broughton must navigate her way through a deadly game of spies to recover a priceless dossier while fighting ferocious killers along the way in this breakneck action-thriller from director David Leitch (John Wick).
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The film wastes no time getting things moving. In Berlin, on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a British MI6 agent, James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave) is shot and killed by a Russian KGB agent, Yuri Bakhtin (Jóhannes Jóhannesson). Bakhtin proceeds to steal Gasciogne's watch, which contains "the List", a piece of microfilm apparently containing dossiers on every active field agent in Europe and the Soviet Union. Ten days later, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron, in an outstanding performance), a top spy for MI6, is brought in for a debriefing by MI6 executive Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman) about her mission to Berlin, which we learn was to recover the List and to find and assassinate a double-agent code-named Satchel who betrayed Gasciogne to the Russians. Observing the debriefing behind a two-way mirror is MI6 head Chief C (James Faulkner). The bulk of the story is then told in flashback as Lorraine tells her superiors what happened in the ten days since Gasciogne's murder.
Note: the unfolding plot is highly convoluted. It helps to understand that in the film, "the List" is what Hitchcock famously called "the MacGuffin" which is "A plot device that motivates the characters and advances the story, particularly one whose importance is accepted completely by the story's characters, yet from the audience's perspective it might be minimally explained or may test their suspension of disbelief if it is scrutinized." The only thing you need to know about "the List" is that everyone - the British, the Russians, the East Germans and other, more grey parties - wants it and will go to any lengths to get it.
This is Leitch's first outing as director of a feature film, but he has over twenty years of experience as a stunt man and as an action & second-unit director and that really comes through in Atomic Blonde. The action sequences tend to be fast-paced, complex and downright brutal in terms of what the characters are put through in this spy vs spy vs spy thriller set during the chaos that was going on in Berlin when things were falling apart in East Germany and the collapse of the infamous Berlin Wall was imminent. One of the things I really liked about the film was how in an early scene you see Charlize Theron taking an ice bath in preparation for a meeting with her superiors after her mission and you see how badly battered and bruised the mission has left her, and then as the film shows the mission in flashback, you see all of the fights and chases that led to her ending up looking as she does. Almost everyone gets put through the wringer in this movie, but none more than Theron's Lorraine Broughton.
The performances are excellent. Toby Jones (Infamous, The Girl) is appropriately officious and anxious as Theron's MI6 boss, trying to navigate a debriefing he knows could blow up in his face. John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Argo) is quietly crusty as Jones' CIA counterpart whose eyes convey the suspicions he clearly has. Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Mummy) manages to make her French intelligence agent Delpine both highly competent and yet sympathetically naive as she becomes more than a little involved in Theron's assignment. Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake) is remarkably effective and even sympathetic as the East German Stasi defector code-named Spyglass who first stole the list to buy escape to the West for him and his family. Marsan's Spyglass reminds us that not all intelligence agents are James Bond clones - some are just unnoticeable little men who end up knowing more than is good for them and are trying to survive that. But the real standouts are Charlize Theron's hardened, dead serious professional Lorraine and James McAvoy's gleefully over-the-top MI6 Berlin-station-chief-gone-native, David Percival. We know that McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men First Class) is pretty much off-the-rails from the moment he first brings Theron to his Berlin office and offers her her pick of jeans from one of the many boxes of contraband goods he has lying around. McAvoy also has some of the choicest bits of dialogue in the film, from his introductory "Don't shoot! I've got your shoe!" to his exuberant declaration "I f[***]ing _love_ Berlin!" later on. McAvoy's Percival thrives on chaos, positively revels in it, in sharp contrast to Theron's dead serious Lorraine. Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) is almost unrecognizable here. It's less a matter of make-up or effects than it is Theron burying herself beneath Lorraine's tightly controlled, experience-toughened persona. The advice she gets on setting out - "Trust no one" - is unnecessary; she's been living by that for years. If there's any justice in the film world (an admittedly open question at times), she's sure to be remembered come awards time.
The musical score by Tyler Bates (300, Watchmen, Guardians of the Galaxy) is well done and matches the mood and pace of what's happening on the screen, but it's over-shadowed by the killer set of songs from the late 80's - New Order, David Bowie, Nena, Public Enemy, Peter Schilling, The Clash and others - playing in the background in various scenes. This is the first movie in a long time where I've wanted to get the songs soundtrack just for the collection.
Highly recommended for people who like complex, over-the-top action-heavy spy thrillers (and late 80's pop-music) and for outstanding performances by Charlize Theron and James McAvoy.