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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 fact that the movie is being told in the past tense eliminates any suspense. You know the main character will survive because there she is telling her story after the fact. So you already know the outcome of every death defying fight scene before they even begin.
Chrarlize Theron is an incredible actress and this movie didn't even tap into her acting skills.
Just another action movie where they focus on fight scenes and visuals and completely forget about the storyline. A movie designed to appeal to hipsters and beta males that worship dominant women.
Based upon “The Coldest City,” a 2012 graphic novel written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart—“graphic novel” is the contemporary term for “comic book”—“Atonic Blonde” details the adventures of crack MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, sent to East Berlin in 1989 on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.
Broughton’s mission is to recover a stolen watch containing a microfilmed list of the names of every active double agent working for the Soviet Union. A peripheral mission is to assassinate a Soviet double agent who murdered an MI6 colleague of Broughton, and who is presumed to be in possession of the watch.
Told in flashbacks during Broughton’s debriefing by her MI6 superior Eric Gray and his American CIA colleague Emmett Kurzfield, “Atomic Blonde” instead of being a straightforward narrative becomes a big, messy free-for-all from the moment Broughton first sets foot in East Berlin and makes contact with David Percival, the experienced MI6 station chief assigned to be Broughton’s primary contact in Berlin.
As the movie unfolds, the plot becomes convoluted and confusing enough to lead the viewer to suspect the picture must be a parody of every Cold War spy thriller ever made, but is punctuated with enough graphic violence and sudden and senseless bloodshed to persuade the viewer’s it’s not.
Playing Broughton in more-or-less the title role is the South African actress Charlize Theron. Theron, who can be a fine and gifted performer, seems at age 41 to want to redefine herself as a star of action pictures. In 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Theron displayed a feral, savage quality that audiences possibly suspected was among her repertoire, but which had rarely been used in other pictures.
But even in Theron’s Academy Award-winning performance as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos is in 2003’s “Monster,” the actress was able to invest some humanity in what was by its very title and definition an almost inhuman characterization. That cannot be said of Theron’s performance in “Atomic Blonde.”
In “Atomic Blonde,” the action and admittedly impressive stuntwork becomes the focus of the characterization, at the expense of Broughton’s sense of humanity. It’s a physical performance rather than an emotional one—the action becomes the art. Theron’s Broughton is so cold and emotionless that she relaxes in baths filled with ice water while she swills vodka. In “Atomic Blonde,” Theron seems to want to revoke her earlier, warmer, more human performances. Her character in "Atomic Blonde" is about as human as The Terminator.
It’s not that there isn’t passion to her character—there is. But even during a scene in which Broughton becomes romantically entwined with a French undercover agent, it’s just another violent encounter, a wrestling match with two opponents grappling for superiority, little different from the flesh-tearing, blood-splattering hand-to-hand combat of the action sequences.
Among the supporting cast, there’s also little distinction. John Goodman, looking more slender than usual but infinitely less healthy, plays the American CIA agent working with MI6 to debrief Broughton after her botched mission in Berlin. All Goodman’s scenes except one are performed with Toby Jones as Broughton’s MI6 superior, while Theron as Broughton, her face of battlefield of bruises and cuts, chain-smokes through her account of the failed mission.
Goodman and Jones play stereotypes rather than characters. French Algerian actress and model Sofia Boutella, who also played the title role in Universal’s recent remake of “The Mummy,” likewise has little more to contribute in her role as a French undercover agent and occasional romantic partner to Theron’s Broughton than her presence and unique physical appearance.
The only breath of fresh air in “Atomic Blonde” is contributed by the Scottish actor James McAvoy as David Percival, the MI6 station chief stationed in East Berlin. In a ocean of sullen and serious countenances and repressed emotions, McAvoy’s Percival is the only character to even smile during the course of the picture.
And McAvoy smiles almost constantly—the actor seems to revel in his role, relishing every nuance, double cross and betrayal. Near the end of the picture, in describing the frequent double- and triple-crosses and two-, three-, and four-faced agents at play in the corrupt city, McAvoy’s Percival exclaims, “God, I love Berlin!” McAvoy’s scenes in “Atomic Blonde” are a jolt of pure oxygen in this airless and repressive movie.
David Leitch, who directed “Atomic Blonde” from a screenplay adapted by Kurt Johnstad from the graphic novel source material, is on record as wondering, “How do you reinvent this stuffy Cold War spy movie?” And he answers his own question—with overwhelming amounts of graphic violence not permitted during the days of “The Ipcress File” and “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” and even the early James Bond pictures. Otherwise, in spite of the violence and a killer music soundtrack, “Atomic Blonde” is every bit as cold and stuffy as the others, without even the ultra-chic high style filmmaker Luc Besson invested in the similarly-themed “La Femme Nikita” in 1990.
Director Leitch, a longtime stunt coordinator who also co-directed with Chad Stahelski the popular 2014 action thriller “John Wick,” places the accent of “Atomic Blonde” on the stunts and action sequences. But in “Atomic Blonde,” there’s none of the self-awareness and dry humor displayed by actor Keanu Reeves in “John Wick” and its sequel from earlier this year. The violence in “Atomic Blonde” is present for its own sake. It’s worse than unpleasant—the media has become the message. The only other alternative—violence as titillation, bloodletting as entertainment—is unthinkable.
It’s not as if the rules for action films have been rewritten or reinvented—it’s more that with “Atomic Blonde,” the restrictions have been thrown out the window entirely. Critics and audiences alike gasped in 1963 when Sean Connery’s James Bond in “From Russia with Love” struck a female character. It’s interesting to speculate with the critics of 1963 would’ve made of “Atomic Blonde.”
Released by Focus Features and running 115 minutes, “Atomic Blonde” is rated R for its ultra-violence, and some nudity and sexual content. Of the picture’s 115 minutes, probably at least ninety feature graphic violence. The body count numbers in the dozens—by gun, by explosion, by hand. Twenty years ago, “Atomic Blonde” would’ve earned an NC-17, or even an X. After more than a half-century, not a single Bond picture out of twenty-four has earned an R.
Near the end of “Atomic Blonde,” one character muses, “These relationships aren’t real—they’re just a means to an end.” And that’s true…except for the observation that in “Atomic Blonde,” there are no relationships—only brief interactions and hollow alliances usually, almost invariably, ending in betrayal and carnage.
And a full fifty-five years after the release of “Dr. No” in 1962, “Atomic Blonde” finally fulfills the major criticism of nearly every single James Bond picture since that time: It’s amoral.