Atomic Blonde is a Cold War version of James Bond if Agent 007 were a kick-ass female.
Based on the Oni Press graphic novel series, The Coldest City, David Leitch directs from a screenplay written by Kurt Johnstad. The action-thriller stars Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones.
MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is sent to Berlin at the end of the Cold War in 1989 to partner with station chief David Percival (McAvoy) to retrieve a list of agents following the murder of undercover operative–presumably by the KGB. It’s a deadly game and their are traitors involved. Nobody knows who to trust. All we know is that the list contains the identity of Satchel, a double-agent. Broughton does whatever it takes to stay alive and there’s more there than meets the eye.
Jeopardizing the entire Western intelligence operations is a microfilmed list put together by an East German Stasi intelligence officer. It is assumed to be in possession a person code-named Spyglass (Marsan).
Following the events in Berlin, Broughton is brought in for a debriefing with MI6 investigator Eric Gray (Jones), and American CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (Goodman). Broughton doesn’t want the CIA involved but they aren’t having any of it…this is where the twist at the end turns into a revealing moment. I didn’t see the twist coming at all but there were some hints that someone may have been a double-agent but it was always assumed that the KGB was the other agency. It wasn’t.
French agent Delphine Lasalle plays into the mix as well. Broughton and Lasalle get it on and sleep together. I want to stress that I didn’t read the graphic novel series so I don’t know if this was made for the film or in the original source material. This is the only relationship on the movie–and nobody really expects the lead in an action thriller to be a lesbian or bisexual. In many ways, Lasalle is like one of those expendable Bond girls who never makes it to the end of the film.
Percival gets his hands on the list, finds the identity of Satchel, and lies about ever having the list. Percival is a pretty bad dude. He loves Berlin, hates that the Cold War is ending, and will do what he can to ruin the mission, it seems. He kills Lasalle and he’d kill Broughton if he had the chance.
“I’ve always loved the genre, having read quite a lot of John le Carré and enjoyed the James Bond movies and the Harry Palmer movies like Funeral in Berlin,” says The Coldest City writer Antony Johnston. “I’ve never forgotten the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember watching it unfold on live television, and it felt like such a momentous occasion—something that could lead to global peace and a brighter future. I figured that the anticipation of it could make for an exciting backdrop to a spy story.”
It certainly plays out like a Bond movie but with a narrative that falls just short of the target.
Focus Features opened Atomic Blonde in theaters on July 28, 2017.