ATOMIC BLONDE” ACTION

 



 

NOTHING DEADLIER THAN FEMALE SPY IN “ATOMIC BLONDE” ACTION

A Film Review by Tim Riley

 

ATOMIC BLONDE (Rated R  It’s only fitting that action thriller “Atomic Blonde,” coinciding with the end of the Cold War era, is framed by President Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down this Wall” speech and the sight of German citizens doing just that to the symbol of Communist tyranny and oppression. Driven by the pulsating sounds of a terrific soundtrack of Eighties rock, “Atomic Blonde” is focused intently on deadly female secret agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) being embroiled in brutal action with KGB thugs and assorted bad guys in Berlin during late 1989.

An operative in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lorraine is tasked with an assignment, on the eve of the Berlin Wall’s dismantling, to take down a ruthless espionage ring that has killed an undercover agent who was in the midst of retrieving a list of Western agents operating in Berlin. The murdered spy, James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave), just happened to be Lorraine’s former lover, and still she’s instructed by MI6 brass in London not to make this a mission of revenge, but rather to retrieve the microfilm dossier of Western agents and help a Stasi officer to defect.  For good reason, the East German agent named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), having memorized the list of compromised agents that has gone missing, is only valuable if he remains alive and can also get his family to safety in the West.

Before Lorraine even has the slightest chance to remain incognito, she’s run afoul of Russian agents upon arrival at the Berlin airport, which has the immediate benefit of establishing her bona fides as an ultimate street fighter capable of kicking and punching her way out of deadly harm. Like any good spy, Lorraine knows that it is unwise to trust anyone, and it’s no wonder she won’t let her guard down when hooking up with reckless Berlin station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), who looks like he’s part of the punk rock scene at underground nightclubs.

 

If Percival appears to be shady and compromised, it has something to do with the stash of contraband in his quarters that he’s obviously selling on the lucrative black market.  Percival has been seduced by the Dodge City environment of the espionage world. A minor annoyance to the narrative flow of the no-holds-barred action is that a battered and bruised Lorraine is seen having an after-the-fact debriefing at the London headquarters at intervals that run throughout the unfolding action scenes.

The shift between the action in Berlin and the sterile interrogation conducted by the wary-eyed MI6 investigator Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA operative Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman) only serves to highlight Lorraine’s lone wolf modus operandi that would irritate superiors. There are times when Lorraine, dressed in glamorous outfits, looks deceptively like a fashion model, but that does not belie the fact that her spiked heels on bright red shoes serve the brutally necessary purpose of weaponized accessories.

Even after suffering cuts and bruises in hand-to-hand combat, Lorraine has the self-assured presence of an ice queen only too often given to smoking and drinking vodka while taking cold baths in ice water that apparently have restorative power. Though she has the steely-eyed physical determination of a James Bond, or Jason Bourne for that matter, Lorraine’s character has a certain indefinable ambiguity that puts opponents as well as supposed allies on edge.

It’s not just Percival, who comes across as uncertain about his loyalties, acting as a secretive rogue agent who may need to emerge from the shadows like a spy in a John le Carre novel.  There’s also a mysterious French spy that takes a keen interest in Lorraine. Youthful and idealistic French intelligence agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) is looking for a lot more than adventure in the epicenter of Cold War intrigue.  She’s fascinated with the rebellious spirit of East German youth at thriving nightclub scenes.

Captivated by Lorraine’s self-assured beauty, Delphine brings sparks to the screen with a keen interest in the seduction of the British spy.  The cinematographer worked overtime to light the faces of these two with bright red and blue colors in pivotal scenes.

The director, David Leitch, who shared directing duties on the explosive thriller “John Wick,” established his credentials for the genre of “Atomic Blonde,” as he deftly shows a flair for sleek action and dazzling style.

For her part, Lorraine moves with the grace of a ballet dancer and the grit and resolve of a martial-arts fighter in the visceral scenes of punching, pummeling and kicking her adversaries with brutal efficiency.   Overall, “Atomic Blonde” knows the bottom line is the deliverance of violently choreographed fight scenes where the hard-boiled female spy is going to do serious damage to a lot of bad guys.  Charlize Theron proves to be an excellent vehicle for lethal results. The intense action scenes of the deadly heroine meting out grueling punishment, along with thrilling car chases, makes “Atomic Blonde” possible for one to at least temporarily forget the Bond and Bourne action franchises.

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