The name ‘Atomic Blonde’ conjures up terrible, retro imagery of peroxide quiffs and sparkly tights for me personally, but despite its terrible title, Charlize Theron’s new 80s-tinged spy movie is worth the movie ticket.
Opening on the Berlin Wall, still standing pre-9 November 1989, Atomic Blonde uses a deft touch in combining a classic spy thriller with the taut political tension of real-life historical events. Lorraine Broughton (Theron), an elite MI6 spy, is sent to Berlin to retrieve a list exposing every agent on the books – and with the Wall about to fall, the implications of their exposure could have serious political ramifications.
MI6 has also found out that the list contains the identity of a double agent, codename Satchel, who Broughton is sent to assassinate. Enter the twists and turns; from the naive French agent Delphine Lasalle, who is also following her (Sofia Boutella in fine form) to the Berlin-stationed English ally, David Percival (played by the excellent James McAvoy), who she begins to suspect is up to no good.
Some of the troubles with this movie are also its strengths: it can sometimes be confusing to the viewer, leading you down the garden path with an obvious clue, that eventually turns out to be a red herring. These plot devices are successful in delivering a few surprises, but also take away from the ability to tell the purposely convoluted story with the simple clarity of a movie like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Atomic Blonde has a stylistic strength that should see it move into the fringes of cult territory; it’s all nu-wave 80s soundtracks and sexy Theron-Boutella lesbian scenes. However, I can’t help but wonder if it could have benefited from a little more clever editing, and a little less of the repetitive ‘Charlize Theron is a badass, getting dressed to 80s music’ scenes.
All in all, however, Atomic Blonde is good, ass-kicking fun.