Atomic Blonde kicks off with a bang as MI6 agent James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave) and evil KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin (Jóhannes Jóhannesson) have words, leading to the former coming off worse in shocking circumstances and on the orders of a mysterious double agent in Berlin, called Satchel (played by… not telling).
Told in flashback, we move to ten days later, as Lorraine (Charlize Theron) is having a debrief, with MI6’s Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and the CIA’s Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman), about her mission to discover what happened, which took place in those intervening days. This includes tracking down Bakhtin, who now has in his possession a full list of MI6 agents, whilst also finding David Percival (James McAvoy), her point of contact and the agency’s No.1 in Berlin.
Under a pseudonym, she’ll also ‘make contact’ (as Gray puts it) with French hottie Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), get the list and then get home.
You’ve probably realised it’s very plot-bare, but – and with everything bathed in blue-ish light for most of the time – it’s in the action where it excels, as Ms Theron can kick and punch almost to the point of Keanu Reeves’ John Wick (it coms from the same director). When it’s good, it’s really good. If only it wasn’t for the fact that the movie is very baggy and could easily have 20 minutes cut out of its near-two-hour running time. Plus, it gets very twisty-turny to the point where it stops making a whole heap of sense.
Add in Eddie Marsan as another mysterious person, this time a man known as Spyglass, who claims to have committed the entire MI6 list to memory, plus an amazing, and long, one-take fight sequence based around a staircase – at least it really does look one-take, even including a car chase very much like that in Children Of Men – and you can see the much better film that’s looking to break out of one that’s ‘better than watchable’.
Oh, and add in some fantastic music, which makes it feel more like a feature-length ’80s pop video at times, such as:
- New Order – Blue Monday
David Bowie – Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
Peter Schilling – Major Tom
Nena – 99 Luftballons
George Michael – Father Figure
After the Fire – Der Commissar
Siouxie and the Banshees – Cities in Dust
Re-Flex – The Politics of Dancing
Til Tuesday – Voices Carry
Finally, I’d love a sequel, but it would really needs some tightening up. 100 minutes max from start to finish.
Running time: 115 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures Int (UK)
Format: 2.35:1 (Dolby Vision, Hawk Scope)
Released: August 9th 2017
Film Rating: 6.5/10
Director: David Leitch
Producers: AJ Dix, Eric Gitter, Beth Kono, Kelly McCormick, Peter Schwerin and Charlize Theron
Screenplay: Kurt Johnstad (based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City” written by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart)
Music: Tyler Bates
Lorraine Broughton: Charlize Theron
David Percival: James McAvoy
Spyglass: Eddie Marsan
Emmett Kurzfeld: John Goodman
Eric Gray: Toby Jones
Chief ‘C’: James Faulkner
Aleksander Bremovych: Roland Møller
Delphine Lasalle: Sofia Boutella
Merkel: Bill Skarsgård
James Gasciogne: Sam Hargrave
Yuri Bakhtin: Jóhannes Jóhannesson
Watchmaker: Til Schweiger
Coroner: Barbara Sukowa
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.