by Charles Kirkland, Jr.
Spy Game meets Mission Impossible and throws on a little Salt in the screen adaption of the graphic novel, The Coldest Night, Atomic Blonde
It’s Berlin 1989. The Cold War is coming to a close as the wall is preparing to fall. MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) has been called into action. Her friend and fellow agent, James Gascoigne has been killed while trying to deliver a secret list of all the agency’s covert operatives and their cover identities which he recovered and secured. Whoever killed Gascoigne has the list is now and it is open for sale to the highest bidder. Broughton must meet with field agent supervisor, David Percival (James McAvoy) to find the killer and re-acquire the list before it’s too late. Additionally, she must be wary of a dangerous double agent named Satchel who threatens to expose everything. Fueled by a thumping ’80s synth-pop soundtrack, Broughton kicks, punches stabs and shoots her way through East and West Berlin in the days prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Atomic Blonde is the first solo full-length feature from director David Leitch who previously co-directed (without credit) John Wick and is scheduled to direct Deadpool 2. Just like in John Wick, Leitch’s stuntman background comes to the fore as he helms this high action spy thriller. Unlike, Wick though, Atomic Blonde has an intricate and at times deceptive plot that runs through to its climactic finale. The soundtrack is killer, full of old-school 80’s alternative pop tracks like Falco’s Der Kommissar, Nena’s 99 Luftballons, Peter Schilling’s Major Tom, personal favorite ‘Til Tuesday’s Voices Carry and don’t forget Blondie’s Atomic (get it?).
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity, Blonde earns is rating and doubles down on it. Theron is not shy of her body in this film and allows much of it to be seen in the various level of dress and forms of action. To note, with all of the British actors coming across the pond to play Americans, it’s interesting to see an American play a British spy. This spy is as cool as James Bond but has the martial arts skill of John Wick and the sheer relentlessness of Ethan Hunt. Leitch does not shy away from the violence but also shows that it has its consequences through the numerous bruises the audience sees our hero collect.
Blonde is a little familiar and a little predictable as action spy thrillers can be but the point is the ride. Leitch drops you into the chaotic world of cold war Berlin like a baby being thrown into the pool. It’s swim or die as you navigate your way through the confusing and often times dirty waters the underground spy community of East and West Berlin in the late eighties. It’s a rollicking rapids ride that throws you but never loses you. Hold on you’re going to get bloody wet.