Charlize Theron kicks ass and looks great doing it in the most entertaining espionage action thriller Atomic Blonde. Theron plays a British secret agent on a mission behind the Iron Curtain just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The MacGuffins that she must recover are a list of clandestine operatives and the double agent who has memorized the list. She runs into more shady characters than in The Third Man’s Vienna, chief amongst them a debauched British agent gone rogue (James McAvoy).
There is intrigue and backstabbing, double-crossing and at least one major plot twist. The brutal action is exquisitely filmed and edited, and the Atomic Blonde qualifies as a full-fledged martial arts movie. Theron’s character is so Stoli-fuelled, that Stolichnaya Vodka must have paid a fortune for product placement.
Atomic Blonde makes excellent use of a more somber version of 99 luftballons (a 1983 hit by the German group Nena). There’s a Bond-like opening song, too.
Theron is a superb actress with wide-ranging skills (Monster, The Italian Job, In the Valley of Elah). And, as we saw in Mad Max: Fury Road, she can credibly carry an action movie. The rest of the cast is also very good: McAvoy, Toby Jones, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan and a bunch of scary-looking guys who play commie thugs.
Atomic Blonde is the first feature directing credit for David Leitch, a guy with a long resume as a stunt man as and a stunt coordinator Leitch sure knows how to film fights and chases, and Atomic Blonde is really a top-notch action film.