Film: Atomic Blonde
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan
Director: David Leitch
Narrated in flashback mode, this edgy graphic novel adaptation opens with that most defining symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall – a small piece of which is among my prized possessions – a reminder of the barrier that divided families and kept Germans in the communist East from the democratic, capitalist West. The opening scenes show how people died trying to flee, and the extent to which the flagbearers of warring ideologies will go to maintain the status quo.
In such a scenario, spooks have a field day and David Leitch (of John Wick fame) ropes in a talented star cast to regale viewers with the murky goings on beyond the Wall. I don’t know when I’ll get to see a magnum opus on Noor Inayat Khan, World War II British secret agent (and Tipu Sultan descendant) who was executed by the Nazis but till then, we must be content with the titular reel spy who gets thrashed and bashed as badly as her male counterparts.
Time was when the movies desisted from inflicting grievous hurt on women, children and pets. Now, anything goes, where women are concerned. Feminism has strengthened masculine resentment though not, sadly, the sharing of domestic responsibilities. To gratify the misogynists among us, MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron, terrific) just happens to be a lesbian whose romantic liaisons are doomed just like James Bond’s. See, spies aren’t supposed to live in wedded bliss while they retrieve important assets and hunt down a battery of opponents, which include, oh the horror, the horror; double agents.
The narrative jumps time frames between the M16/CIA debriefing and the stylish action scenes. As the titular superspy, Theron shows off her acting and fighting chops, holding her own against the Stasi/KGB not to speak of McAvoy’s manic David Percival. All of the action sequences are impressive and set to the backdrop of 1980s pop/rock hits. Leitch leads you up the garden path to think Percival is the double agent. He’s not. Absolutely no spoiler this. Trouble is, there are far too many twists towards the end when two would have done nicely, thank you.