Atomic Blonde review

Spy thrillers always have convoluted, muddled plots that never quite add up. From Bond to Bourne and even the classic Le Carre and Tom Clancy stories, spy thrillers are exciting to watch, but often leave audiences scratching their heads at the end. And as spectacular as it is (and Charlize Theron brings all kinds of hard-edged, arse-kicking brilliance to her role), Atomic Blonde is as baffling and logic-defying as the best of them.

The plot basically sees undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) being sent to Berlin towareds the end of the Cold War (it's 1989 and the Berlin Wall is about to come down) in order to obtain a stolen list of double agents. Her former partner, James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave), was murdered for the list, and so she goes to Berlin with the cover story that she is there to retrieve the body and take if=t home for the funeral. There she teams up with fellow MI6 agent, and the head of Berlin operations, David Percival (James McAvoy) to find the ;list and hunt down a double agent with the code-name Satchel.

Much of the film plays out in flashback, cutting between Berlin and a debriefing room in London as Broughton fills in her superiors. Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, Atomic Blonde is as derivitive as the next Cold War espionage thrillers, with one major exception: Charlize Theron. She's always been a fabulous actress, and in Mad Max: Fury Road showed she can also be an exceptional action woman. She really ups the action game in Atomic Blonde, aided by excellent direction from David Leitch – the former stunt co-ordinator who co-directed John Wick and is helming Deadpool 2. Hi invests the film with style and superbly choreographed action sequences, putting his leading lady front and centre. Theron is fantastic, taking a hell of a pumelling as she dishes out beatings to anyone who gets in her way. The supporting cast, led by McEvoy on highly intense form, is exceptional: Eddie Marsan is great as Spyglass, Toby Jones is MI head Eric Gray, John Goodman is the CIA chief and Sofia Boutella is French spy Delphine Lasalle, with whom Broughton has a pretty hot relationship.

With a pumping 80s soundtrack featuring two David Bowie tracks (Cat People/Putting Out Fire and Under Pressure), Public Enemy's Fight The Power, Nena's 99 Luftballons And I Ran by A FLock of Seagulls - but, sadly no Atomic by Blondie, a real missed opportunity - Atomic Blonde is a  high-octane thrill ride with astonishing stuntwork and a phenomenal performance by Theron in the lead role. A sequel has already been green-lit; bring it on.

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Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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