Atomic Blonde is not the kind of film that stands up to anything resembling close scrutiny, but there are still some guilty pleasure thrills to be gleaned from this gloriously superficial, stylish, violent spy thriller.
Set in 1989 Berlin just before the wall came down, the plot is tissue-thin standard nonsense about recovering stolen double agent lists and exposing high ranking traitors. If you are looking for depth of characterisation, forget it. This is not a film about substance but about glossy, nostalgic retro-atmosphere. Everything from the spray-painted credits to the fashions and the music – a cracking 80s playlist of New Order, David Bowie, The Clash, Depeche Mode, Nena, Public Enemy, A Flock of Seagulls, Re-flex and many others – is meticulously crafted to appeal to people of a certain age (ie me).
Charlize Theron’s impossibly cool, sexy, ass-kicking agent Lorraine Broughton is fun to watch, and her many fight scenes with various baddies are superbly choreographed. During one bravura sequence, director David Leitch stages a very elaborate, 10 minute single-shot fight that starts in an apartment building then escalates into a car chase. There might be a few hidden cuts in the sequence, but it still looks seamless.
On the minus side, although Theron is well supported by James McAvoy, the rest of the cast feels somewhat wasted, especially Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan and John Goodman. I should probably add the usual warnings about very strong language, sexual content, nudity and violence. Much of it is gratuitous but it certainly isn’t dull.
Double, triple and quadruple crosses ensue, and to be honest by the end of this nonsensical tangled web, I really couldn’t have cared less about the true allegiances of any of the characters. But Charlize Theron is cool, as are the fight scenes and the soundtrack. So if any of those factors appeal, you might get a kick out of Atomic Blonde.