Still from Atomic Blonde
Still from 'Atomic Blonde'

'Atomic Blonde'
U/A: Mystery/ Thriller
Dir: David Leitch
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Til Schweiger

This thrilling period drama, set in the recent past (1989) when the Berlin Wall was about to be pulled down, has British MI6 lady spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) sent to the German capital to retrieve a coveted list of undercover operatives and catch a British double agent working in West Germany. On the site, she partners with her embedded colleague David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through a deadly game of spies.

'Atomic Blonde', based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s comic book, has been adapted by director David (John Wick) Leitch and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad in a way that allows the visuals to narrate the nuts and bolts of the story.

Theron’s turn here is what makes this film endearing. Even though the actor looks stylish and lethal, her performance allows for enough emotion to come through, so that it can be believable. Broughton’s true desires only come to the fore when she is nearly brutalised by the Russian agent working to scuttle the MI6’s options in Europe. It’s a fire-and-ice persona that has the James Bond thrill and the John Wick brutality.

Leitch and his cinematographer Jonathan Sela make it look good, too. Red and blue light is used extensively to convey steeliness and brutality of the characters. Theron gets the most of it — in the very first scene, we see her in an ice bath gulping down vodka shots and the lighting is an iridescent blue, conveying cold determination. Blue ice is what everyone sees in her, but there’s more to her. Glimpses of her inner self-exposed under red light cut through the edgy narrative, from time to time.

Broughton’s story is recounted in a series of flashbacks — Eric Gray (Toby Jones), her commanding officer and Emmet Kurzfeld (John Goodman), CIA chief are her interrogators while the mysterious Chief C (James Faulkner), MI6, watches Broughton tell her tale from behind a two-way mirror.

The film relies on a ’80s soundtrack that includes Nena’s 99 Luftballons and David Bowie’s Cat People. Strong on style, Atomic Blonde doesn’t have much to say other than show us how the double and triple crosses are engineered. But all these creative inputs would have come to naught if Theron wasn’t playing the titular role. She holds sway here and in spite of the savagery on display, you just can’t look away.

Watch 'Atomic Blonde' Trailer