Susan Granger’s review of “Atomic Blonde” (Universal Pictures/Focus Features)
As the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989, a behind-the-scenes spy thriller was unfolding, revolving around undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who was dispatched to retrieve information vital to the safety of Western intelligence.
As she’s being debriefed by her handlers (Toby Jones, John Goodman), it’s revealed that another MI6 agent, James Gascoigne, had a list of every espionage officer in the city on both sides of the Cold War conflict.
When he was killed by a Russian agent (Johannes Johannesson), the list went missing. MI6 wants it back since it contains the identity of an infamous double-agent named Satchel.
In order to achieve her objective, Boughton must singlehandedly battle not only the KGB but also Stasi operatives, Allied spies and even rogue members of her own organization, like self-serving psychopathic David Percival (James McAvoy) and predatory Delphine Lesalle (Sofia Boutella), a sultry French operative who winds up in bed with her.
None of this poses much of a problem since Boughton’s seemingly fearless and ferocious, taking on teams of thugs and – in one memorable sequence – knocking them down a stairwell, one by one, while looking stunning in shiny thigh-high boots and sipping tumblers of Stoli-on-the-rocks.
Working from screenwriter Kurt Johnstad’s convoluted adaptation of Anthony Johnston’s graphic novel “The Coldest City,” director David Leitch (“John Wick”), who once stunt-doubled for Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, trained Charlize Theron for three months to embody the emotionless, enigmatic heroine in stunning fight sequences, chronicled by French cinematographer Jonathan Sela to the beat of ‘80s Europop.
Battered and bruised, Theron traded her vanity for a swollen face and sealed-shut eye. Which is actually not surprising since she previously won an Academy Award playing a hefty serial killer in “Monster” (2003), directed by Patty Jenkins who subsequently helmed “Wonder Woman.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Atomic Blonde” is an adrenaline-propelled, smashing 6, steely and stylish.