Charlize Theron’s choice of roles seems to be all over the map. Some of her films have been great, and others terrible. She’s been in highly lauded movies that are utter garbage, and in some lambasted movies that are pretty fun to watch. And then there’s Atomic Blonde, which is kind of in the middle of all of that.
The film is set in 1989 Berlin, just as the wall is about to come down. It’s a city loaded with spies from all over the place: United States, United Kingdom, USSR, France, and of course both halves of Germany. Amidst all of the chaos, a list of British spies has gotten loose and is threatening to surface, which the Russians want very much to happen, and the British want very much to avoid. It’s also got the identity of a suspected double agent who is working for both sides. David Percival (James McAvoy) is the head British spy in Berlin, but the Brits (including senior agent Eric Gray, played by Toby Jones), working in conjunction with CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman), decide to send in badass MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) to make extra sure that the list doesn’t get out.
If you think this plot sounds familiar, you’re right. It’s exactly the same premise as Mission: Impossible. If you want originality, look somewhere else. You should also look elsewhere if you want cleverness because nothing that happens in this movie is a surprise. Just like Mission: Impossible, there is much double-crossing and misdirection, but David Leitch isn’t in the same league as Brian De Palma when it comes to pulling this stuff off. But Leitch was involved with John Wick, and that does show in the fight scenes because there are some good ones in Atomic Blonde, and all of the best of those feature Charlize giving it to one, or sometimes several, cocky guys. There’s also plenty of good late 80s music, even if you throw out the most obvious German-themed songs like “99 Luftballons” and “Der Kommissar”.
With its lack of originality and creativity, Atomic Blonde was never going to be a masterpiece. If it had been shorter, had more fighting, and had less of McAvoy’s highly annoying character, it could have at least been a fun distraction. But as it is, it’s trying to be too many different things while not doing any of them all that well. It’s adequate, but not worth rushing out to see.