Atomic Blonde is a great soundtrack in search of a film.
I think my anger with the film is because of its wasted potential. It could, and should, have been so much better.
The acting is solid, as is the directing and the technical stuff. The make-up department deserve an Oscar nomination. No, seriously. A character goes into shock and they made the character up to the right shade of pale.
The problem is the plot.
It makes no sense. No, seriously.
Without the last two “twists” (neither of which is a twist if you’d paid any attention during the film), it just about makes sense, because of some serious legwork by the actors, mostly Charlize Theron.
SPOILERS BEGIN HERE
With the penultimate twist, it becomes a solid entry in the gay spy drama category.
Think about it, young British agent, commits a lesbian indiscretion and is blackmailed by the Soviets, becoming Satchel. In protecting herself, she loses yet another chance at happiness and gets Delphine, who is very much the girl she was, killed. But she’s got to see it through to get her freedom. It’s all very bleak and actually works with the story.
Unfortunately, that’s when they throw in the last twist. Which isn’t a twist and ruins all that has gone before. I’m not joking about it not being a twist. If you’ve ever heard John Goodman’s voice before, you’ll get it about halfway through the film.
With the last twist, a CIA op has killed 3 Allied agents, and one defector, mostly because of a lack of communication by the CIA. And we’re supposed to be happy about this and think it was a successful operation.
Also, MI6 is so incompetent that it didn’t notice a CIA mole, who was pretending to be a Russian mole, for about 10 years.
You’ve got poor Spyglass, killed trying to do the right thing. Then poor David Percival, who is a see you next Tuesday, don’t get me wrong, and in the throws of the traditional British spy middle-life crisis, who finds out that a friend of his was killed by the Russians to protect someone who has betrayed Percival’s government, and therefore goes all dark side. We’re supposed to be happy she kills him, and that he gets blamed for the whole thing, even though she’s the mole and there isn’t a mole, she’s actually triple-agent but the CIA didn’t bother to tell anyone. And I’m like … no.
In short, when your most sympathetic character is a Stasi agent, there is something wrong with the film!
I’m not even going to go into the really weird thing where there is only 1 German actor, who gets no lines in German. All the other Germans and Russians are played by Scandinavians. Now the amassed Vikings all do a damn good job (no, seriously, all my love for Roland Møller and Bill Skarsgård) but if you’re actually filming in Germany, which this was, it’s a bloody odd casting choice.