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Spies girl

Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron as a British agent sent to Berlin in the days leading up to the fall of the wall, is let down by everyday sexism

10 August, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Charlize Theron as British agent Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde

Directed by David Leitch
Certificate 15

THE simple, six-letter word blonde has a remarkable resonance in English language culture. Say it and then think for a moment what it conjures up in your mind.

I’d wager that for many of us, it is inexplicably linked with everyday sexism: usually prefixed with a Murdoch-style qualifier such as dumb or busty. The fact it is used as a descriptive form with connotations to female personality is surely a stated fact.

So as a starting point for a film about a female secret agent who spends a huge amount of time in various stages of either undress, or wearing red-carpet clothing, laying out immediately in the title that this film is riddled with everyday sexism, is, I suppose, at least being honest.

Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, the British agent sent to Berlin in the days leading up to the fall of the wall to find out who killed her fellow spook Gascoigne (Sam Hargrave).

While doing so, she gets spectacularly entangled in a CIA, MI6 and KGB war to grab hold of a list that contains the names of spies, spies and more spies.

The story is told through a post-operation debrief, where agent bosses John Goodman and Toby Jones are trying to decipher who did what and why. As Lorraine tries to get on the inside of the KGB crew chasing the list – it’s hidden inside an expensive watch, and you have to play a game of Where’s The Queen? as it is passed from one bloodied wrist to another – she is helped by dodgy Berlin spy boss David (James McAvoy), who reveals a Soviet defector called Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) has also memorised the list…

This film has some great moments. Leaping from the pages of graphic novel The Coldest City by Anthony Johnson and Sam Hart, it never forgets its source material – we are treated to some exquisite sets with scenes taking place against backdrops such as a Soviet realism frieze in a cinema. And the action is utterly uncompromising.

There are some truly look-away-now moments in the fight scenes as a variety of close-to-hand objects are utilised to bonk heads, gash skin and pierce arteries. It all adds to the graphic novel feel.

However, if I was a female secret agent, I’d probably prefer to wear some steel toe-capped DMs or a pair of really bouncy trainers, not over-the-knee leather-heeled boots and utterly impractical back-less dresses to bash men up in.

As the title suggests, this is an explosive movie let down by the codswallop everyday sexism that runs throughout.


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