Review / ‘Atomic Blonde’ (MA) *** and a half

THERE’S nothing about nuclear stuff in former stuntman-now-director David Leitch’s stylish actioner for which Kurt Johnstad wrote a screenplay based on Antony Johnston’s graphic novel “The Coldest City”.

But the silver-blonde hair of central character Lorraine Broughton would stand out like a searchlight in any crowd unless she was wearing a hat or a wig or, as in a pivotal sequence, when a street full of protesters unfurl umbrellas on cue to hide her from a shooter ready to end her career as MI6’s top field agent.

Early in winter 1989, the Berlin wall hasn’t yet come down. Russian agents have killed British agent Gasciogne who was carrying a list of known Soviet secret agents that MI6 and the CIA would dearly love to possess. And if the identity of Soviet mole Satchel were revealed in the search for the list, the cups of London and Langley would indeed run over.

This plot may be arrant fantasy built from sheer invention, but Leitch, Johnstad and Johnston aren’t setting out to persuade us that the film’s events have a basis in reality (which may be possible but more likely is improbable). Their intention is to deliver rollicking action full of violence, destruction and mystery, packaged in the novelty of Lorraine, whose field talents, intellectual skills, marksmanship and unarmed combat abilities make 007 look like a schoolboy compelled to repeat the final year of primary.

Lorraine’s handlers in London have told her that in Berlin, where secrecy is rife and loyalty difficult to identify, she must trust nobody. Not even MI6’s local Head of Station David Percival (James McAvoy) whose apartment is full of luxury goods for use in persuading intelligence sources to tell what they know.

Also in the cast are Toby Jones as MI6 field controller Gray and John Goodman as his CIA colleague Kurzfeld who are de-briefing Lorraine on her return after the Wall has come down, the list has been located and the mole has met extreme prejudice. No, those aren’t spoilers. Better is to come and I’m not telling.

The best is saved for last. Charlize Theron plays Lorraine. I’ve only one word for this Oscar-winning actress here and in just about every other film in which she has appeared. Whatever their virtues or defects, she’s magnificent.

At Hoyts, Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Dendy

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