I adore complicated mind jobs that double as cinema. It’s really the mainstay of what I talk about here at THinc. But sometimes? Sometimes I also love movies that just blow stuff up. And occasionally, rarely, you get a little bit of both thrown in together. And that’s the case with Atomic Blonde, an action hero epic spy saga that makes the most devout action fans sit up and take notice. There is enough confusing attempt at plot subterfuge to make me grin a bit in satisfaction.
Sure. Atomic Blonde isn’t Memento or Time Lapse, but it does has a sort of mysterious, who’s playing for which team thing going for it. Maybe Atomic Blonde is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy crossed with John Wick sped up to double speed and injected with a little extra attitude as well? And it might be the Tinker Tailor that will have people wondering what hit them, in the face, with a set of keys. (See what I did t here? Come on.)
Super Clever Twists Wrapped in a Beautiful Facade
That trailer is exquisite. No? Or maybe it’s the music that has me all delirious like. I mean, in under three minutes we jump from How Does It Feel by New Order to Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode and then over to a modern retro jump with Kanye’s Black Skinhead. Then back to Depeche Mode again intercutting back and forth. It’s an inspired level of music quality just in the trailer alone. Let alone in the movie itself. (I highly recommend checking out the Atomic Blonde soundtrack out on Spotify. Or wherever you get your music from these days. It’s really really good. My only glitch is that the remixed versions presented in the film aren’t all there on the soundtrack. But a little googling will find them all for you.
But despite the appearance of a very thin veneer here, we actually have quite a complicated story to keep track of. Not only a pile of double agents, but a whole coterie of triples, who’s motivations become more and more difficult to track as the movie progresses.
Atomic Blonde Ending Explained
Spoilers Abound – Here Be Dragons
Ok. So the ending probably quite possibly threw a few of you. But don’t worry, all the details were there to pull it all together, you may have just missed one or two details that you needed to make the leap to the ending. Alright? So maybe we should start at the beginning and work our way towards the back.
One of the things that might be most confusing is that the movie is 100% entirely told in flashbacks in a debriefing room a week after the incidents occurred which adds on another layer of optics and perceptions to the tale being recounted. (Usual Suspects anyone?)
Agent Lorraine Broughton is mentioned as the shining star of the MI6 secret intelligence service, which is the foreign intelligence agency of the British government. (Think the CIA here in America.) Oh no! A list of western spy details has gone missing and the MI6 has sent Lorraine into Germany to find the missing list. Basically the most stereotypical spy movie McGuffin of all time. And this McGuffin has gone missing. Our favorite Atomic Blonde has to go and get it. Right? Sort of. But I’ll get to that in a minute. Lorraine’s second mission is to discover who Satchel is and turn them over to the MI6. Ok? Two missions.
Lorraine immediately (well, immediately after a few fake contacts bite the dust) connects with the Germany Station Chief, David Percival and immediately begins to doubt him. After all, she was told to trust no one.
Eventually Lorraine insinuates herself to the Russians and sends them a bad list, a fake McGuffin. And alternately Lorraine sends the good intel back to MI6, or does she? Before we answer this, we first need to dive in and answer the second mission that the MI6 has tapped her to accomplish, “who is Satchel?” Well, Satchel is Lorraine. So that is where things go a little dicey for Lorraine for her. Rewind, Lorraine Broughton isn’t an MI6 agent. She is an American agent, acting as an MI6 agent, attempting to get our McGuffin List of Agents, for MI6. Thus the tense debriefing at the beginning of the film.
There were a few key details that show us that this is the case. The biggest being the conversation between Emmet and Lorraine, and his comment that she should get back to Langley. AKA where the CIA is headquartered. Another key point that tips us to this fact is Merkel, Lorraine’s contact in East Berlin, who is actually a CIA contact.
But who was that Percival guy!? Percival was a double agent for the Russians that should have never received the list at the beginning from Spyglass. And when Percival was looking at the list he discovers that Satchel and Lorraine are one in the same. That she isn’t an MI6 agent. And so he decides that not only will he sell the list to the Russians, but that he’ll also turn Lorraine in as Satchel. Delphine, the French spy, finds out about Percival’s plan and warns Lorraine. Which is why Lorraine needed to kill Percival and tie up that loose end. With the help of the wire that was on Percival, Delphine cut together an audio clip to make it sound like Percival was Satchel.
Which wasn’t the case at all. But does two things simultaneously. Keeps Lorraine’s cut out through MI6 in tact (which provides impunity for the Americans with the Russians) and also helps Lorraine complete her second objective which was to “find Satchel”. Which, turned out to be, find A Satchel and patsy the heck out of them, objective.
Sure, I have left large swaths of this movie on the cutting room floor, but that is the general gist of it.
Atomic Blonde Summed Up – TL;DR
Charlize is an American playing a British spy. Lorraine is an American CIA agent playing an MI6 agent to protect the American government from the Russians. She gets the list of agents, and feeds bad data back to Russia. Simultaneously she shields her own identity by framing Percival as Satchel. Allowing her to return to Langley with recommendations, and commendations to boot for her fantastic work on the case.
But as an action, kick ass movie? It all works. The choreography is great. The visuals are brilliant. It all is a gorgeous melange of neon and fantastic visuals. What I like best is that it not only looks fantastic, but it also has a brain to boot. I give it a thumbs up. What did you think of it?