Real talk: We aren’t 100 percent sure what happens in “Atomic Blonde.” It’s a complicated, labyrinthine Cold War thriller on the order of John Le Carre. Every now and then, the twisty-turny plot stops so we can behold Charlize Theron, as a dangerous MI6 agent sent to pre-Berlin Wall fall Berlin (i.e., 1989), as she beats up bad guys, sometimes with household objects. (Our favorite weapon: a hot plate.) Still, we can tell you these are some of the bigger twists:
Trust no one
When Theron’s Lorraine Broughton is prepped on her mission to Berlin, her bosses (including one played by Toby Jones) tells her to trust no one. She definitely doesn’t trust her contact: James McAvoy’s David Perceval, a station chief who works on both sides of the Wall. Sure enough, David is playing both sides. He winds up trying to kill Lorraine. But Lorraine is able to trick him and give him a nice, ugly death.
OK, trust one person
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Lorraine is ice cold, but she will melt for one person: her French contact, wet-behind-the-ears agent Delphine (Sofia Boutella). After surreptitiously following her around on a motorcycle, Delphine seduces Lorraine in a club, and the two make the beast with two backs. Lorraine initially suspects Delphine is out to kill her, but she’s not, and the two fall in love. Later, David kills Delphine, causing a distraught Lorraine to kill him, partly because he’s the baddie, partly out of revenge.
The byzantine plot revolves around the hunt for an arbitrary but important object: a list with spy names that is sought by Russian powers. It’s discovered the list has actually been memorized by a Stasi agent known as Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), who has a knack for such things. Midway through, Lorraine and team try to spirit Spyglass and his wife and son out of East Berlin. But they’ve been double-crossed by David, who shoots, but only wounds, Spyglass as they ferry through the crowded streets. Lorraine tries to save Spyglass, which requires entering an apartment building and taking out snipers. This leads to the biggest set piece: A long take brawl that begins on a staircase and turns into a car chase. This ends with the car sent into the Spree river, leading to Spyglass drowning.
Who’s she working for?
Lorraine may be MI6, but as “Atomic Blonde” winds down, we start to doubt her intentions (and her shaky English accent). During the climax, we learn she’s actually a Russian double-agent. But the movie’s not done yet. After killing her Russian “colleagues,” Lorraine reveals she’s a triple-agent — an American, actually, who this whole time has been in cahoots with an American official (John Goodman) she’d treated as a pain. But wait: What if that’s a cover, too? Sequel!