Atomic Blonde (2017 Germany/Sweden/USA)
Atomic Blonde perfectly mixes the spy thriller with the action film while peppering it with the kind of escapism that is lovely in the late summer - it's the best popcorn movie I've seen in what has largely been a disappointing summer for fun movies.
Charlize Theron carefully walks the line of the believable and the fantastical as Lorraine Brougthon, a British Cold War spook operating in Berlin in November of 1989, just as the Wall is about to fall. In a plot that is taken liberally from films going as far back as Casablanca (and no doubt farther) and to the most recent iteration of 007 in Casino Royale, she is searching for a very important document that has been stolen off a murdered man, and must operate on both sides of the wall in order to solve the mystery.
The film is based on the graphic novel "The Coldest City" (written by Antony Johnston) and listening to Theron on Howard Stern, she said her production group had been looking for material like this for some time - a plausible action heroine that could potentially develop into a franchise. Like Angelina Jolie of a decade ago and moreso than Scarlett Johansson current attempts now, Theron (who is 42), ably pulls this off without looking cartoonish or silly.
Upper body strength, bone density and body weight are just three issues face women in the "plausibility" issue when it comes to beating up men in life and in movies. Atomic Blonde deals with this somewhat cleverly - Theron is rarely in an actual fistfight with her attackers, and instead goes the Jackie Chan route, using ropes, chairs, pans and yes, a corkscrew, to even her odds. While the sequence with the rope shown in the trailers is outstanding, a long, 10-15 minute multifloor fight that begins atop an apartment building and ends at the bottom of the Spree Canal is the best action sequence I've seen in the theater this year.
The plot is convoluted - as noted, this is a spy film, and confusion is at the heart of any good spy thriller (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the most confusing film I've ever seen).
I hope this becomes a franchise - it is very well done, the late 80s setting was a nice bit of nostalgia for this GenXer, the soundtrack was terrific and the film is never dull. Theron is unfairly beautiful which means she was born to star in this kind of project, and she should continue to do so.
[As an added bonus, there is a long sequence involving movie posters and then the actual film Stalker, by Arndrei Tarkovsky, which I watched not even a week ago - it was one of the few films on the Sight and Sound 50 I'd not seen, and adding to the abundance of anecdotal evidence that we are living in a simulation, I'd only mentioned this in passing to my sister a few hours before we saw Atomic Blonde and she'd never heard of it. Then, there it was, splashed all across the screen. ]