Berlin Wall, 1989 – the setting not the event
Atomic Blonde, helmed by stuntman turned director David Leitch, uses the setting of the falling of the Berlin Wall but is not about the event, as the opening phrase before the credits warn.
We see James Gascoigne, an MI6 agent, running away from someone. He is eventually found by a Soviet man called Yuri Bakhtin. The hard-talking rogue KBG agent kills him, retrieves something called The List, and says to him that “the Satchel” gave him up. He throws his body off the bridge. Gascoigne appears in a photo kept in Lorraine Broughton’s washroom drawer with her.
Lorraine is an MI6 agent and heavily bruised. She is to go for an inquiry to the headquarters in London, ten days after the incident.
The Debriefing & the Beginning
Lorraine attends the debriefing for her mission in Berlin. Details are yet to be divulged about it. Her senior, Eric Gray, and a CIA operative, Emmett Kurzfeld, join her in the room. “C”, who is the head of the MI6, watches from behind the opaque glass but Lorraine knows he is back there. So are a handful of people, eagerly waiting to listen in. Lorraine seems to be in trouble for whatever she did. With the tapes recording everything, she has to be careful and truthful with every detail. “What happened?”, asks Gray. And thus the story rolls into motion.
C and Eric summon Lorraine for a mission in Berlin, about ten days ago. They ask her how well she knew James, who died last night in the city. Lorraine and James completed a mission together in Istanbul, in 1985. But they were probably more than that. Spyglass is a Soviet national gone rogue. He has “The List”, a document that has all the details of all clandestine officers active on duty. It could further the cold war for another four decades. He met with Gascoigne and gave him the list but now Yuri Bakhtin, the Russian who killed him, has it. Bakhtin is still in Berlin. David Percival is the British number one in Berlin. He is the MI6 station head and Lorraine is asked to make contact.
Lorraine lands in West Berlin, Percival the feral, & the mission
Percival is introduced as a party animal with no holds barred. Gray explains to Lorraine that he has gone feral and needs to be kept in check. C says to her that she can trust no one, including Percival, indicating that things might not go too well between them. Spyglass asks Percival for safe passage but is unable to produce the list. Percival says no list no deal and denies Spyglass and his family safe passage.
Spyglass is a Stasi officer and is perceived as a traitor by the Russians and Germans. He will die if he remains there. Lorraine goes under the alias Elizabeth Lloyd, a lawyer sent to retrieve Gascoigne’s body by his parents. Her mission is to connect with Percival and retrieve the list.
Spyglass didn’t make a copy but memorized it. That’s why Percival agrees to take him to safety. He goes from East to West Berlin to pick up Lorraine from the airport. Bremovych’s men pick Lorraine up and she tries to get out. She manages to overturn the car and Percival is right behind to help her. Lorraine is already made by the KGB. Percival leaves the agent’s body outside Bremovych’s office. Back in the East. Bremovych questions the men partying last night with Percival about Spyglass.
Percival lies to Lorraine about knowing Spyglass. Lorraine knows Delphine is following her but does not know to what end. She goes to a watchmaker who asks her to come back the next day before closing. She needs access to a network in east Berlin. Later that night, she has a nightmare involving Gascoigne and the identity of Satchel, who got her killed.
The next morning, she goes to Gascoigne’s apartment to find the list. But she went there for another reason as well. To get the identity of the double agent Satchel. He is a blemish on MI6 and must be brought to justice. Percival knew Lorraine was going to the apartment and still called the police on her. She fights the officers and escapes.
A game of chess with Russians on the sidelines
Lorraine wears a wire to meet Percival to record any evidence if something goes wrong. If Bakhtin wanted to give the list to the Russians, he would have by now. They must wait till he makes his move. Lorraine does not trust Percival and tells him she does not buy his rogue, not knowing which way’s up act. She meets Bremovych in a bar. It is a cryptic encounter that does not reveal much.
Delphine meets them at the bar and asks Bremovych to leave the ladies for them to catch up. She invites Lorraine to a nightclub a few days from now, showing a romantic interest in her. Lorraine goes to the watchmaker, who gives her the watch she requested. Percival has been listening to Lorraine’s conversations. Something’s not right.
Lorraine uses the coordinates behind the watch to meet her new contact and see what’s up in the East against her. Shoring up her defenses is probably a good idea as well. She crosses over and is given instructions to go back before 6 pm. The officer at the border informs Bremovych that she is headed towards the Alexanderplatz, where Tarkovsky’s Stalker is showing. She sounds the alarm bell in the theater and fights Bremovych’s men.
The scene is reminiscent of John Wick and the James Bond film Spectre. She is successfully able to escape and meets her contact, Merkel. He tells her that there is a lot of chatter about the list on the black market. His network comprises rebellious youth. On second look, he is the same man from the scene where we met with Percival first.
Percival goes to meet the Watchmaker, where he finds Bakhtin selling a watch filled with secrets – Gascoigne’s watch. He floats an open offer for buyers. Lorraine listens to her recordings and is reminded of Delphine’s offer. She goes to the club and has drinks with her. They start making out when Lorraine suddenly draws out a gun and confronts her. Delphine says she knows Lorraine’s true identity and is worried that if people are killing allied officers, they all must care about it.
Is a triple agent on the cards?
Delphine reveals it is a first intelligence assignment and that she is a new recruit. Then she and Lorraine have a night of love-making post which, Delphine reveals something about Percival to Lorraine but we cannot hear it. In the debriefing, Lorraine tells Eric and Emmett that Delphine didn’t tell her anything about him. Percival then kills Bakhtin and takes the List off him.
Emmett is shown to have met Lorraine after her night with Delphine. The operative gives Lorraine a number to call and when she does the person on the other end says that the Satchel has been compromised. Percival and Lorraine meet again. The latter says Bakhtin was found dead, but Percival doesn’t bite. He then reveals that Spyglass is equally important as the list as he has memorized every last bit of it. Percival suggests using the demonstration as a diversion to take Spyglass across. Lorraine insists her contact be used to create the paperwork and Percival agrees.
Eric reveals to Lorraine in the debriefing that Percival had called him that night. He admitted to having the list with him and claimed to know the identity of the Satchel. All he asked from Eric was time to compile it in a legible form. Percival meets with Bremovych that night. He offers a deal of some kind to “restore the balance in his favor”. The Russian comrade nods in agreement. Lorraine confesses to Delphine that Percival is trying to set her up. So now we know she is expecting anything out of the ordinary and is Reddy.
The Demonstration and D-Day
It is the day of the demonstration and the MI6 agents have begun executing their plan. Lorraine goes to her contact in the east and meets Spyglass for the first time. She asks spyglass to shave off his mustache for the journey. Meanwhile, Bremovych readies his men to kill the “traitor” in that building. In the debriefing, Lorraine reveals she was betrayed by the Satchel, otherwise, the operation would have been easy to execute.
Lorraine reassures Spyglass that she has never lost a “package” when Spyglass’ family walks in, surprising Lorraine. Percival says he will take them and Lorraine takes Spyglass, slyly pushing the buttons on his plan. Percival learns Lorraine’s preparedness when all of a sudden, the crowd she is walking in, opens up their umbrellas, rendering Bremovych’s men unable to track them. In a clear act of betrayal, Percival shoots spyglass when the Russians can’t. And that too moments after seating his family in the car.
Lorraine shepherds him into a building and awaits contact. Bremovych’s men are waiting for her and we see the highlight of the film in this set price where she wades them off. It truly is a marvel, scripted with expertise, precision, and wonderous visceral energy. If action films need mantlepieces, this is the elusive epitome they must chase and aspire to meet.
A relentless Lorraine comes up against a sea of heavily armed and trained men, while at the same time trying to manage Spyglass’ bleeding. Boris is the final man Lorraine has to go through and she does – just barely.
Lorraine and Spyglass escape in a police patrol car. But Bremovych’s men are in close pursuit. Eventually, one of them manages to strike the police car and it goes spiraling down into the river. Spyglass is unable to unbuckle himself and dies. Lorraine is able to escape and we cut to the debriefing.
As Eric mumbles going through papers that Lorraine failed to extract a high-value asset and wasn’t successful on the mission, she refutes the accusation and says she walked into a hornet’s nest. The KGB made her from the moment she landed. She then accuses Eric of sending her deliberately because he suspected Percival and to shake the KGB down.
Lorraine’s Paranoia and the big reveal
Lorraine’s contact takes her in and helps her to get across. The CIA operative offers his condolences to Spyglass’ family and shocks Percival by revealing that Lorraine made it out. Lorraine turns her apartment inside out to find the bug Percival planted. It is like that ending scene from The Conversation when Gene Hackman’s character sits alone in the midst of his upside-down-turned apartment.
She finds it in the coat from when she first met him in her apartment. Delphine visits her and Lorraine asks her to leave as soon as she can. Delphine calls Percival and accuses him of setting her up. She warns him that she can “play the game better than he thinks”. Delphine prepares an envelope for Lorraine with all the secrets about Percival, as Lorraine herself reaches his man cave.
Percival manages to kill Delphine before Lorraine can reach her. He then sets his apartment on fire and tries to leave without a trace. But the tires in his car are taken out. Lorraine does manage to find the envelope Delphine made for her, unbeknownst to Percival. It has all the evidence to incriminate Percival for setting up Lorraine and killing Spyglass. Lorraine has her revenge as she shoots Percival as he shouts “I love Berlin”. She takes the watch from his hand, which has the List, and shoots him. It turns out, that Percival is Comrade Satchel.
Climax and the final twist
Eric lambastes her for killing an officer of the Crown when she presents the evidence. She even calls Eric an incompetent man, only trying to save himself by sacrificing MI6 agents like her. She denies knowledge of the list and C interrupts the debriefing, erasing its records saying it never happened, and puts her on leave.
Lorraine goes to Paris, where she meets Bremovych who calls her Comrade Satchel. Lorraine then hands over the list to Bremovych. This means that Lorraine is the double agent the MI6 was looking for all along. All of a sudden, Bremovych’s men walk in, prepared to kill and dispose of Lorraine. But she has a backup plan, taking out the concealed gun in the champagne ice.
She kills all of his men, including Bremovych. The watchmaker drops her off at the airport, indicating he was on her side all along. As she boards the plane, we see the CIA operative, giving us the final twist in the film that Lorraine is actually a CIA agent. She is indeed the Satchel but it is the CIA she is working for secretly.
Thanks for reading our story recap for Atomic Blonde. What do you think of Atomic Blonde’s story? Have we missed any crucial details in this recap? Do let us know in the comments below!