Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is an MI6 agent tasked with recovering top secret KGB intel in East Berlin before the wall falls in the waning days of the Cold War. Can she navigate the coldest city before the heat gets turned up?
Originally based on a graphic novel, “The Coldest City”, the movie has a simple premise that should resonate with any fan of spy/action thrillers – it’s the the ‘good guys’ against the bad Russians set in the waning days of the Cold War – 1989 Berlin. As chaos begins to unfold in Soviet-occupied East Berlin, the entrenched intelligence agencies that have been waging a covert war across borders are seeing their way of life and line of work dissipate. The final straw comes when a microfiche is discovered to contain the files of all double agents operating for the major players (MI6, KGB, CIA) and threatens to reveal the identity of a particularly notorious player, Satchel.
Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to rendezvous with fellow agent David Percival (James McAvoy), who has been embedded in Berlin for a long time and knows the back channels and smuggling routes to grease the wheels on both sides of the wall. Their styles majorly clash, with Broughton preferring to work alone and do things in her own (and effective) manner, while Percival seems to be a bumbling, drug addled sod whose been living the high life with his ill-gained fortune and power on the black market of East Berlin.
As the situation escalates, more players on all sides get involved, each with the same end goal – to recover the man with the information, looking glass, and the identity of the nefarious double agent, Satchel. In the end, Lorraine is left standing bloody and battered, and in need of a long vacation.
Personally, I loved the style and late 80s grunge aesthetic of the film. I feel like it really did an excellent job of capturing the dichotomy between the ‘freedom and party’ feel of West Berlin, and the locked down, authoritarian oppression of East Berlin. The entire film has a distinct filter of steely gray/blue that gives you the impression of the oppressive cold and weight of the ‘Cold War’ and the ‘Longest Winter’. This was countered by bright flashes of color and style in nightclubs and in the awesome outfits that Lorraine would don on her various missions. The technology of the era is appropriate and realistically placed/featured – lots of cassette tapes flying around!
Parts of the movie seemed a little too ‘artsy’, like a film college project gone off the rails, but the action scenes were realistic and entertaining. There was a lot of witty banter and even though the plot was a little cliche, it’s still an entertaining watch and Theron knocks the ‘female James Bond’ role out of the park. She has really become a go-to bad ass heroine in the past few years and I am looking forward to that trend continuing in the future. If nothing else sells you, the soundtrack to this movie is an absolute beauty. It contains all your favorite synthy/new-wave/euro hits from the mid to late 80s and even includes some remixes. Go check it out, and don’t get caught looking around the corner if agent Lorraine Broughton is on the other side.
Golden Squid Rating
Go see it, and be careful who you trust!