Atomic Blonde's action may occur in the classic setting of Cold War Berlin, but it is, as director David Leitch explains, “a very modern take on the spy genre.” As British agent Lorraine Broughton—as well as one of the film’s producers—Charlize Theron takes the genre on a hard-hitting, adrenaline-fueled ride. Broughton forms an uneasy alliance with station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to keep a critical file from falling into the hands of the KGB. And there isn’t an agent, window, or rule she won’t break to make that happen. Adapted from Antony Johnston’s graphic novel series The Coldest City, the movie captures a remarkable time (the chaotic days before the collapse of the Berlin wall) and place (Berlin's hive of foreign agents for whom, as Theron notes, “Graft, bribery, blackmail, violence…was the daily diet”).
With Atomic Blonde opening in theaters—and Focus Features celebrating its 15th anniversary––we showcase our other great spy films, intrepid movies that take the classic genre into exciting and unexpected territories.
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is “perhaps the great spy tale of our time.”
Gary Oldman was nominated for an Academy Award for brining to life George Smiley, the steely-eyed hero of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Adapted from John le Carré masterpiece, a novel the Los Angeles Times calls “perhaps the great spy tale of our time,” Tomas Alfredson’s film brings together an all-star cast––including Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Benedict Cumberbatch––to unlock the complex mystery of who is the mole at the heart British intelligence.
Burn After Reading takes intelligence work to its hilarious conclusion.
When a CIA chief (played by J.K. Simmons) instructs an agent to "report back to me when all this makes sense" in Joel and Ethan Coen's spy spoof Burn After Reading, you just know you’ll never see him again. For George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton, Washington, D.C. is a mad, mad world, fueled by political deception, personal blackmail, and plastic surgery. Burn After Reading makes Collider’s list of “Best Spy Movies of the 21st Century” by being “shot and edited like a classic paranoid espionage thriller [but] …colored in with farce.”
The Debt calculates the human cost of espionage work.
John Madden’s The Debt crosses border and historical periods to get to the truth of a 1965 Mossad mission that went horribly wrong. Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, and Marton Csokas are sent to take out a Nazi war criminal known as “The Surgeon of Birkenau" who is reportedly hiding out on in East Berlin. Three decades later, the same agents––with Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Wilkinson playing their older selves––must confront the aftermath of that life-changing event. As one of Taste of Cinema’s “25 Best Spy Movies of All Time,” The Debt shuttles back and forth in time between a thrilling tale of espionage and complex exploration of the emotional toll of political secrets, a split that, according to the Los Angeles Times, makes “The Debt as bloody as it is brainy.”
Lust, Caution mixes suspense and seduction in a lethal brew.
Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for its heady mix of erotic tension and political suspense. During the Japanese occupation of China, a group of drama students in Hong Kong devise a cunning plan to assassinate the head of the Japanese puppet government. When Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei) eventually seduces Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) in Shanghai, her unexpected passion for her target puts her heart and politics on a collision course. The film’s combustible mix of sex and secret agents made it an international hit, proving to Rolling Stone that Lee is “a true master, and his potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break.”