Comprehensive Plot Summary
This movie features one of the most complicated plots I've ever encountered. I've decided to summarize what's going on in order to help myself and the two other people who eventually find this thread. While mostly a plot summary there are few occasional editorial comments.
Central theme: Trust.
Spy games and romance are all about betrayal.
Alice / Crapule / "a Boris"
Alice is a Franco-American who works for a bank in Monaco owned by Russian oligarch Ivan Rostovski (Tim Roth). Her initial goal/motivation is to be with her sick American father, but she's living in exile due to her role in the 2008 Great Recession. The viewer is to assume she's working at this bank for lack of options, but the real reason she works there is because U.S. intelligence has said that if she becomes Rostovski's "right-hand man," they'll pressure the SEC to back off so she'll be able to see her dying dad.
Greogry Lioubov / Moses
A Russian FSB agent. His initial overarching goal is to help his "father figure" Cherkachin. Cherkachin is in line to become the head of the FSB thanks to a recommendation from "kingmaker" Ivan Rostovski. Cherkachin, however, does not want to be Rostovski's bitch-boy since a kingmaker is also a kingbreaker. Cherkachin wants to "destroy" Rostovski. Lioubov's job, then, is to recruit Alice, get her close to Rostovski, and obtain compromising information on the oligarch's dealings.
Lioubov heads a team of "amateurs." Our initial introduction to his character is somewhat confusing, especially if we're relying solely on subtitles. He's play-acting as Alice (who we'll see in the sauna later). To make things extra confusing, he insists everyone refers to Alice in male pronouns because the team's cars or office could be bugged. This is the sort of thing that gives rise to the expression "too clever by half" because characters sometimes slip up and call Crapule "she."
Lioubov realizes the only way they can recruit Alice is by promising they can get her back into the US to see her ailing father. The FSB, then, approaches Alice under the cover that they're part of the Financial Crimes Brigade.
A Huge Fucking Coincidence
Alice alerts the CIA that someone's trying to recruit her. The CIA realizes the FSB are targeting their asset (Alice) to carry out a near-identical operation (info on Rostovski) This is where the Notorious comparisons come in. The CIA tells Alice to go along with these other agents, but they do not want to tell Alice she's dealing with Russians.
Rostovski is the guy everyone wants, and his head of security (Kharzov aka "Diamond") is the only person interested in protecting him (even from himself). Rostovski's main goal is money and power, but he also wants to sleep with Alice. Kharzov believes Alice is a "sneaky bitch" and doesn't trust her.
Lioubov Wants to Sniff around Crapule
Lioubov is forbidden from going near Alice, presumably because his involvement could tip off others that Cherkachin is the svengali. Lioubov's fed up with his team of amateurs, so he puts his own eyes on Alice. They meet and fall in love. Lioubov tells her he's a writer named Moses. They're each in a kind of purgatory: she's exiled to Monaco, and he's supposedly working on a soul-sucking biography. They have a few stylized sex scenes. She feels safe in his beefy arms.
Lioubov and Alice each try to shield their relationship from others. Lioubov keeps his team in the dark, but Cherkachin discovers what's taking place. Lioubov downplays it. Alice is forced to admit to Rostovski that she's been with a man, but she similarly downplays the affair as just sex, not love.
Some of the best scenes involve Lioubov misdirecting his own team of amateurs.
CIA Goes After Lioubov
The CIA learns Cherakchin is putting together a dossier on Rostovski. The CIA figures they can blackmail Lioubov since he will do anything to protect Cherakchin. This is where the story's logic sorta breaks down. The CIA should have figured out Lioubov's invovlement much sooner; from the beginning they knew they were dealing with Russians. Also, why not go after Cherakchin directly rather than his underling? Finally, if Lioubov's highest loyalty is to Cherakchin, how does the CIA know their would-be mole is bringing them genuine information rather than what Cherakchin deliberately leaks?
This scene plays out to seemingly up the stakes that Alice is in serious danger, but it hits the same Notorious beats from earlier, and its real purpose is to drop exposition on Louibov.