Movie: Atomic Blonde
Distributor: Focus Features
Production Companies: Sierra Pictures, Denver and Delilah Productions, Closed on Mondays Entertainment, TGIM Films, 87Eleven Productions
Director: David Leitch
Producers: Charlize Theron, Beth Kano, A. J . Dix, Kelly McCormick, Eric Gitter, Peter Schwerin
Scriptwriters: Kurt Johnstad
Main Cast: Charlize Theron, Sofia Boutella, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Roland Moller, Til Schweiger
Release Date: July 28th 2017 (US)
Running Time: 115 minutes
Now how to describe Atomic Blonde? Imagine Jason Bourne and John Wick simultaneously portrayed by Charlize Theron. Atomic Blonde was released back in 2017. It served as an adaptation of the Coldest City, by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. The film did reasonably well at the box office. With a sequel in the works, what better time to revisit David Leitch’s 2017 sleeper hit. I’ve also linked the film’s IMDB page so you can learn more about the film there. Let’s get into my Atomic Blonde movie review.
Days before the Berlin Wall falls in November 1989, KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin shoots MI6 agent James Gascoigne. Bakhtin steals the List, a document contained in Gascoigne’s watch. This has the identity of every agent active either side of the Wall. Soon after, 10 days later to be precise, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is brought in for debriefing by MI6 executive Eric Gray (Jones) and CIA field agent Emmett Kurzfeld (Goodman).
Lorraine arrives in Berlin
After Gascoigne’s death, Broughton is dispatched to Berlin to look for the list. She is warned about Satchel, a double agent for the KGB. When she arrives, KGB agents posing as her MI6 squad ambush her, who attempt to deliver a message to their boss Aleksander Bremovych. However, Lorraine escapes and her real MI6 contact, the maverick David Percival picks her up. Soon after, Lorraine goes to search Gascoigne’s apartment and discovers a picture of him with Percival.
In the debriefing, she tells Gray and Kurzfeld that Percival had denied knowing about Gascoigne. She suspects he was behind the West Berlin police ambushing her in Gascoigne’s apartment. Lorraine then investigates a restaurant mentioned by KGB agents. Here she encounters Bremovych but she gets saved by French agent, Delphine Lasalle (Boutella). Despite her initial suspicions of Lasalle, the two women eventually enter into a relationship after kissing in a nightclub. Here Lasalle admits she knows why Lorraine is in Berlin and suggests they team up.
The Race to Claim the List
Whilst she visits a watchmaker, Percival surveils Lorraine. He also notices Bakhtin entering the same shop. Bakhtin then tells the watchmaker he has a watch full of secrets he will sell to the highest bidder. Kurzfeld then meets with Lorraine in Berlin and hands her a newspaper. This contains a number in it when called reveals Satchel has been compromised. Percival then lures Bakhtin into a trap where he kills him, taking the watch and finding out who Satchel is.
Lorraine, unaware Percival has the list, tracks down Stasi officer codenamed Spyglass. Spyglass has memorized the entire List, as he was the one who gave it to Gascoigne. Lorraine and Percival make plans to smuggle Spyglass over the border to West Berlin. Percival then meets with Bremovych, who suspects Percival has the list. Percival offers him the next best thing: the names and operation details of Satchel. He also tips Bremovych off about the plan to smuggle Spyglass to the West. Lasalle photographs the whole meeting.
The Race to Save Spyglass
During Spyglass’s extrication, Percival shoots him when the KGB agents can’t. Lorraine has to fight off multiple KGB agents whilst rescuing the injured Spyglass. However, Spyglass drowns before she can get him across the border. He dies at the hands of the same KGB officer from the beginning who pushes his car into the river. Lorraine makes it to West Berlin but wait! Percival planted a bug in her coat.
Lorraine tells Lasalle. This sets up Lasalle calling Percival. She threatens him with knowledge of the Bremovych meeting. Percival then does the ‘reasonable’ solution of killing Lasalle. He escapes moments before Lorraine shows up. Lorraine then tracks down Percival to his own safehouse. He is attempting to burn it down. He tries to flee before Lorraine catches him, kills him and claims the List.
Back in the MI6 debriefing, Lorraine discovers Gray knew Percival had the List. He was also aware of Percival being ‘very close to Satchel’. Lorraine then presents Laselle’s photographs and doctored audio recordings that suggest Percival was Satchel. This leaves MI6 no choice but to close the case.
Lorraine’s true affliation (Definitely not sequel bait)
Days later, Lorraine is in Paris meeting Bremovych who calls her ‘Comrade Satchel’. After Percival tells him that there is more to Satchel than previously known, he tries to kill Lorraine . After killing his henchman, Lorraine reveals she had always fed the KGB misinformation. She then kills Bremovych. Lorraine and Kurzfeld then board a flight to the USA. Their conversation implies Lorraine was always a triple agent, working for the CIA all along.
Now for the analysis portion of my Atomic Blonde review.
Soundtrack and Setting
To start with, I’m going to talk about the soundtrack and its link to the film’s setting/period. With the film set during the endgame of the Cold War, David Leitch and composer Tyler Bates chose a soundtrack that reflects the period. Take Blue Monday by New Order because how else would we know this film is set in the 1980s. The soundtrack is also populated by classic 80s tracks, like I Ran by a Flock of Seagulls as well as covers like Marilyn Manson and Tyler Bates’ Stigmata. Lovely variation there. Anyway, these soundtrack choices help immerse the audience in a world of red fear and political espionage. The shot of Percival and Lorraine cruising down the streets of West Berlin with Blue Monday in the background is lovely. So much of the film’s soundtrack is synthpop that fuels both the plot and creates a genuine heart to the film.
Fight Scenes in Atomic Blonde
Another key part of the analysis portion of my Atomic Blonde review is THAT fight scene. To be specific the one in the stairs and Gascoigne’s apartment. Now, given David Leitch’s involvement with John Wick its no shock this fight scene is as tightly choreographed as it is. The major element I’m referring to is how steady the camera is. A problem that a lot of movie audiences have with modern fight scenes is the excessive use of jump cuts. Whilst this creates chaos, it also makes it very difficult to follow or know where anyone is in relation to everyone else.
Not so with Atomic Blonde. By keeping the camera stationery, Leitch allows tension to escalate. How? Through the fight alone and the positioning of Lorraine relative to the police officers. This results in 10 mins of relatively unedited bliss with Lorraine beating several police officers before her Bond-esque escape. How does she achieve this? She uses a rope tied round a guard’s neck. This uses him as an anchor to jump out of a window. Oh, and since this is set in Germany technically this is the only true Wilhelm scream.
Lorraine and Delphine’s Relationship
The last portion of the analysis portion of my Atomic Blonde review is the relationship between Lorraine and Delphine. Now this wasn’t present in the original graphic novel but in the context of the film it works. Kurt Johnstad’s, the writer, reasoning behind the bisexual subplot came from Theron wanting to make the film stand out from other spy films. Leitch has also spoken about how the scenes weren’t ‘provocative’ but were designed to show how ’if you were a spy you’d do anything to get information’.
Another key point about their relationship is how Lorraine is able to open up, find her intimacies and gain friendships in small doses. This quote encapsulates Lorraine and Delphine’s relationship perfectly: whilst it appears Lorraine is using her for information at first, there is a genuine level of care and love between them. A lovely note. If Percival hadn’t murdered her. Damn it, can’t we just have a spy thriller in the 2010s without a love interest dying?
To summarise my Atomic Blonde review, this is a stylish, suave and intelligent dive into the dying embers of the Cold War. Without Charlize Theron, the film might not have the same emotional impact which is a testament to her performance. If you love spy thrillers and John Wick style films, this is definitely a film for you.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good
Target Audience: 15+
Content: Mild Sexual Content, Alcohol, Smoking, Bad Language, Strong Violence