Atomic Blonde is one of those summer movies that is easy to miss. Not because it doesn’t look amazing (it totally does), but because it’s sandwiched in between all the blockbusters already playing on theater screens and the new ones opening every weekend. The big movies, with their sound, fury, and lavish special effects, often drown out the lower profile efforts like Atomic Blonde.
However, discerning moviegoers aren’t going to want to skip this relatively low-budget action thriller starring the incomparable Charlize Theron. Produced for just $30 million, Atomic Blonde adapts the popular graphic novel The Coldest City and its story of hardened MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton.
The deadly and seductive spy travels to Berlin during the final days of the Cold War, just as the Berlin Wall is about to tumble down. Spies are being murdered, including Lorraine’s lover, and she needs to unravel the mystery before the quickly thawing conflict heats up again.
With a great lead, stellar supporting cast, non-stop action, and lots of style, Atomic Blonde is guaranteed to be a good time.
Here are the 15 Reasons You Need To See Atomic Blonde.
15. Butt-kicking heroine
For a long time, action was a man’s game as far as Hollywood was concerned. Few action movies with female leads were produced, and those that were seldom received the attention and care that their male-focused counterparts did. Thankfully, that imbalance is on its way to being corrected, with more and more movies being produced that feature strong (and very dangerous) women in leading roles.
Theron’s character of Lorraine Broughton is undoubtedly awesome. She’s a consummate spy operating during arguably the deadliest era in the history of espionage. She enters every room with an escape plan in mind, and when rival agents and assassins get in her way, she’s usually the only one who leaves with a pulse.
14. Classic Spy Thriller
If you love a good spy thriller (and really, who doesn’t?) then Atomic Blonde might just be your favorite movie of the summer.
During the Cold War, few locations were “colder” than Berlin. Split in two by the Berlin Wall, it was the unofficial border between East and West, and both sides peered across at the other with a mixture of loathing and suspicion. On both sides of this stalemate, spies operated in the shadows, stealing secrets, killing rivals, and doing anything they could to strengthen their side’s cause.
Atomic Blonde is set at a time when the U.S.S.R. is crumbling and Berlin is a powder-keg of uncertainty. One wrong move is enough to land even the most seasoned operative in the nearest morgue. Seeing Theron’s Lorraine navigate that proverbial minefield will be very intriguing.
13. Bi? So What?
Seduction is a powerful weapon for a spy: we can all thank James Bond for teaching us that. The infamous 007 has spent over 20 films charming beautiful women (allies and enemies alike), and Lorraine Broughton is equally adept at using her sexuality to further her mission.
The difference between Broughton and Bond, however, is that Theron’s character will use her seductive skills on either gender. Atomic Blonde’s trailers make no secret of the passionate encounter Broughton has with fellow spy Delphine, played by Sofia Boutella.
Like Bond’s many sexual escapades, it’s undoubtedly played for titillation. However, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal in the context of the story, even though the movie is set at a time when same-sex relationships were considerably more taboo than they are now. That’s a great step forward in portraying relationships of all kinds with the respect they deserve.
12. Sofia Boutella
Delphine is played by Sofia Boutella, a young actress who continues to rise. Atomic Blonde isn’t her first time in a spy movie, thanks to her breakout role as the assassin Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service. She followed that up with a leading role in Star Trek Beyond, albeit under heavy makeup, as the alien Jaylah. Her biggest role to date, of course, was as the titular villain in The Mummy opposite Tom Cruise.
Boutella began her career as a model and dancer, and her burgeoning acting career only underlines her remarkable versatility. It’s unclear how large of a role she’ll play in Atomic Blonde, though the trailers hint at a violent end for her character. If Delphine survives the events of the movie, it’d be great to see her play a larger role in any potential sequel.
11. Great Supporting Cast
Casting is important to every film, but a spy movie really needs a deep cast filled with talented performers. Any spy story worth its salt will feature a number of characters with shadowy motivations, and it takes a seasoned actor to portray that kind of complexity and keep the viewer guessing.
Luckily, Atomic Blonde is filled to the brim with seasoned performers. Charlize Theron and James McAvoy make for great leads, but just as important are the supporting characters who bring Broughton’s murky world to life.
Lorraine’s handlers are played by John Goodman and Toby Jones, two veteran actors who have played a number of characters on both sides of the moral divide. Berlin is also brought to life by mysterious inhabitants played by the likes of Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, and Bill Skarsgard.
10. The Coldest City
Studios really are strip-mining the comic book industry these days, aren’t they? Search the racks of any comic book store and you’ll be hard pressed to find a book or character that either hasn’t already been adapted to the screen or will be soon.
That’s not a bad thing though, especially these days. Disappointing comic book movies are few and far between these days, as more studios and filmmakers master the science of distilling a comic book property down to its cinematic essence.
In the case of Atomic Blonde, it’s a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City, written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart. The film’s story is lifted right from the book, as are the shadowy visuals (though not its black and white palette).
9. James McAvoy
Charlize Theron is the star of this movie, there’s no doubting that. However, James McAvoy is a great choice for the film’s secondary lead, David Percival. An MI6 agent stationed in Berlin, Percival acts as Lorraine’s contact and closest ally in a city filled with killers.
Of course, this is a spy movie, and betrayal can strike from anywhere. Lorraine’s handlers advise her not to trust anybody, and she absorbs that lesson to a comedic level, like when she fires her gun at Percival before he waves her misplaced shoe as a sort of white flag.
Despite his seemingly supportive role, there’s no guarantee that Percival can be trusted, and McAvoy is adept at playing likable characters who have a hidden dark side. One thing’s for sure: if he crosses Lorraine, he probably won’t be leaving Berlin alive.
8. Action Packed
The action of Atomic Blonde (and there’s a lot of it) is quick and brutal, up close and personal. Theron’s Lorraine is a whirling death machine of martial arts, gunplay, and good old fashioned bludgeoning.
It’s the kind of action that you can believe is actually possible in the real world, unlike the over the top spectacle found in a lot of modern movies. Lorraine fights with ferocity against equally savage opponents, and makes use of literally any weapon or object that can give her the upper hand. This is a woman who will pull off her high heels for the sole purpose of stabbing someone with them.
7. No Pulled Punches
A well choreographed fight scene is great, but most films don’t stop and show you its aftermath. Atomic Blonde breaks that trend by actually highlighting the cost of the brutal lifestyle that Lorraine leads. After all, she’s a brilliant fighter, but she’s not indestructible.
The trailers devote considerable time to showing how physically damaging Lorraine’s battles are. We see her soaking herself in an icy bath, sporting a black eye and absolutely covered in bruises and scars. Even in today’s more realistic James Bond films, Daniel Craig tends to bounce back from brutal battles quickly enough to look terrific in a stylish suit. Theron’s Lorraine has no such luck.
6. Director David Leitch
If the stylish action of Atomic Blonde looks familiar to you, it’s probably because of director David Leitch. After years spent working as stunt coordinators and stunt men, he and Chad Stahelski teamed up to direct John Wick, the breakout hit that reestablished Keanu Reeves as an action icon. Stahelski went on to helm John Wick: Chapter 2 on his own, while Leitch took the reins of Atomic Blonde.
Leitch can craft a terrific action sequence in his sleep, thanks to his years of experience on films like 300, V For Vendetta, The Mechanic, and Jupiter Ascending. With John Wick, he proved he also has a keen eye for cinematography. Atomic Blonde is his first time directing solo, and if the trailers are any indication, he has knocked it out of the park.
It will definitely serve him well as he prepares for his next project: Deadpool 2.
5. “Ms. Wick”
Atomic Blonde and John Wick share more than just a director.
Both feature protagonists who inhabit morally murky worlds, and both of them are perhaps the deadliest of the deadly in those worlds. Wick, of course, is the boogeyman of the criminal underworld, while Broughton is the best MI6 has to offer. Both of them have no qualms about killing their way to their goals in brutal fashion, and using all manner of objects to do it. They also both suffer for the work that they do; both characters are covered in scars, cuts, and bruises after a long night of work.
The two characters are so ideally matched that it would be a dream to see them interact. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen, given that their stories are set many years apart. Still, we can dream…
4. Killer Soundtrack
A movie needs the right music to really accentuate the story and get the atmosphere just right. Atomic Blonde should be well served in that regard thanks to the talents of composer Tyler Bates, who also fulfilled that role on John Wick and its sequel, as well as movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Sucker Punch, and The Darkest Hour.
Bates will undoubtedly provide a great score, but Blonde also features licensed music that should compliment the action perfectly. In the trailers alone, you hear New Order’s Blue Monday, Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus, Queen’s Killer Queen, and Kanye West’s Black Skinhead. They’re all great songs, and with the exception of West’s, they’re right at home in the time frame of the movie.
3. The Cold War
Spy films can be set at any point during history, but there’s just something about the Cold War that makes it a perfect setting.
It’s not all that mysterious, really. After all, there’s a reason the spy genre became so popular during the long years of hostility between the superpowers in the East and West. Paranoia was rampant, as citizens became worried they were living among spies from “the other side” who were bent on destroying their way of life.
Atomic Blonde is set during the waning days of the Cold War, but there is still more than enough hostility in the air to keep a spy like Lorraine busy. Also, it’s not just enemy operatives that she has to watch out for. Letting your guard down, even around those who are supposed to be on your side, can be the last mistake a spy ever makes.
2. Lots of Style
The trailers for Atomic Blonde entice viewers with glimpses of a movie that is action packed, has an unpredictable plot, and plenty of great actors. However, it’s also clear that this film has a lot of style.
Cinematographer Jonathan Sela (another veteran of John Wick) brings his distinctive visual style to the film. The action scenes are impressively shot, of course, but equally stylized are sequences like Lorraine’s torrid romp with Delphine, the icy bath she takes to soothe her many wounds, and her clandestine meetings with her superiors.
A spy needs to look the part, too, and Lorraine spends much of the film in stylish (and functional) clothes, from beautiful gowns and seductive negligees to dark trenchcoats that blend into the shadows. Then there’s that distinctive bleached hair…
1. Charlize Theron
From the trailers alone, it’s clear that Charlize Theron owns the character of Lorraine Broughton. A lot of credit is certainly due to Johnston, who brought the character to life on the pages of The Coldest City. However, embodied by Theron, Lorraine leaps off the page and seems poised to take her place as a true icon of modern action cinema.
Broughton has all of the depth needed in a lead character, and it looks like Theron nails every aspect of the character. There’s the woman grieving for a man she secretly loved, but doing it so privately that even her superiors have no idea they were ever together. There’s the vengeful force who is capable of taking on a number of enemy agents at once and come out alive. Then, there’s the clever, calculating spy who can seduce one agent while keeping a watchful eye on another.
It may not nab her an Academy Award like her performance in Monster did, but make no mistake: Theron is at the top of her game as the Cold War’s deadliest spy.
Those are our reasons for wanting to see Atomic Blonde. What are yours? Are you excited for the movie? Let us know in the comments.
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