Atomic Blonde is a 2017 American action thriller spy film based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, which revolves around a spy who has to find a list of double agents who are being smuggled into the West, on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The film is directed by David Leitch, in his first solo directorial credit, and it is written by Kurt Johnstad. The film's cast includes Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones.
Atomic Blonde had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 12, 2017 and was theatrically released in the United States on July 28, 2017, by Focus Features. It grossed $98 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its action sequences, Theron's and McAvoy's performances, and the soundtrack. Many compared the film to the John Wick series, for which Leitch was an uncredited co-director and producer of the first film.
A sequel is currently in development.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Leitch|
|Screenplay by||Kurt Johnstad|
The Coldest City|
by Antony Johnston
|Music by||Tyler Bates|
|Edited by||Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$98.4 million|
In November 1989, just days prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, MI6 agent James Gascoigne is shot and killed by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin, who steals the List, a microfilm document concealed in Gascoigne's wristwatch that contains the names of every intelligence agent (on both sides) active in Berlin. Ten days later, Lorraine Broughton, a top-level MI6 spy, is brought in to be debriefed by MI6 executive Eric Gray and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld about her just-finished mission to Berlin. The plot jumps between the debrief room and flashbacks to Lorraine's time in Berlin.
The day after Gascoigne's death, Lorraine is dispatched to recover the List and is told to keep an eye out for Satchel, a double agent for the KGB who has been a problem for MI6 for years. Arriving in Berlin, she is immediately ambushed by KGB agents who deliver a message from their boss, Aleksander Bremovych, but she is able to escape and meet up with her contact, rogue MI6 Station Head David Percival. Lorraine searches Gascoigne's apartment and discovers a picture of him and Percival. In the debriefing, she tells Gray and Kurzfeld that Percival had previously denied knowing Gascoigne and that she suspects Percival was behind the West Berlin police ambushing her while she searched Gascoigne's apartment. When Lorraine visits a restaurant mentioned by the KGB agents she encounters Bremovych, but is "saved" by Delphine Lasalle, a rookie French agent. Although Lorraine is initially suspicious of Lasalle, they eventually enter into a romantic relationship.
Percival, having tailed Lorraine, surveils a watchmaker she visited. He spots Bakhtin entering the same shop. Bakhtin tells the watchmaker he has a watch full of secrets he will sell to the highest bidder. Kurzfeld meets with Lorraine in Berlin, handing her a newspaper containing a number which, when called, informs her that Satchel has been compromised. Percival lures Bahktin to an alley, kills him and takes the wristwatch, from which he discovers who Satchel is. Lorraine, who does not know Percival has the List, finds out that the Stasi officer codenamed Spyglass, who gave the List to Gascoigne, also memorized the names on it. Lorraine and Percival make plans to escort him across the border to West Berlin. Percival meets with Bremovych, who suspects Percival has the List, but Percival only offers the second best thing: the identity and operations of Satchel "to keep the balance", also tipping him off about the plan to extricate Spyglass from East Berlin. Lasalle covertly photographs the meeting.
During the extrication of Spyglass, Percival clandestinely shoots him when the KGB are unable to. Lorraine battles multiple KGB while rescuing the wounded Spyglass, but he drowns when their car is rammed into a river. Lorraine makes it to West Berlin and realizes Percival has planted a bug in her coat. She tells Lasalle, who calls Percival and threatens him with her knowledge of his Bremovych meeting. Percival goes to Lasalle's apartment and kills her, fleeing as Lorraine arrives moments later. Lorraine discovers the photographs taken by Lasalle and realizes Percival has read the List. Percival burns his safehouse and attempts to flee, but Lorraine arrives, kills him, and takes the List.
In the MI6 debriefing, Lorraine finds out Percival had told Gray he had the List and that he was "very close to Satchel". She presents Lasalle's photographs and audio recordings, which paint Percival as Satchel. She denies knowing the List's whereabouts, leaving MI6 no choice but to close the case.
Three days later in Paris, Lorraine, now speaking in Russian, meets with Bremovych, who addresses her as “Comrade Satchel”. Bremovych, having learned from Percival that there is more to Satchel than he had previously known, orders his men to kill her. Lorraine kills his henchmen; then, speaking with an American accent, she tells Bremovych that she always fed him bad information to manipulate the KGB. She kills Bremovych and then joins Kurzfeld with the List.
An adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City was announced in May 2015. Described by Variety as a "Passion Project" for Theron, she first came across the story five years prior, when her production company Denver and Delilah Productions was sent the then-unpublished graphic novel. Theron's interest in the first John Wick movie inspired her to get David Leitch, one of the directors, to helm the project. Leitch eventually left John Wick Chapter 2 to direct the film. According to Theron, the success of Mad Max: Fury Road helped guide the development of Atomic Blonde. The film features a bisexual subplot that was not in the original book. This came from writer Kurt Johnstad, who suggested it after Theron was "thinking about how do you make this different from other spy movies". Leitch has insisted that the scenes are not there to be "provocative", but "more about if you are a spy you will do whatever it takes to get information" and how the main character "find[s] her intimacies and her friendships in small doses".
Theron's casting as the lead was announced in May 2015, while James McAvoy was announced that October. In November, John Goodman was reported as also being in talks to join the film. It was originally hoped that David Bowie would play a part in the film, although he turned down the offer shortly before his death. To prepare for the role, Theron worked with eight personal trainers, who "basically made [her] puke every single day". During the process, Theron cracked her teeth from clenching her jaw and had to get them fixed in surgery. She also bruised a rib during her training. As Theron's training for the movie overlapped with Keanu Reeves' training for John Wick Chapter 2, the two developed a competitive relationship, which included sparring together.
|Atomic Blonde: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Tyler Bates|
|Released||July 28, 2017|
|Label||Back Lot Music|
From the start, Leitch felt that using the right songs for the project was crucial. Part of this was attempting to answer the question "How do you reinvent this stuffy Cold War spy movie?" The soundtrack uses a combination of 1980s songs as well as covers of them. The latter were used to add "a contemporized feeling of the '80s". The movie's producers were initially worried that they would not be able to get the rights to all the songs that Leitch wanted to use, but Leitch himself estimated that around 75% of his picks made it into the final product. Though the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the concentration of iconic songs was from the first half of the 1980s, with the exception of George Michael's 1988 chart-topping Father Figure, which itself was Leitch's second choice after the 1986 release Take My Breath Away by Berlin.
|1.||"Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"||David Bowie||6:43|
|2.||"Major Tom (Coming Home)"||Peter Schilling||4:58|
|6.||"Father Figure"||George Michael||5:37|
|7.||"Der Kommissar"||After the Fire||5:40|
|8.||"Cities in Dust"||Siouxsie and the Banshees||4:03|
|9.||"The Politics of Dancing"||Re-Flex||3:56|
|10.||"Stigmata"||Marilyn Manson and Tyler Bates||5:36|
|12.||"I Ran (So Far Away)"||A Flock of Seagulls||5:05|
|14.||"Voices Carry"||'Til Tuesday||4:18|
|15.||"London Calling"||The Clash||3:19|
|16.||"Finding the UHF Device"||Tyler Bates||2:48|
Other songs featured in the film, but not included in the soundtrack:
In May 2015, Focus Features acquired distribution rights to the film. It was initially scheduled to be released on August 11, 2017, before being moved up to July 28, 2017. The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest on March 12, 2017.
Atomic Blonde grossed $51.6 million in the United States and Canada and $46.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $98.3 million, against a production budget of $30 million.
Atomic Blonde was projected to gross around $20 million from 3,304 theaters during its first weekend. It grossed $1.52 million from Thursday night previews at 2,685 theaters. After making $7.1 million on its first day (including previews), the film went on to open to $18.3 million, finishing 4th at the box office, behind Dunkirk, The Emoji Movie and Girls Trip. In its second weekend the film dropped 55% to $8.2 million, finishing 7th at the box office. It made $4.5 million in its third week and $2.2 million in its fourth, finishing 10th and 13th at the box office, respectively.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 77% based on 249 reviews, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Atomic Blonde gets enough mileage out of its stylish action sequences – and ever-magnetic star – to make up for a narrative that's somewhat less hard-hitting than its protagonist." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a score of 63 out of 100, based on 50 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying: "Borrow from Bourne and Bond. Rinse and repeat. This is the recipe for the quite ridiculous, ultra-violent and deliriously entertaining Atomic Blonde, a slick vehicle for the magnetic, badass charms of Charlize Theron, who is now officially an A-list action star on the strength of this film and Mad Max: Fury Road." Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers praised the cast and fight scenes, giving it 3 stars out of 4 and saying, "It's the fight scenes that count – and they're astonishingly good, from a mano-a-mano beatdown involving Theron's stiletto heel and a thug's jugular vein to a climactic free-for-all in a swanky hotel suite where 99 Luftballons scores every gunshot and gut-punch."
In May 2018, Theron confirmed a sequel was in development.