Atomic Blonde

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.[3][4]

A sequel is currently in development.

Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde poster
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Leitch
Produced by
  • Charlize Theron
  • Beth Kono
  • A. J. Dix
  • Kelly McCormick
  • Eric Gitter
  • Peter Schwerin
Screenplay by Kurt Johnstad
Based on The Coldest City
by Antony Johnston
Sam Hart
Starring
Music by Tyler Bates
Cinematography Jonathan Sela
Edited by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
Production
company
Distributed by Focus Features
Release date
  • March 12, 2017 (SXSW)
  • July 28, 2017 (United States)
Running time
115 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[2]
Box office $98.4 million[2]

Plot

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.

Cast

  • Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, a top-level MI6 field agent.
  • James McAvoy as David Percival, an eccentric MI6 Berlin station chief who's assigned to assist Lorraine in her mission.
  • John Goodman as Emmett Kurzfeld, a CIA senior agent working with MI6.
  • Til Schweiger as Watchmaker, a mysterious ally of MI6 who crafts special watches hiding codes inside.
  • Eddie Marsan as Spyglass, the Stasi defector who gives the list to Gascoigne.
  • Sofia Boutella as Delphine Lasalle, an undercover French agent who becomes Lorraine's lover.
  • Toby Jones as Eric Gray, Lorraine's MI6 superior.
  • James Faulkner as C, head of MI6.
  • Bill Skarsgård as Gordan Merkel, Lorraine's East German contact who oversees a spy network.
  • Sam Hargrave as James Gascoigne, a deceased MI6 agent who was close to Lorraine.
  • Roland Møller[5] as Aleksander Bremovych, a high-ranking Russian operative in Berlin.
  • Jóhannes Jóhannesson as Yuri Bakhtin, the rogue KGB agent who kills Gascoigne and steals the list.
  • Daniel Bernhardt as KGB soldier.
  • Barbara Sukowa as the coroner who is in charge of releasing Gascoigne's body to Lorraine.

Production

An adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City was announced in May 2015.[6] 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.[7] Theron's interest in the first John Wick movie inspired her to get David Leitch, one of the directors, to helm the project.[8] Leitch eventually left John Wick Chapter 2 to direct the film.[9] According to Theron, the success of Mad Max: Fury Road helped guide the development of Atomic Blonde.[10] 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".[11] 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".[11]

Theron's casting as the lead was announced in May 2015,[6] while James McAvoy was announced that October. In November, John Goodman was reported as also being in talks to join the film.[12][13] It was originally hoped that David Bowie would play a part in the film, although he turned down the offer shortly before his death.[14] 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.[15] She also bruised a rib during her training.[16] 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.[17]

Principal photography on the film began on November 22, 2015, in Budapest,[18] and later moved to Berlin.[9]

Soundtrack

Atomic Blonde: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Tyler Bates
Released July 28, 2017
Genre
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?"[19] 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,[19] but Leitch himself estimated that around 75% of his picks made it into the final product.[20] 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.[21]

Track listing
No.TitleArtist(s)Length
1."Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"David Bowie6:43
2."Major Tom (Coming Home)"Peter Schilling4:58
3."Blue Monday"Health4:46
4."C*cks*cker"Tyler Bates1:47
5."99 Luftballons"Nena3:51
6."Father Figure"George Michael5:37
7."Der Kommissar"After the Fire5:40
8."Cities in Dust"Siouxsie and the Banshees4:03
9."The Politics of Dancing"Re-Flex3:56
10."Stigmata"Marilyn Manson and Tyler Bates5:36
11."Demonstration"Tyler Bates3:44
12."I Ran (So Far Away)"A Flock of Seagulls5:05
13."99 Luftballons"Kaleida3:52
14."Voices Carry"'Til Tuesday4:18
15."London Calling"The Clash3:19
16."Finding the UHF Device"Tyler Bates2:48

Other songs featured in the film, but not included in the soundtrack:[22]

Release

In May 2015, Focus Features acquired distribution rights to the film.[23] It was initially scheduled to be released on August 11, 2017,[24][25] before being moved up to July 28, 2017.[26] The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest on March 12, 2017.[27]

Box office

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.[2]

Atomic Blonde was projected to gross around $20 million from 3,304 theaters during its first weekend.[28] It grossed $1.52 million from Thursday night previews at 2,685 theaters.[29] 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.[30] In its second weekend the film dropped 55% to $8.2 million, finishing 7th at the box office.[31] 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.[32]

Critical response

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."[33] 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".[34] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[30]

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."[35] 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."[36]

Jake Coyle of the Associated Press gave the film 2/4 stars, calling it "largely a vacant, hyper-stylistic romp that trades on the thick Cold War atmosphere of far better films".[37]

Sequel

In May 2018, Theron confirmed a sequel was in development.[38]

References

  1. ^ "Atomic Blonde". South by Southwest. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Atomic Blonde (2017)". The Numbers. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  3. ^ Welch, Alex (July 17, 2017). "Atomic Blonde Review". IGN. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  4. ^ "'Atomic Blonde': Film Review | SXSW 2017". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  5. ^ /ritzau/. "Hollywood Star crazy about Danish actor". b.dk (in Danish). Berlinske. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b Fleming Jr, Mike (May 9, 2015). "Focus Pre-Empts N.A. Rights To 'The Coldest City;' Charlize Theron To Star, 'John Wick's David Leitch & Chad Stahelski Directing: Cannes". deadline.com. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  7. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin. "How Charlize Theron Got Ripped, Bruised (and Naked!) for 'Atomic Blonde'". Variety. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  8. ^ Welch, Alex. "John Wick Inspired Charlize Theron to Make Atomic Blonde". Screenrant. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  9. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (October 2, 2015). "David Leitch Leaves 'John Wick 2' to Direct Charlize Theron Spy Movie 'The Coldest City'". thewrap.com. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  10. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (11 July 2017). "Charlize Theron Would 'Love to' Do a Prequel to 'Mad Max: Fury Road'". Variety.
  11. ^ a b Sperling, Nicole. "Charlize Theron breaks down her steamy love affair in Atomic Blonde". Sperling. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  12. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 16, 2015). "James McAvoy to Join Charlize Theron in Focus' 'Coldest City'". variety.com. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  13. ^ Busch, Anita (November 2, 2015). "John Goodman In Talks To Join 'Coldest City'". deadline.com. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  14. ^ Branch, Kathryn. "Charlize Theron on Fighting Men Twice Her Size in a Blonde Bob and 6-Inch Heels". Vogue. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  15. ^ N'Duke, Amanda. "'Atomic Blonde' Director: "I Really Wanted To Try Some Provocative Things With Action" – SXSW". Deadline. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  16. ^ Reynolds, Megan (11 July 2017). "Charlize Theron Cracked 2 Teeth and Bruised a Rib Training for Atomic Blonde". Jezebel. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  17. ^ Mallenbaum, Carly. "Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves: Action-movie sparring partners?". USA Today. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  18. ^ "On the Set for 12/4/15: Gal Gadot Grabs Her Lasso for 'Wonder Woman', Brad Pitt Wraps 'War Machine', 'Resident Evil' Team Finish Final Chapter". ssninsider.com. December 4, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  19. ^ a b White, Catlin. "How 'Atomic Blonde' Director David Leitch Used Music To Turn A Stuffy Cold War Film Into A Spy Thriller". Uproxx. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  20. ^ Deckelmeier, Joe. "Interview: Atomic Blonde & Deadpool 2 Director David Leitch". Screenrant. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  21. ^ no information given
  22. ^ Guerrasio, Jason (July 21, 2017). "The Dealmaking to Pull Off the 1980s-soaked 'Atomic Blonde' Soundtrack Was as Intense as the Fight Scenes". Business Insider. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  23. ^ McNary, Dave (May 19, 2015). "Cannes: Charlize Theron's Spy Thriller 'Coldest City' Bought by Focus". Variety. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  24. ^ Slead, Evan (June 9, 2016). "Charlize Theron and James McAvoy thriller The Coldest City gets release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  25. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro. "Charlize Theron Spy Thriller 'The Coldest City' To Open August 2017". Deadline. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  26. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 7, 2016). "Charlize Theron Spy Thriller 'The Coldest City' Moves Up To July – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  27. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 22, 2017). "Charlize Theron MI6 Movie 'The Coldest City' Retitled & Will Debut At SXSW". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  28. ^ "Will 'Dunkirk' Stay Afloat Against 'Atomic Blonde,' 'Emoji Movie' at Box Office This Weekend?". TheWrap. July 25, 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  29. ^ "Atomic Blonde' Delivers $1.52M in Thursday Previews; 'Emoji' with $900k". Box Office Mojo. July 28, 2017.
  30. ^ a b "'Dunkirk' Marches Ahead Of 'Emoji Movie' For Top Spot With $28M+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  31. ^ "'The Dark Tower' Opens To $18M+ In Diverse Marketplace: Was The Decade-Plus Battle To The Screen Worth It?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  32. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony. "'Hitman's Bodyguard' Flexes Muscle With $21M+ Opening During Sleepy Summer Weekend". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  33. ^ "Atomic Blonde (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  34. ^ "Atomic Blonde reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  35. ^ Roeper, Richard (July 24, 2017). "Charlize Theron joins action's top echelon with slick 'Atomic Blonde'". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  36. ^ Travers, Peter (July 26, 2017). "'Atomic Blonde' Review: Charlize Theron Literally Kicks Ass in 1980s Spy Thriller". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  37. ^ Coyle, Jake (July 25, 2017). "Review: In 'Atomic Blonde,' Theron heats up the Cold War". Associated Press. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  38. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (May 7, 2018). "Charlize Theron Confirms 'Atomic Blonde 2' On 'Watch What Happens Live'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 8, 2018.

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