Atomic Blonde

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Atomic Blonde is a 2017 American action spy thriller film directed by David Leitch, in his first solo directorial credit, and written by Kurt Johnstad. It is based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart's 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, published by Oni Press, 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 stars Charlize Theron and James McAvoy, with John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones in supporting roles.

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 $96 million worldwide, and received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its action sequences, Theron's and McAvoy's performances, and the soundtrack, although some criticized the writing and pacing; 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]

Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde poster.jpg
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
Music by Tyler Bates
Cinematography Jonathan Sela
Edited by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
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 $96.7 million[2]


In 1989, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, MI6 agent James Gascoigne is shot and killed by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin, who steals the List, a piece of microfilm concealed in a wristwatch that contains a list (assembled by the East German Stasi) of every intelligence agent (on both sides) active in Berlin. Ten days later, Lorraine Broughton, a top-level spy for MI6, is brought in to be interrogated by MI6 executive Eric Gray and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld about her mission to Berlin.

The day after Gascoigne's death, Lorraine is dispatched to Berlin to recover the List and assassinate Satchel, a double agent who has sold intelligence to the Soviets for years and who betrayed Gascoigne. When she arrives in Berlin, she is immediately ambushed by KGB agents working for arms dealer and KGB associate Aleksander Bremovych, but is able to escape and meet up with her contact, David Percival. After failing to find any immediate leads, Lorraine searches Gascoigne's apartment and discovers a picture of him and Percival, and is then ambushed by the West Berlin police. She realizes only Percival knew she was going to the apartment, and begins to suspect Percival's motives. Lorraine also encounters Delphine Lasalle, a naive French agent, and enters into a romantic relationship with her.

Bakhtin declares his intention to sell the List to the highest bidder. Percival, having been tipped off, kills him and takes the List for himself. He then meets with Bremovych to arrange the transfer of the List to him, which Lasalle photographs. Percival offers to escort the defector who stole and memorized the List, a Stasi officer codenamed Spyglass, and his family across the border to West Berlin. However, he tips off Bremovych's men and shoots Spyglass while Lorraine was escorting him across the border, and despite Lorraine's best efforts Spyglass is killed. Percival then goes to Lasalle's apartment and kills her to cover his own tracks. When Lorraine arrives too late to save her, she discovers the photographs taken by Lasalle proving Percival to be working with Bremovych. As Percival burns his safehouse and attempts to flee, Lorraine tracks him down, kills him, and takes the List.

Returning to the MI6 debriefing, Lorraine presents photographs as well as spliced audio recordings painting Percival as the double agent Satchel, and denies knowing the List's current whereabouts, forcing the agency to close the case. Three days later, she meets with Bremovych in Paris, revealing herself to be Satchel. Lorraine gives him a fake List, but Bremovych admits he knows she set him up. Lorraine kills his henchmen, and before killing him reveals she was manipulating events from the very beginning. Later in Paris she meets with Kurzfeld, revealing herself to be an American triple agent planted by the CIA, before returning with him and the List to Langley.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • James Faulkner as C, head of MI6.
  • Bill Skarsgård as 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.
  • Barbara Sukowa as the coroner who's in charge of releasing Gascoigne's body to Lorraine.


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,"[11] 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."[15] 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]


Atomic Blonde: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Atomic Blonde Soundtrack.png
Soundtrack album by Tyler Bates
Released July 28, 2017
Label Back Lot Music
Tyler Bates chronology
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Original Score)
Atomic Blonde: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Deadpool 2

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.[19] The latter were used to add "a contemporized feeling of the '80s".[19] 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]

Track listing
No. Title Artist(s) Length
1. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" David Bowie 6:43
2. "Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst)" Peter Schilling 4:58
3. "Blue Monday" Health 4:46
4. "C*cks*cker" Tyler Bates 1:47
5. "99 Luftballons" Nena 3:51
6. "Father Figure" George Michael 5:37
7. "Der Kommissar" After the Fire 5:40
8. "Cities in Dust" Siouxie and the Banshees 4:03
9. "The Politics of Dancing" Re-Flex 3:56
10. "Stigmata" Marilyn Manson and Tyler Bates 5:36
11. "Demonstration" Tyler Bates 3:44
12. "I Ran (So Far Away)" A Flock of Seagulls 5:05
13. "99 Luftballons" Kaleida 3:52
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:[21]


In May 2015, Focus Features acquired distribution rights to the film.[22] It was initially scheduled to be released on August 11, 2017,[23][24] before being moved up to July 28, 2017.[25] The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest on March 12, 2017.[26]

Box office

Atomic Blonde grossed $51.6 million in the United States and Canada and $45.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $96.6 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.[27] It grossed $1.52 million from Thursday night previews at 2,685 theaters.[28] 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.[29] In its second weekend the film dropped 55% to $8.2 million, finishing 7th at the box office.[30] 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.[31]

Critical response

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 76% based on 249 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. 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."[32] 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".[33] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[29]

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."[34] 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."[35]

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".[36]


  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 (2017-07-17). "Atomic Blonde Review". IGN. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  4. ^ "'Atomic Blonde': Film Review | SXSW 2017". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  5. ^ /ritzau/. "Hollywood Star crazy about Danish actor". (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". 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'". 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 c 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'". Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  13. ^ Busch, Anita (November 2, 2015). "John Goodman In Talks To Join 'Coldest City'". 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. ^ a b 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". December 4, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c d 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.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ McNary, Dave (May 19, 2015). "Cannes: Charlize Theron's Spy Thriller 'Coldest City' Bought by Focus". Variety. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  23. ^ Slead, Evan (June 9, 2016). "Charlize Theron and James McAvoy thriller The Coldest City gets release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  24. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro. "Charlize Theron Spy Thriller 'The Coldest City' To Open August 2017". Deadline. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  25. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 7, 2016). "Charlize Theron Spy Thriller 'The Coldest City' Moves Up To July – Update". Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  26. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 22, 2017). "Charlize Theron MI6 Movie 'The Coldest City' Retitled & Will Debut At SXSW". Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  27. ^ "Will 'Dunkirk' Stay Afloat Against 'Atomic Blonde,' 'Emoji Movie' at Box Office This Weekend?". TheWrap. July 25, 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  28. ^ "Atomic Blonde' Delivers $1.52M in Thursday Previews; 'Emoji' with $900k". Box Office Mojo. July 28, 2017.
  29. ^ a b "'Dunkirk' Marches Ahead Of 'Emoji Movie' For Top Spot With $28M+". Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  30. ^ "'The Dark Tower' Opens To $18M+ In Diverse Marketplace: Was The Decade-Plus Battle To The Screen Worth It?". Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  31. ^ D'Allesandro, Anthony. "'Hitman's Bodyguard' Flexes Muscle With $21M+ Opening During Sleepy Summer Weekend". Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  32. ^ "Atomic Blonde (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  33. ^ "Atomic Blonde reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  34. ^ Roeper, Richard (July 24, 2017). "Charlize Theron joins action's top echelon with slick 'Atomic Blonde'". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  35. ^ Travers, Peter (July 26, 2017). "'Atomic Blonde' Review: Charlize Theron Literally Kicks Ass in 1980s Spy Thriller". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  36. ^ Coyle, Jake (July 25, 2017). "Review: In 'Atomic Blonde,' Theron heats up the Cold War". Associated Press. Retrieved July 28, 2017.

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