Atomic Blonde

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Atomic Blonde
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Leitch
Screenplay byKurt Johnstad
Based on
The Coldest City
Produced by
  • Eric Gitter
  • Peter Schwerin
  • Kelly McCormick
  • Charlize Theron
  • A. J. Dix
  • Beth Kono
CinematographyJonathan Sela
Edited byElísabet Ronaldsdóttir
Music byTyler Bates
Distributed byFocus Features
Release dates
  • March 12, 2017 (2017-03-12) (SXSW)
  • July 28, 2017 (2017-07-28) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Russian
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$100 million[2]

Atomic Blonde is a 2017 American action thriller film directed by David Leitch (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. The film stars Charlize Theron (who also served as a co-producer), James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones. The story revolves around a spy who has to find a list of double agents that is being smuggled into the West on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Atomic Blonde premiered at South by Southwest on March 12, 2017, and was released in the United States on July 28, by Focus Features. The film was a box-office hit, grossing $100 million worldwide against a budget of $30 million, and received generally positive reviews from critics. 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 in development.


In November 1989, days 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 microfilm document concealed in Gascoigne's wristwatch containing the names of every intelligence agent (on both sides) active in Berlin.

A day later, Lorraine Broughton, a top-level MI6 spy, is dispatched to recover The List and is told to keep an eye out for Satchel, an infamous double agent for the KGB. Arriving in Berlin, she encounters two KGB agents speaking English and apparently posing as her own MI6 team, who attempt to deliver a message from their boss, Aleksander Bremovych. She overpowers them and manages to escape unharmed by crashing their car and is immediately picked up by her real contact, maverick MI6 station head David Percival. Percival is addicted to the Bohemian lifestyle he has been leading on both sides of the wall. Resentful of Lorraine and the implied supervision from London she brings, he seems unwilling to cooperate with her. Lorraine searches Gascoigne's apartment and discovers a picture of him and Percival. Percival had previously denied knowing Gascoigne, so 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 novice French agent. Although Lorraine is initially suspicious of Lasalle, they eventually enter into a sexual relationship. Lasalle suggests that they should work together.

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. CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld meets with Lorraine in Berlin, handing her a newspaper containing a number which, when called, informs her Satchel has been compromised. Percival lures Bakhtin to an alley, kills him, and takes the wristwatch from which he discovers who Satchel is. Ignoring that Percival has The List, Lorraine learns that the Stasi officer codenamed Spyglass, who gave The List to Gascoigne, also memorized the names on it. She 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 offers only the second best thing—the identity and operations details of Satchel "to keep the balance", also tipping him off about the plan to extricate Spyglass. Lasalle covertly photographs the meeting.

During the extrication of Spyglass, Percival secretly shoots him when the KGB agents are unable to. Lorraine battles multiple KGB agents while rescuing the wounded Spyglass, who drowns when their car is pushed into a river by the KGB agent whose car Lorraine crashed when she arrived in Berlin. 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, avenging Lasalle, and takes The List.

Later, Lorraine is brought in to be debriefed by MI6 executive Eric Gray and Kurzfeld. While there, she discovers Percival had told Gray he had The List and he was "very close to Satchel". She presents Lasalle's photographs and doctored 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 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 she always fed him misinformation to manipulate the KGB. Then she kills him. She and Kurzfeld return to America with The List. In their conversation, it is implied Lorraine is actually a triple agent and had been working for the CIA all along.


In addition, Sam Hargrave and Bill Skarsgård make brief appearances as MI6 agent James Gascoigne and as Lorraine's East German contact and presumed CIA ally Merkel, respectively. Daniel Bernhardt also played a strong thug working for Bremovych who fights Lorraine several times.


An adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City was announced in May 2015.[5] 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.[6] Theron's interest in the first John Wick movie inspired her to get David Leitch, one of the directors, to helm the project.[7] Leitch eventually left John Wick: Chapter 2 to direct the film.[8] According to Theron, the success of Mad Max: Fury Road helped guide the development of Atomic Blonde.[9] 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".[10] 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".[10]

Theron's casting as the lead was announced in May 2015,[5] while James McAvoy was announced that October. In November, John Goodman was reported as also being in talks to join the film.[11][12] It was originally hoped that David Bowie would play a part in the film, although he turned down the offer shortly before his death.[13] 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.[14] She also bruised a rib during her training.[15] 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.[16]

Principal photography on the film began on November 22, 2015, in Budapest,[17] and later moved to Berlin.[8]


Atomic Blonde: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJuly 28, 2017 (2017-07-28)
LabelBack 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?"[18] 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,[18] but Leitch himself estimated that around 75% of his picks made it into the final product.[19] 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.[20]

Track listing
1."Killer Queen Covered"Calista Garcia3:18
2."Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"David Bowie9:24
3."Major Tom (Völlig losgelöst)"Peter Schilling4:58
4."Blue Monday"HEALTH7:29
5."C*cks*cker"Tyler Bates1:47
6."99 Luftballons"Nena3:51
7."Father Figure Covered"Ryal5:03
8."Der Kommissar"Robert Ponger & Falco3:53
9."Cities in Dust"Siouxsie and the Banshees4:03
10."The Politics of Dancing"Re-Flex3:56
11."Stigmata"Marilyn Manson and Tyler Bates5:36
12."Demonstration Extended mix"Tyler Bates6:23
13."I Ran (So Far Away)"A Flock of Seagulls5:06
14."99 Luftballons"Kaleida3:53
15."Voices Carry"'Til Tuesday4:18
16."London Calling"The Clash3:20
17."Finding the UHF Device"Tyler Bates2:49

Other songs in the film, but not included in the soundtrack:[20]

1."Blue Monday 1988 [12" Version]"New Order 7:09
2."Fight the Power"Public EnemyHank Shocklee, Carl Ryder, Eric Sadler5:23
3."Behind the Wheel"Depeche Mode 5:17
4."Kack Zukunft"Ausschlag 2:00
5."As Time Goes By"Nicki Parrott 4:02
6."Fastidious Horses"Vladimir Vysotsky 5:38
7."Under Pressure"Soviet Space Dogs 3:58


In May 2015, Focus Features acquired distribution rights to the film.[21] It was initially scheduled to be released on August 11, 2017,[22] before being moved up to July 28, 2017.[23] The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest on March 12, 2017.[24]


Box office[edit]

Atomic Blonde grossed $51.7 million in the United States and Canada and $48.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $100 million, against a production budget of $30 million.[2]

In North America, Atomic Blonde was projected to gross around $20 million from 3,304 theaters during its first weekend.[25] It grossed $1.52 million from Thursday night previews at 2,685 theaters.[26] 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.[27] In its second weekend the film dropped 55% to $8.2 million, finishing 7th at the box office.[28] 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.[29]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 79% based on 367 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website'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."[30] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 50 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[31] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[27]

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."[32] 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."[33]

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".[34]



In July 2017, Leitch expressed a desire to develop a sequel film to Atomic Blonde, saying that the project is dependent on the first film's success.[35] In May 2018, Theron confirmed that a sequel was in active development.[36][37] By July 2019, Leitch announced that the project is in development as a production deal with a streaming service company, while the filmmaker's wife Kelly McCormick, will return as producer.[38] By April 2020, it was announced the film was in development as a Netflix exclusive film, while Theron will also be a producer.[39]

Potential crossover with John Wick[edit]

In July 2017, Leitch discussed the potential of a crossover film featuring Atomic Blonde and the John Wick franchise. Leitch directed the former, after previously co-directing the first John Wick film. The filmmaker stated that all individuals involved have discussed the possibility, and that they would do it once there was a good enough story worked out.[40]


  1. ^ "Atomic Blonde". SXSW Schedule. South by Southwest. Archived from the original on August 11, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Atomic Blonde". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Archived from the original on November 13, 2019. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Welch, Alex (July 17, 2017). "Atomic Blonde Review". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on July 27, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  4. ^ DeFore, John (March 12, 2017). "'Atomic Blonde': Film Review | SXSW 2017". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on July 31, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (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 Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  6. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (July 11, 2017). "How Charlize Theron Got Ripped, Bruised (and Naked!) for 'Atomic Blonde'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  7. ^ Welch, Alex (August 2, 2017). "John Wick Inspired Charlize Theron to Make Atomic Blonde". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (October 2, 2015). "David Leitch Leaves 'John Wick 2' to Direct Charlize Theron Spy Movie 'The Coldest City'". TheWrap. Archived from the original on March 26, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  9. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (July 11, 2017). "Charlize Theron Would 'Love to' Do a Prequel to 'Mad Max: Fury Road'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on October 11, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Sperling, Nicole (April 26, 2017). "Charlize Theron breaks down her steamy love affair in Atomic Blonde". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  11. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 16, 2015). "James McAvoy to Join Charlize Theron in Focus' 'Coldest City'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on October 18, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  12. ^ Busch, Anita (November 2, 2015). "John Goodman In Talks To Join 'Coldest City'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on November 7, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  13. ^ Branch, Kathryn (July 26, 2017). "Charlize Theron on Fighting Men Twice Her Size in a Blonde Bob and 6-Inch Heels". Vogue. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  14. ^ N'Duke, Amanda (March 13, 2017). "'Atomic Blonde' Director: "I Really Wanted To Try Some Provocative Things With Action" – SXSW". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  15. ^ Reynolds, Megan (July 11, 2017). "Charlize Theron Cracked 2 Teeth and Bruised a Rib Training for Atomic Blonde". Jezebel. Univision Communications. Archived from the original on September 13, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  16. ^ Mallenbaum, Carly (July 26, 2017). "Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves: Action-movie sparring partners?". USA Today. Gannett Company. Archived from the original on July 27, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  17. ^ SSN Insider Staff (December 4, 2015). "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". SSN Insider. Archived from the original on 2015-12-06. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  18. ^ a b White, Caitlin (July 17, 2017). "How 'Atomic Blonde' Director David Leitch Used Music To Turn A Stuffy Cold War Film Into A Spy Thriller". Uproxx. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  19. ^ Deckelmeier, Joe (July 28, 2017). "Interview: Atomic Blonde & Deadpool 2 Director David Leitch". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on July 28, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  20. ^ a b Guerrasio, Jason (July 31, 2017). "The dealmaking to pull off the 1980s-soaked 'Atomic Blonde' soundtrack was as intense as the fight scenes". Business Insider. Insider. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  21. ^ McNary, Dave (May 19, 2015). "Cannes: Charlize Theron's Spy Thriller 'Coldest City' Bought by Focus". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on August 5, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  22. ^ Slead, Evan (June 9, 2016). "Charlize Theron and James McAvoy thriller The Coldest City gets release date". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Archived from the original on June 11, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  23. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 7, 2016). "Charlize Theron Spy Thriller 'The Coldest City' Moves Up To July – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on November 15, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  24. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 22, 2017). "Charlize Theron MI6 Movie 'The Coldest City' Retitled & Will Debut At SXSW". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on February 23, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  25. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (July 25, 2017). "Will 'Dunkirk' Stay Afloat Against 'Atomic Blonde,' 'Emoji Movie' at Box Office This Weekend?". TheWrap. Archived from the original on July 25, 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  26. ^ Brevet, Brad (July 28, 2017). "Atomic Blonde' Delivers $1.52M in Thursday Previews; 'Emoji' with $900k". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  27. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 30, 2017). "'Dunkirk' Marches Ahead Of 'Emoji Movie' For Top Spot With $28M+". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on July 30, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  28. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 5, 2017). "'The Dark Tower' Opens To $18M+ In Diverse Marketplace: Was The Decade-Plus Battle To The Screen Worth It?". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 20, 2017). "'Hitman's Bodyguard' Flexes Muscle With $21M+ Opening During Sleepy Summer Weekend". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 21, 2017. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  30. ^ "Atomic Blonde (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on March 26, 2017. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  31. ^ "Atomic Blonde Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on September 8, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  32. ^ Roeper, Richard (July 24, 2017). "Charlize Theron joins action's top echelon with slick 'Atomic Blonde'". Chicago Sun Times. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  33. ^ Travers, Peter (July 26, 2017). "'Atomic Blonde' Review: Charlize Theron Literally Kicks Ass in 1980s Spy Thriller". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 28, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  34. ^ Coyle, Jake (July 25, 2017). "Review: In 'Atomic Blonde,' Theron heats up the Cold War". Associated Press. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  35. ^ "Atomic Blonde Director Hopes for Sequel". Screen Rant. 25 July 2017. Archived from the original on 1 August 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  36. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (May 7, 2018). "Charlize Theron Confirms 'Atomic Blonde 2' On 'Watch What Happens Live'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on May 8, 2018. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  37. ^ "Charlize Theron on Plans for 'Atomic Blonde' Sequel and Growing up as a 'Privileged White Person'". 11 April 2018. Archived from the original on 1 August 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  38. ^ "'Atomic Blonde 2' May Get Made by a Streaming Service, Says Director David Leitch". August 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-08-01. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  39. ^ "'Atomic Blonde 2' In Early Development At Netflix (EXCLUSIVE)". Discussing Film. April 9, 2020. Archived from the original on April 9, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2020.
  40. ^ Kennedy, Michael (July 25, 2017). "Atomic Blonde Director Discusses John Wick Crossover". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018. Retrieved October 18, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]