When you think of a spy movie, chances are you’re envisioning a man with a gun. The spy film genre has been dominated by men, particularly British men whose characters go by the name of Bond. Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron as an MI6 agent, seeks to remedy that with a memorable movie that has most of the markings of a Bond film. Imagine if a good James Bond film were made in the late 80s, and sexism didn’t exist. That’s Atomic Blonde.
Blonde. Atomic Blonde.
First, if you strip away all the associations you have with the name James Bond, it’s actually a plain unassuming name. In Atomic Blonde, Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, which sounds like the name of a Golden Girl, but it’s actually the name of a deadly British spy. Like every good Bond movie, Lorraine is given an official mission in a room with quilted leather chairs (side note: what’s the interior design name for wanting your living room to look like an MI6 office? Asking for a friend.) Her mission? To retrieve a list of undercover agents that’s been stolen in Berlin. It also happens to be the Cold War, which makes the mission even more dangerous. Now, in order for spies to deal with dangerous missions and to fit in at bars, they have lots of cocktails. So, in addition to having a plain name, like Bond, Lorraine also has a signature drink that she orders throughout the film: Stoli on the rocks. Compared to what seems to be a picky order from the 007 franchise – “shaken not stirred” – Lorraine’s drink choice has no frills and no fuss. Indeed, her drink choice is symbolic of her character: she gets the job done.
It’s Personal AND It’s Business
Not only are the stakes high in Atomic Blonde, but they’re personal. Lorraine’s lover, also a spy, was killed in Berlin by the man who stole the list. Avenging the death of a loved one gives Lorraine even more purpose in her mission, and it’s reminiscent of what could’ve been a good sequel to Casino Royale after Bond’s love, Vesper, dies. Casino Royale is credited with successfully rebooting the Bond franchise with the gritty Daniel Craig Bond, but Quantum of Solace, the sequel, was a meandering let-down that didn’t really work out Bond’s grief. Lorraine in Atomic Blonde, on the other hand, works out her grief by elbowing and kicking every single person that comes after her. Also, her mission to hunt down a list of undercover spies before it gets into the wrong hands is the plot of another 007 movie: Skyfall. However, Lorraine’s superiors don’t go out in the field with her like M does in Skyfall; she is truly on her own. Spies are known to have a lonely lifestyle, but Lorraine has less support than the protagonists in most spy movies. She’s not given crazy gadgets or fancy cars, and her cover is blown immediately upon arriving in Berlin. Most Bond movies allow 007 some time to snoop around before someone recognizes him. Lorraine is able to do more with so much less.
Equal Opportunity Lovers
Lorraine begins her mission avenging a male lover, and through the course of the film, she has a sexual relationship with a French female spy. What’s great about this is it was entirely believable. In Bond movies, there’s always a “Bond girl” whose purpose in the story is to help the agent and be eye candy. We have this in Atomic Blonde for a female protagonist! Their relationship isn’t purely sexual either. Delphine, played by Sofia Boutella, becomes privy to Lorraine’s ticks, such as how Lorraine looks when she’s telling the truth. Even though Percival, played by the handsome James McAvoy, is also working with Lorraine and would probably welcome a tryst, Lorraine chooses to have a relationship with a woman instead. And, just like a Bond film, this relationship doesn’t end up great for the lover. What this does overall is provide a voice for gender fluidity and equal representation in storytelling, which is so desperately needed in all genres.
Why We Need More 00Blonde
It has been reported previously that Charlize Theron did most of her own stunts in Atomic Blonde, but even if she didn’t, it’s refreshing to have all of the action sequences focus on her hand-to-hand combat skills and how she finds creative ways out of being outnumbered: a garden hose and man’s head being a notable example. In that scene, Lorraine comments that had she known she was going to be attacked, she would’ve worn something different, which reminds everyone in the audience that women in action movies usually wear impractical cleavage/ass-baring attire. In Atomic Blonde, Lorraine’s attire is very 80s sexy chic while still giving her the range of motion necessary to fight at a moment’s notice. Seeing strength combined with beauty with the focus still being on strength is so empowering for women to see. While nudity is present in the film, the first shot of nudity was Theron’s flexing, muscular back. Unlike stereotypical Bond spy movies, the nudity in Atomic Blonde makes a point about vulnerability and healing. The boobs have purpose. #purposefulboobs
Have you guys seen Atomic Blonde yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Images via atomicblonde.com