‘Atomic Blonde’: Charlize Theron goes nuclear

Culture Curmudgeon

Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, in Atomic Blonde. (Courtesy: Universal)

“Atomic Blonde” was the movie “Wonder Woman” should have been. Not to take anything away from Patty Jenkins’ film, but Charlize Theron’s movie was the more ‘feminist’ one. “Atomic Blonde’s” lead is the ultimate alpha. She dominates and outwits everyone. She doesn’t take BS from anyone, and if someone tries to give her said excrement, they end up dead or maimed.

To put it more plainly, the main protagonist makes Jason Bourne look like a softie. In terms of ruthlessness, John Wick seems like a nice guy compared to Lorraine Broughton. Charlize Theron’s character also makes James Bond look and seem like a Boy Scout. In short, she surpasses the super-spy archetype in every way. Broughton is a more intelligent, tougher, and an endlessly efficient killing machine with a heart — albeit a cynical one.

Ahmad Coo is a producer and copy editor for the Global Business show on CGTN America. His analysis represents his views alone.Culture Curmudgeon Ahmad Coo

The movie is set in late-’80s-and-early-’90s Germany right before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. The cold war is almost over, and a list of all intelligence operatives in the world goes missing. In the wrong hands, hundreds of people will die. So there’s a race to get that list, and Theron’s character is sent into East Berlin to retrieve it.

If you’ve seen the John Wick series, you’ll realize “Atomic Blonde” has a very similar feel. That’s because the two films are both directed by David Leitch, who’s a stuntman turned auteur. Leitch’s experience as a stuntman informs all “Atomic Blonde’s” fight scenes. They’re extremely brutal to the point of being excessive and cruel. But the violence fits into the film’s overall cynical worldview. No one can be trusted and everyone is engaging in a game of one-upmanship. The film’s main characters double, triple, and quadruple cross each other so much that it can be confusing who’s getting the edge over whom.

It’s Charlize Theron who makes everything hang together. Audiences won’t pay much attention to “Atomic Blonde’s” confusing storylines and subplots, because they’ll probably be spellbound by her performance. At different points in the film, she’s vulnerable, devastated, angry, flippant, funny, and in love — among a multitude of other emotions. And Theron’s most impressive feat? Not once did the movie feel she was ‘acting’.

Theron’s commitment to the role might be because the film was a passion project for her. “Atomic Blonde” is based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City” which Theron’s production company secured the rights for several years ago.

Going back to the Wonder Woman comparison, “Atomic Blonde” isn’t exactly a ‘sexy’ film. Yes, there are points in the film where one may question why some superspies look like supermodels. But while both “Wonder Woman” and “Atomic Blonde” have costume design that’s considered ‘sexy’, Theron’s character slowly sheds her sleekness through a series of brutal fights where she proceeds to get her face almost beat to a pulp. Gal Gadot’s hair and costume are perfect for the whole two hours she’s on screen.

Broughton (played by Charlize Theron) dishing out punishment in ‘Atomic Blonde’ Courtesy: Universal

Theron actually did 98 percent of her stunts for the movie, so she’s the one throwing fists and getting slammed to the floor and thrown through windows. There’s nothing glamorous about that. The director did not treat Theron’s character as a precious flower. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that demanded so much physicality from an actor.

Theron’s “Atomic Blonde” is one of the more memorable female protagonists to come from Hollywood in recent years. She’s definitely in the mold of the more impressive women heroes in tinseltown’s overwhelmingly chauvinistic history — and that list includes Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in the first “Aliens” series and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in “Terminator”. “Wonder Woman’s” scriptwriters and producers should take notes.