'Atomic Blonde' May Be Crazy, But Its Heroine Is Unforgettable

by Rachel Simon
Focus Features

Here's the basic plot of Atomic Blonde, the action thriller out July 28: during the Cold War, Lorraine, a highly skilled agent (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin on a mission to find a list carrying the names of double agents. While there, she teams up with a fellow agent (James McAvoy), romances a French operative (Sofia Boutella), and kills a lot of people. As for everything else that happens? Well, that's a bit unclear. Atomic Blonde has so much going on that keeping track of all the details is not exactly easy — or even possible. There are spy code names; numerous, similar-looking bad guys; and so many twists and turns that you're bound to forget half of them. But the thing is, that doesn't matter, at all. Atomic Blonde's Lorraine is so unforgettable that she's the only thing you'll be thinking about after the credits roll.

As played to perfection by Theron, Lorraine is brilliant, bold, and terrifyingly talented, both in mental warfare and physical battles. She beats up guys twice her size, gets information out of people previously unwilling to talk, and does all this while rocking some seriously stunning outfits and heels. She's as badass as they come, and during the movie's fight scenes, particularly a much-talked-about sequence set in a stairwell, it's simply impossible to take your eyes off her.

Lorraine is unlike any other action hero we've seen in years, male or female, but the fact that she's a woman matters tremendously. The action and thriller worlds are full of men fighting crime and beating up bad (and good) guys, but women of that type are few and far-between. For every Kill Bill or Lucy, there are 10 more James Bonds or Bourne Identities. Female action heroes just don't come into the picture all too often, and so the existence of Lorraine, powerful and sexy and cool and competent, is a huge deal most certainly worth celebrating.

Focus Features

And the fact that Lorraine is bisexual adds to her importance as a character. As Theron herself has discussed in interviews, the agent's sexual orientation is simply a part of her identity, not a one-time deal or a ticket-selling gimmick. Early in the movie, there's a flashback to a romantic encounter Lorraine had with a male agent, and for much of the film, she flirts and sleeps with Boutella's Delphine. In a time when LGBTQ+ characters have so little representation on-screen, there is so much to appreciate about Lorraine's existence and the way the movie handles her bisexuality.

Atomic Blonde may have a crazy, hard-to-keep-track of plot, and the movie could certainly benefit from some cleaner narrative structure. But when you have a heroine as cool and memorable as Lorraine, who really cares? She's such a unique, necessary character that really, nothing else in the movie matters but her. She is the heart, soul, and fists of Atomic Blonde, and because of her, the summer movie season just got a hell of a lot cooler.