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Film review: Atomic Blonde

Review by Fabian Van Onzin |
August 3, 2017
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Houston, TX - During the last elections, Hillary Clinton, who used a sort of bourgeois ‘feminism’ to sell reactionary ideas to the public. Since then, there have been a number of films, such as Wonder Woman, that use images of powerful women to promote a pro-war capitalist agenda. Atomic Blonde is the latest of this genre, which stars Charlize Theron as a kind of female James Bond, who fights communist leaders in the German Democratic Republic, aka East Germany to help the British Intelligence and the CIA stage their famous 1989 coup d’état.

The film is set in 1989 in Berlin right before the counter-revolutionary coup against the socialist government of East Germany. The film reproduces a common theme of Cold War anti-communist propaganda, which makes communists look like impersonal monsters, while portraying the imperialists as heroic. Each communist in the film is portrayed as violent, monstrous and lacking in subjectivity, while the hero of the film, British intelligence agent Lorraine Broughton, is portrayed as clever and intelligent. The plot of the film is extremely simplistic, and is centered around her mission to retrieve a list, the details of which are never revealed. The film mobilizes some very aesthetically pleasant imagery and music to deaden our senses to anti-communist ideas that this film is promoting.

Throughout the film, we see agent Lorraine murdering communists, who are depicted as dangerous and beast-like. The film creates a one dimensional good guy/bad guy framework, where the imperialists are the good guys who help save Germany from communists, who are depicted as the bad people.

Atomic Blonde is full of stereotypes about socialism, and particularly East Germany. Although West and East Germany are geographically in the same climate, the West is always depicted as full of light and having a nice climate, while East Germany is depicted as dark and depressing. They don't show the homeless people in West Germany who died during cold winters as a result of capitalism, nor the well-fed people in East Germany who had free healthcare and universal education. Instead, the film depicts the socialist German Democratic Republic as a kind of hell, while depicting West Germany as 'free' and 'democratic.' We don't learn about the heroic anti-fascists in East Germany, and the post-socialist persecution of them. In short, there is no context that would allow the spectator to make a critical analysis of socialism in the German Democratic Republic, which was not a perfect society but most certainly not the type of hell depicted in Atomic Blonde.

The film is interlaced with bourgeois newsreels from that period, which show anti-communist protesters in both West and East Germany, with the commentators celebrating their 'resistance.' In Atomic Blonde, the British Intelligence agent Lorraine Broughton helps counter-revolutionaries to overthrow the socialist government of the German Democratic Republic. Having not grown up in that period, I was amazed at how similar this is with our current times, in which the capitalist-controlled media continually shows right-wing protesters in Venezuela who are trying to bring down the democratically elected government of Nicolas Madura.

The worst part about Atomic Blonde is that the film portrays a powerful, independent woman, but all her independence and power is bound up with her job as an agent of British intelligence. She is a female James Bond who can fight, but all the people she fights and kills are communists, who were working to create a society with women's liberation on its agenda. Indeed, the German Democratic Republic was a society where women held important positions in the government, and there was a strong climate in East Germany of fighting against sexism. Atomic Blonde is a film about a woman who does the job of the capitalists to fight against a society that made significant gains for women.