Spy thriller set in Cold War Berlin to hit German theatres

Action film ‘Atomic Blonde’ featuring actress Charlize Theron set in 1989 during the fall of the Berlin Wall will be released in theatres on 24th August.

Spy thriller set in Cold War Berlin to hit German theatres
Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella in 'Atomic Blonde.' Photo: DPA.

If there was ever an espionage film role that needed to be filled by a female James Bond, Charlize Theron could very well apply for it.

In ‘Atomic Blonde,’ Theron plays a British undercover spy named Lorraine Broughton who is sent to Berlin during the Cold War. Not only is she tasked with investigating the murder of a fellow agent, she also has to find a confidential list of double agents who are being smuggled into the west just before the fall of the wall.

And the native South African 42-year-old puts in a powerful performance. She kicks butt in her high heels yet remains ice-cold and elegant, all the while defeating her enemies while donning slick outfits and a platinum-blond wig.

In the opening scene, agent Broughton rises from a bathtub filled with ice cubes, displaying stark blue eyes and bloody cuts on her body. Then the scene cuts to London, where her bosses want to know what went wrong in Berlin.

Set in the middle of the Cold War, there’s unrest on the streets. Both the west and the east are on the hunt for a coveted list of the names of agents that each side wants for themselves.

Amidst the action, the audience catches glimpses of iconic buildings in Berlin such as Kaiser William Memorial Church along Kufürstendamm, one of Germany’s most famous avenues.

There’s also a hot chase through Kino International, a movie theatre in former East Germany which hosted premieres until the collapse of the wall. Tempelhof Airport, a now defunct iconic pre-WWII airport turned park, can also be seen in the film.

No stranger to physically demanding roles, Theron underwent ten gruelling weeks of training so she could perform her own stunts for the film. But in the process of being punched, kicked and flung into walls, she sustained a few injuries.

“I cracked two back teeth and I had to have dental surgery, they had to be removed. It wasn’t fun,” Theron told British daily the Mirror.

15 years ago when the actress was in her 20s, she famously put on a lot of weight for her role in ‘Monster,’ a film she eventually won an Oscar for.

Theron said she enjoyed playing an action icon in 'Atomic Blonde.' She also didn't mind the steamy sex scene she had with co-star Sofia Boutella. “Believe me, women are actively searching for other women to have hot sex with,” Theron told the Los Angeles Times before the film’s US launch.

Theron also said she would like more “courageous” producers and directors to create strong roles for women.

Directed by David Leitch as well as co-produced by Theron, the film also stars John Goodman, James McAvoy and Til Schweiger among others.


‘Wall of Shame’: How the Berlin Wall went up 60 years ago

In the early hours of Sunday, August 13th, 1961, communist East Germany's authorities began building the Berlin Wall, cutting the city in two and plugging the last remaining gap in the Iron Curtain.

'Wall of Shame': How the Berlin Wall went up 60 years ago
A cyclist passes the Berlin Wall memorial on Bernauer Straße in Berlin. The wall was erected 60 years ago on August 13th, 1961. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Rumours that the border between East and West Berlin was about to be closed had been swirling for 48 hours.

On Friday, the parliament or People’s Chamber of communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) had given the green light to take any measures necessary to halt the exodus of its population westwards.

READ ALSO: What it was like voting as an American in Germany right before the Berlin Wall fell

Over the preceding 12 years, more than three million citizens had fled the strict regime, opting for the freedom and prosperity offered by West Germany.

News flashes

At 4:01 am on that Sunday, a top-priority AFP flash dated Berlin hit the wire: “The army and Volkspolizei are massing at the edge of the Eastern and Western sectors of Berlin to block passage.”

In a second flash, the story was firmed up. “Berlin’s metropolitan trains have for the past two hours not been going from one sector to the other.”

Then one flash after another fell:
– 4:28 am:  “The GDR’s Council of Ministers has decided to put in place at its borders, even at those with the western sector of Berlin, the checks usual at borders of a sovereign state.”

– 4:36 am: “An order from the East German interior ministry forbids the country’s inhabitants to go to East Berlin if they do not work there.”

– 4:50 am: “Inhabitants of East Berlin are forbidden to work in West Berlin, according to a decision by the East Berlin city authorities.”

Barbed wire and guns

In the very early morning, AFP’s correspondent at the scene described the situation on the ground.

“Barbed wire fences and defensive spikes have been put in place overnight to hermetically seal the border between East Berlin and West Berlin.

READ ALSO: What happened during Germany’s ‘catastrophic winter’ of 78/79?

“The road is practically cut off for refugees.

“Most of the crossing points between the two sides of the city have been cut off since sunrise and are heavily guarded by the police patrolling with machine guns on their shoulders.

“Only 13 border crossings remain open between the two Berlins, controlled by numerous reinforced units of armed police.

A sign on the wall next to Brandenburg Gate reads: “The wall is coming down – not in 30, 50 or 100 years.” This photo was taken a year before the wall fell. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Dramatic escape

“Germans from East Berlin can no longer go to the West without a special pass, the controls are excessively strict.

“As the net falls over the communist part of the city, a young Berliner from the East manages against all odds to ram with his car the barbed wire separating the two sectors of the city.

“Seeing the young man arriving at high speed in a Volkswagen, the police were too taken off guard to be able to stop the car, which carried the barbed wire placed across the street right to the French sector,” AFP wrote.

‘Death strip”

Little by little, the kilometres of barbed wire will give way to a 43-kilometre-long (27-mile-long) concrete wall cutting the city in two from north to south.

Another outer wall, 112 kilometres (70 miles) long, cuts off the enclave of West Berlin and its two million inhabitants from the GDR.

Constantly upgraded over its 28 years of existence, more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) of the wall is made up of slabs of reinforced concrete, 3.60 metres (12 feet) high, crowned with a cylinder without a grip making it almost impossible to climb.

The remainder is made of metal wire.

Along the eastern side of what is widely called the “wall of shame” stands a “no man’s land”, 300 metres (990 feet) deep in places.

Border soldiers from the DDR look over the wall in May 28th, 1988. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

At the foot of the wall a “death strip” made up of carefully raked ground to make it possible to spot footprints, is equipped with installations that set off automatic gunfire and mines.

However hermetic this formidable “anti-fascist protection rampart”, as it was officially known, would be, it would not prevent the escape of nearly 5,000 people until it fell on November 9th, 1989. Around 100 fugitives lost their lives trying to cross over.