Everyone loves a good ’80s flashback, but a good ’80s flashback shaken (not stirred) with spy shenanigans, monochromatic shoulder padded fashion eye candy, and Charlize Theron beating the snot out random Germans like she’s John McClane or something? Radical. That’s exactly what the new femme fatale twist on the classic spy flick, Atomic Blonde, fers moviegoers this summer, and while the overwhelming late ’80s-ness it all is entertaining enough when paired with extreme choreographed violence, the real treat is the vamped-up ’80s soundtrack simply dripping with synth.
Sandwiched between more blue jeans and shots the Berlin Wall than you can shake a stick at are some classic ’80s alternative hits like After the Fire’s “,” ‘Til Tuesday’s haunting ode to domestic violence, “,” and Nena’s “” in its original German, and remixed or cover versions other ’80s staples. “” by New Order gets a slowed down, club vibe courtesy HEALTH, while Eurythmics’ classic “” by contrast is sped up and remixed into a bass thumping party starter by Steve Angelo.
As always, stacking a movie so decidedly cemented in a particular era with a soundtrack that amounts to a boiled down and distilled taste that era is a successful strategy. In this case however, Atomic Blonde’s soundtrack succeeds beyond nostalgia soundtracks from films like Guardians the Galaxy or Suicide Squad in which familiar, era-specific hits are used as a way to increase the fun, camp, and ease the movie without relating directly to the setting the film itself.
Atomic Blonde doubly succeeds by taking the viewer on an auditory tour a time period wherein pop culture and politics were inexorably linked, but also by introducing tenuous connections to the present through remixing, editing, and otherwise sampling ’80s synth-pop. This strategy making a period movie feel current through music is particularly effective in this instance because how closely linked ’80s synth and modern dance and electronic music are—it was amidst shoulder pads and neon lights that the idea using machines to make music first began to feel like a ble modus operandi.
Care for a sample the sampling? Listen below: