Stereotyping ‘Male’ Characteristics: Atomic Blonde & A Family Man

Image source: Ster Kinekor

In the spy action thriller, Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron acts as a British MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, who is sent into cold war Berlin to recover a top secret document. The film opens with Broughton being grilled post-operation by her superior, Eric Gray (Toby Jones), and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). She looks battered and bruised. The story goes into the past from here, flashing forward at intervals to further debriefing scenes in which Broughton seems to be getting a raw deal.

Broughton was chosen for this difficult mission, it transpires, because of her amazing skills at detecting and beating up hordes of fighting men. Warned not to trust anyone Broughton is even suspicious of her MI6 contact in Berlin, David Percival (James McAvoy). A number of important foes with names I found hard to keep a track of come and go, as do groups of others sent to confront Broughton and prevent her succeeding in her mission.

The only person Broughton seems to genuinely connect with is female French agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), a vulnerable,

Image source: Ster Kinekor

inexperienced first-timer. The two women have sex.

In Atomic Blonde there is action, fighting, double crossing and plot twists from beginning to end. I particularly liked a scene in which Broughton slips into a group of people escorting an important contact while snipers aim at them from buildings up above. In a synchronised move everyone in the crowd puts up black umbrellas obscuring the prey from the shooters’ view.

But Broughton’s brilliant fighting skills seemed unrealistic. The film’s feminist stance – the two main female characters are virtually the only goodies – is undermined by the aggrandisement of male-type characteristics of physical aggression. Paired with lingering camera shots of Theron’s beautiful profile, this focus wasn’t enough to carry the shallow plot.

Atomic Blonde opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 25 August 2017.  

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Another film that portrays a stereotypical male role, this time in the form of the undesirable absent father, is A Family Man.

Dane Jensen (Gerard Butler) works for a recruitment agency and will do anything to meet his figures every month. He undercuts other agents, lacks integrity when dealing with job seekers, is constantly robbing his family of time with them, and puts undue pressure on his son Ryan (Max Jenkins).

When Ryan becomes ill Jensen is challenged to shape up and become a better man, husband and father.

A Family Man is a moralistic story of character building. But, like Atomic Blonde, has unrealistic aspects. Recruitment is equated with the tough world of stock trading. Jensen’s wife is too forgiving. And the denouement is much too neatly tied up. I found the plot bitty, Butler’s American accent annoying, and the ‘absent father’ theme a bit tiresome.

A Family Man is currently on circuit in South Africa.


The Imitation Game will possibly be the best movie of 2015

A review by Brenda Daniels

With 2015 only a month old it might be a little early to say this, but here goes: if you watch one movie this year, watch The Imitation Game. The film tells the fascinating story of how mathematician Alan Turing helped to crack the German Enigma code machine during World War II. His work had enormous ramifications for the war and beyond, forming the foundations for the development of the modern computer.

His struggle to relate on an interpersonal level, and to find acceptance in a society which outlawed homosexuality, forms a backdrop to the main plot. This latter is portrayed with sensitivity and levity, leaving the viewer with nothing but sympathy for the brilliant but lonely Turing.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the part of Turing with such finesse and depth and is eminently worthy of his Best Actor Oscar nomination.

The plot is an exciting one with Turing and his team (including Keira Knightley as the intelligent, pragmatic Joan Clarke) working against the clock. As this group of Britain’s “best mathematicians” experiment with Turing’s code-cracking machine, soldiers and civilians on the front line are dying.

MI6 agent Stewart Menzies, a character played by Mark Strong, introduces the element of espionage or game playing, a theme which runs throughout the film, even after the code is cracked.

The year 2015 marks 70 years since the end of World War II (visit World War II 70th Anniversary on Facebook). Perhaps this accounts for the timing of this war-time release. In any event, if The Imitation Game is anything to go by, certain aspects of this story were only recently revealed.

Viewed from the vantage point of seven decades later, The Imitation Game has much to teach us about war and human nature.

The Imitation Game released in South Africa on 23 January and is currently showing at Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau.


Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. He has been nominated for Best Actor for the 2015 Oscars. Photo: Creative Commons

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. He has been nominated for Best Actor for the 2015 Oscars. Photo: Creative Commons