Friday 22 January 2016 09.26 GMT
It’s been a rocky – and furious – road but Charlize Theron appears to be back in Hollywood’s favour after her commanding performance in last year’s Mad Max reboot. The Oscar winner’s previous attempts at blockbuster domination (Aeon Flux, Prometheus) were not always so convincing, but in the Oscar-nominated Fury Road, she reminded us of her considerable talents while also driving a really big truck.
This week finds her in a more restrained mode in the underwhelming thriller Dark Places – but what are her finest onscreen moments?
After a few small earlier parts, Theron landed the plum role of Keanu Reeves’s wife in this satanic thriller. While Reeves and Pacino hammed it up she played it straight, and in among the CG wreckage, gave surprising emotional heft to the part of a woman gradually losing her sanity. Theron refuses to play the token wife, and easily runs away with the whole film.
Much has been said about Theron’s physical transformation for the role of the prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos, but that is to overlook how breathtaking the rest of Theron’s performance is. She is outstanding as the volatile, swaggering criminal at the centre of this grim tale, making every moment believable, even if the rest of the film around her fails to catch up.
In the Valley of Elah
After winning the best actress Oscar for Monster, Theron became known for picking unglamorous roles. While the earnest drama North Country earned her another nomination, it was Paul Haggis’s solemn thriller In the Valley of Elah that really gave her the chance to shine. As a beleaguered detective working in a department rife with misogyny, she was more than just Tommy Lee Jones’s sidekick, and she gave an understated performance which showed her impressive ability to disappear into a role.
In one of the past decade’s most painfully underrated films, Theron used her looks as a mask, playing a bitter former prom queen who is unable to deal with life post-high school. Spewing Diablo Cody-scripted bile at anyone unfortunate enough to get in her way, Theron is at her peak here, unafraid to appear monstrous and lacking in empathy. It’s a brutal portrait of what happens to those who peak early in life, and Theron is relentlessly toxic until the bleak end.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The signs weren’t great for this one: a seemingly unnecessary reboot, plagued by delays and reshoots. Who’d have thunk, a year ago, that George Miller’s action thriller would end up with 10 Oscar nominations? Sadly, Theron missed out on a nomination, but her turn as Imperator Furiosa is a doozy, slyly subverting the very title of the film by taking control of the film’s grubby engine, and upsetting precious “men’s rights” activists everywhere.