Nothing raises the stakes in an action movie like a ticking clock. In Netflix’s Kate, the new Mary Elizabeth Winstead action movie that began streaming last week, that ticking clock is set in motion when Winstead character, an assassin named Kate, is poisoned and given just 24 hours to live. That means she has only 24 hours to figure out who was behind her poisoning and why. No pressure!
Here’s how it goes down in the movie: Kate hooks up with a charismatic stranger and shares a bottle of wine with him. Later, when she is on the job trying to take out her next target with a sniper rifle, she feels dizzy and misses her shot. The dizziness continues until she crashes her car, wakes up in a hospital, and is asked by the doctor if she’s been exposed to radiation recently. It turns out she is suffering from accelerated “acute radiation syndrome,” which is lethal, and caused by exposure to potent radiation in a short amount of time.
The doctor said they found a specific substance in her body causing the ARS.
“Polonium-210?” Kate asks.
“204,” the doctor responds soberly.
Clearly, this means something to Kate. The doctor tells her she only has a day to live, and that he will make it painless for her. But Kate has other plans, of courseâplans that involve lots of steroid injections and ass-kicking. All the while, the Polonium-204 poisons her from the inside.
But what exactly is Polonium-204, and is it a real poison?
What is Polonium-204 poisoning? Is the poison from Kate real?
Yes, the poison from Kate is real. Kind of. Polonium is an extremely dangerous chemical element that was discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898. In the 20th and 21st century, lethal doses of polonium have been used in at least one intentional poisoning: the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who had defected to the United Kingdom, who was administered a lethal dose of Polonium-210 by two ex-Russian security agents.
When Kate first learns she’s been poisoned, she thinks maybe it’s Polonium-210, which appears to be the more common form of radioactive material. The above example of poisoning and the CDC info page on Polonium all seem to cite Polonium-210, not Polonium-204. My guess is that the screenwriters behind Kate opted to use a less common form of the substance to give them more leeway to play fast and loose with the facts of the poisoning.
Rest assured, if you were given a lethal dose of radiation, you probably wouldn’t be able to take down seven guys with guns, no matter how many steroids you took.
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