Cinema Review: Radioactive | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, June 16th, 2024  


Studio: Amazon Studios
Directed by Marjane Satrapi

Jul 23, 2020 Web Exclusive
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In just under two hours the Marie Curie biopic, Radioactive, tells practically everything about the two-time Nobel Prize winner. It starts with Curie’s (Rosamund Pike) first encounter with her soon-to-be husband Pierre Curie (Sam Riley) in 1893, and ends with her death in 1934. Whether it is her discovery of the chemical elements polonium and radium, her contribution to the World War One fight with X-ray machines, or her affair with physicist Paul Langevin (Aneurin Barnard), all details of Marie Curie’s life are packed into this film.

Attempting to explain everything about Curie’s active life in such a short amount of time is a major task. The film often chooses to rush over her scientific achievements to waste precious time on subplots that don’t need longer than five minutes. For example, while the elements that Curie discovered are perhaps what she is most famous for, the film devotes a meager few minutes to her scientific process for those discoveries, while making the story of her lesser-known affair practically the entire second act of the movie. Furthermore, the film barely spends time addressing the sexism and xenophobia that Curie faced repeatedly in her life. These prejudices are reduced to nothing more than a scene now and again that has less effect than it should, especially considering the field and time in which Curie worked and lived. Radioactive never feels like it understands its heroine and the challenges she faced. Curie’s story is just as powerful and inspiring without informing viewers of every single event in her lifetime.

Radioactive’s shortcomings do not deter Pike’s performance. The Academy Award-nominated actress (Gone Girl) shines in the film as the singular beacon of light the film desperately needs to engage the viewer. It’s a shame she isn’t given enough with which to work. Even as she gives her all in each scene, the script is too hollow for Pike’s full potential. Her performance is hindered, which, in turn, stops the film from having the impact that it could.

While director Marjane Satrapi has shown that she is able to tell stories with a powerful voice– particularly with her knockout Academy Award-nominated animated film Persepolis– she is absent in every scene of Radioactive. Although the film includes both abstract flashbacks to Curie’s past and visions of how her elements would be utilized long after her death, it doesn’t feel artistic in any way. Instead, it plays like a visual interpretation of Curie’s Wikipedia page and unfolds in the Wikipedia format, without a creative narrative. While the film has enough information for viewers to know Curie, it lacks enough information for viewers to understand Curie. For a film centered around a woman who changed both science and the world as we know it, Radioactive never truly shines as brightly as its subject.


Author rating: 5/10

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