Recommendation: The legacy of Marie Curie demands a film as monumental and nuanced as the peerless scientist. Unfortunately Radioactive relies too much on storytelling gimmicks and a lack of focus to do her story justice. 5/10.
IMDB Synopsis: Pioneer – Rebel – Genius. Radioactive is incredible, true-story of Marie Curie and her Nobel Prize-winning work that changed the world starring Rosamund Pike and Sam Riley.
Marie Curie—neé Sklodowska—is the monumental science figure, known for her two Nobel prizes and discovery of Radium, Polonium and world on radioactivity. Her contributions to medicine and the scientific community cannot be understated, and she should be heralded amongst Einstein, Tesla and Bell. It is then entirely disheartening to view Radioactive—a biopic of the complex and influential woman—which reduces her character to scandal, her achievements to mere vignettes, and her influence to a footnote in history. Undoubtedly, Radioactive story to sing the praises of Professor Curie is preferred to no movie, but the film simply lacks the focus and gravitas of a steadier hand to do Curie real justice.
The film begins at the end, as Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike) is amidst her final moments, as a sanitarium in France, succumbing to a disease caused by her life’s work. The film flashes back to various impact points in her life: Rejection by the scientific community of Paris, meeting her work partner and eventual husband Pierre Curie (San Riley), discovering Radium, almost being snubbed by the Nobel committee in 1903, births of her daughters, the tragic death of Pierre, her second Nobel prize, her WWI war work, etc. The film touches on every major milestone in Curie’s life, and that’s the issue, the film isn’t able to accurately break into who Curie is, what drove her, why each moment was so important to her and the larger world.
The film hits the major beats in Curie’s life with the precision of Spark Notes come to life with a coating of all-too-serious and grave feeling. It doesn’t delve into what powered the woman, drove her passions, and shaped her life. And rather than explain the momentousness of her discoveries, the film flashes forward to some heavy handed splinters off the Curie tech tree. Chemotherapy, the Atom bomb (twice!), Chernobyl… Curie’s work made all of these possible, but the film doesn’t make it clear.
Ditto for Curie’s family life, personal scandals, and second act in life. The film glosses over the devastation of her husbands accidental death. Barely touches on her influence on her eldest daughter (also a Nobel winner). And the film closes on a truncated telling of her using x-rays to help save innumerable lives during WWI.
None of these scenes—or the entire movie—are poorly done, quite the opposite. But rather than a cohesive and deeply affecting biopic of a iconoclastic and revolutionary scientist, the film feels like vignettes that’s jump around a visual Wikipedia page. Surely, any movie about Marie Curie is preferred to no movie about her, but it certainly does leave the viewer a little wanting.
Find it here on Amazon Prime.
MVP: Rosamund Pike remains one of the most underrated actors working today.
Highlights: Her late stage, IDGAF attitude towards the war minister are amazing.
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Studio: StudioCanal Release date: July 24, 2020 (Amazon Prime – US)