Radioactive (2020)

Written by msbreviews on July 24, 2020

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So, a little bit about me first: I was always a man of science. I have a Masters degree in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering, and I was always fascinated by how things truly work. On the other hand, I'm not the biggest fan of biographical movies due to the genre's boundaries. These films often follow a generic script, filled with formulaic plot points and lacking imaginative storytelling. Therefore, I usually analyze these movies based on a single question: "do I know more about the character and/or the story that made him/her famous now that I've watched this flick?" Another aspect that's important in any film, but even more in this genre: the actor who interprets the protagonist.

Radioactive possesses Rosamund Pike as the magnificent Marie Curie. If there's one undeniably incredible element in this feature, it's Pike's brilliant performance as the famous scientist. Now, I have no idea how Marie was as a person, so I can't really evaluate Pike's display regarding how accurate she is on a personal level. Nevertheless, her impressive emotional range can easily get her a few nominations when the awards season comes around. When it comes to which expressions to use or how strong her emotions need to be, Pike manages to always choose the most coherent option having in mind the character she portrays.

Sam Riley shares great chemistry with Pike, delivering a couple of genuinely passionate moments and witty conversations. Anya Taylor-Joy (Irène Curie), who I forgot was also in the movie, is always a delight to see on screen and, in this case, a very welcome surprise. However, this film is so focused on its protagonist (as it should be), that every character and actor other than the main one ends up being utterly forgettable (nothing wrong with this). Technically, I need to praise the makeup artists, who did a terrific job getting Pike older throughout the runtime, as time flows accordingly. Evgueni and Sacha Galperine's score is simple yet sweet enough to slightly elevate a few sequences.

Unfortunately, Radioactive holds more than just a few minor issues. My biggest gripe is related to how everything is put together. I doubt most people will watch this movie with the hope of seeing more of Marie Curie's personal relationships. This isn't exactly a romantic drama. Having in mind the discoveries that she made, I was extremely interested in watching how, in fact, she discovered radioactivity. Of course, I'm not expecting the film to turn into a highly detailed chemistry lesson and all of its specifics. But Marjane Satrapi rushes through most of the relevant moments or skips them entirely. Marie's first groundbreaking result is so casually presented to the viewer that it makes the whole thing far from being a big deal (which it is).

There are a couple of visually captivating animated sequences that sort of explain the process that the characters are going to perform, but it's still quite underwhelming and disappointing. I still have dozens of questions now, which I hoped the movie would answer but didn't. It's also edited (Stéphane Roche) in such an uneasy manner that it feels like I'm watching two completely different films. I don't know if this was Satrapi or Jack Thorne's (screenwriter) idea, but showing (mostly adverse) future events directly related to Marie's discoveries didn't work for me at all. You know how these movies tend to have some sort of information shown before credits explaining how things worked out in real-life? It's like they picked them up and randomly spread them across the film.

The focus went full-on to the protagonist's personal life instead of balancing it with her world-changing experiments. Answering my question above, I did learn more about Marie Curie, but not about what I wished to know about her. Ultimately, it feels like this biographical work doesn't honor her legacy. Just as an example, the story brushes over her discoveries so fast that it doesn't even explain the reasons behind the nomenclature of the new elements. Overall, it's not worthy of being the biography of the scientist's life.

Radioactive boasts an absolutely outstanding Rosamund Pike as the great Marie Curie, but Marjane Satrapi (director), Jack Thorne (screenwriter), and Stéphane Roche (film editor) fail to deliver a well-structured narrative, rushing through the scientist's groundbreaking discoveries and experiments or ignoring them altogether. Randomly mixing up future catastrophes with the actual story not only breaks both the tone and pacing of the movie, but it also makes the whole viewing a bit uneasy. Despite her personal life always being a point of interest, her work and how she performed it are why most people want to watch this film. To learn more about her contributions to the world of today. Unfortunately, Curie's legacy is remitted to a by-the-numbers biographical work, restricted by the genre's formulaic tropes. A neat score by the Galperine brothers and a couple of visually captivating animated sequences still elevate an overall disappointing feature...

Rating: C+