Radioactive (2 stars)

Radioactive

Rosamund Pike rises above Marjane Satrapi's disappointing Marie Curie biopic

On paper, a biopic about Marie Curie reads like an excellent idea. The double Nobel Prize-winning scientist, whose discoveries of radium and polonium were instrumental in the fight against cancer, certainly merits the big screen treatment. Unfortunately, this film from Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi seriously drops the ball.

Casting Rosamund Pike as the Polish-born, Paris-based heroine is not the issue here; the British star is a compelling, committed actress who captures Curie's fiery nature from the opening moments. Sam Riley is also credible as Pierre Curie, the fellow scientist who entices her – initially against her better judgment – to team up and share findings, long before he proposes marriage.

Yet, when Riley's character leaves the picture halfway through the film struggles to regain its spark. Adapted from Lauren Redniss's graphic novel by the ubiquitous Jack Thorne (TV's His Dark Materials, The Aeronauts), it falters as some ill-advised attempts are made to contextualize the Curies' work. This takes the shape of several vignettes, scattered throughout the narrative, that illustrate the knock-on effects of their breakthroughs. Amongst these: a shot of a pilot flying the Enola Gay in 1945, shortly before bombing Hiroshima; and a scene showing young firemen heading to their deaths at Chernobyl, as the nuclear power station burns.

In the case of the latter, Satrapi is unlucky to attempt to depict the disaster following so soon on from acclaimed TV drama Chernobyl. Moreover, these misguided moments entirely take you out of the narrative, and achieve almost nothing. Throw in some psychedelic visuals, and Radioactive begins to feel overenthusiastic and somewhat amateurish. The impression you're left with? A truly missed opportunity.

General release TBC.

Radioactive

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • UK / Hungary
  • 1h 49min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Marjane Satrapi
  • Cast: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Anya Taylor-Joy, Aneurin Barnard, Simon Russell Beale

Biopic of Marie Curie (Pike), the double Nobel Prize-winning scientist who discovered radium and polonium. Pike is compelling as Marie, as is Riley as her fellow scientist and future husband, but the attempts to contextualise their achievement are clumsy and amateurish. A missed opportunity.

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