Review: Lousy biopic 'Radioactive' fails to take initiative with subject matter
Courtesy of Prime Video
The genius of Marie Curie is something that deserves admiration and respect: she had a vision few scientists in her day saw, shattered the glass ceiling for a profession where men dominated, and was a larger than life personality. The biopic “Radioactive - a prime vehicle for awards bait - doesn’t capture the spirit and essences of Curie so much it sticks to the basics and doesn’t hold a candle to her stunning accomplishments.
Rosamund Pike, playing the eccentric feminist, doesn’t leave a lasting impression either: shocking considering the “Gone Girl” star has always been a consistent force of nature, but in “Radioactive” she’s struggling to hold the screen and our attention. Science is a crazy genre, one that requires intellect and wit to make a compelling on screen presence, and here it’s presented like a lifeless bore.
The “biopic” - if that’s what we should call it - attempts to tell the story of Maire Curie and her daunting life united in love with Pierre Curie (Sam Riley). They both share a passion for science and are fascinated with uncovering new and raw elements, a lifestyle not suited for everyone, but for these two bookworms, it’s all they really know.
Being a woman of science during this era isn’t easy, but those struggles aren’t a main point of contention for director Marjane Satrapi and writers Jack Throne and Lauren Redniss (based on her graphic novel). Instead, “Radioactive” tries to put a spin the discovery of the chemical compound Radium and Polonium, which, toegeter, makes Radioactivity. Can the discovery of such a harmful element truly be celebrated without guilt? At the time, the world seemed to think so, awarding Curie two Nobel Peace Prizes for her efforts. The hope was that people would use this newfound element for good, though anyone with knowledge of history will groan upon hearing Curie make such a statement.
That allegory almost becomes a running joke with how flashback sequences to Hiroshima, Chernobyl, and the Manhattan project are interwoven into the narrative without context. Those injections seemed like careless afterthoughts, not allowing the material to offer any depth, which, seeing as how these horrific events are never mentioned in the film aside from these brief interludes, further reinforces how the filmmakers never had a clear direction they wanted to take the film.
This is even more apparent by how quickly “Radioactive” tries to superimpose messages relating to race, immigration, and sex positivity into the final hour of the film. The screenplay attempts to turn every aspect of Mrs. Curie’s livelihood into something commercial rather than allowing her more impressive inventions to shine through, including the creation of the X-ray which saved countless soldiers on the battlefields (Radiation therapy on tumors and cancer cells is mentioned in passing).
Again, this all reverts back to what’s worthy of being told on the screen and sometimes, as was the case with another lousy biopic from last year - “Harriet” - perhaps a limited series from a premium network would have been the solution. Or you pick a compelling aspect of Curie’s life and try to build on that foundation and not stick fifteen different subplots in our face. Unfortunately, “Radioactive,” despite a decent theatrical approach to the subject matter, can’t be cured from the poisons of a script that fails to take any initiative.
RADIOACTIVE premiers on Amazon Prime Friday July 24th