In Paris, 1893, scientist Maria Skłodowska (Rosmanud Pike) cannot find a laboratory that will give her space to do her research. Beset with an instantly polarising arrogance, the talented Maria does herself no favours by pushing away every offer that doesn’t meet her high demands. However, fellow scientist Pierre Curie (Sam Riley) is not so easily put off. Offering to help her provided that they work as partners, her later discoveries will make history and shape the modern age in ways that even she can’t control…
…makes the mistake of reaching for a largesse that neither its structure nor its running time will allow.
Handsomely shot and with a strong cast throughout, ‘Persepolis’ director Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Radioactive’ tries to reconcile Marie Curie’s past with the atomic legacy that she is credited for. Sadly though, in an attempt to deviate from the standard historical biopic, the results of Satrapi’s comic-book adaptation are far from conclusive.
Whilst Rosamund Pike dares to bury herself beneath Curie’s belligerent self-belief and Sam Rily convincingly becomes the endearing and subservient Pierre Curie, neither performance can protect ‘Radioactive’ from its thematic fallout. With so many aspects to cover in a such fully lived life, Satrapi’s historical biopic fails in one important regard – a meticulous attention to storytelling. Flitting between a chronological drama to disconnected scenes of future scientific impact, any coherence or compassion is needlessly sacrificed along the way.
Further unable to either ask, answer or address the future sacrifices that her discoveries would reveal, the dramatic potential of Marie Curie’s pandora’s box is only ever half-opened. Slipping backwards behind 2016’s more dramatic ‘Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge‘, ‘Radioactive’ is a film that makes the mistake of reaching for a largesse that neither its structure nor its running time will allow.
Like Alfred Nobel before her, Marie Curie was a person confronted by a questionable legacy which was no direct fault of her own. Rebel, mother, provocateur, genius – even after nine biopics, there’s a glowing potential behind the Marie Curie story but unfortunately ‘Radioactive’ isn’t the ‘Imitation Game‘ that her life and legacy deserves.