REVIEW: ‘Radioactive’ drags despite strong Pike performance

I’m not exactly a person who’s easily distracted. However, the song “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons kept making its way in my head during this movie.

Starring Rosamund Pike, “Radioactive” tell the story of Polish scientist Marie Curie, who accomplished her groundbreaking work in France. The movie depicts her relationship with her husband Pierre (Sam Riley), as well as their discoveries of the elements polonium and radium.

As the movie progresses, Curie’s life continues to be documented, and both the negative and positive impacts of radioactivity are shown. From this, the audience is able to learn how Curie’s life work went hand in hand with her relationships.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the movie “The Current War,” where I said it was more akin to a TV movie or a dramatization fit into a historical documentary then a fully realized film with depth. Sadly, “Radioactive” is a very similar experience.

The movie is basically a highlight reel of Curie’s life events, making the viewing experience feel rushed. Some moments are given a bit more time to be fleshed out, but others seem glossed over. A big example of this is the husband and wife science duo winning the Nobel Prize, which only makes up a fraction of the film in when looking at the whole runtime.

Moving through these moments at such a pace causes the film to not properly explore the human condition. A less than substantive, average biopic would have been fine here, though, had it not been for another aspect of the picture.

Courtesy Working Title Films and StudioCanal.

Littered throughout “Radioactive” are flashforwards to events related to nuclear power and radioactivity. These range from cancer treatments, to the bombings of Japan at the end of World War II, to the Chernobyl disaster. It’s understandable what this movie was going for, in that it wanted to explore the ramifications of Curie’s work in the future.

However, it feels so damn out of place and it instantly takes a person out of the movie. Most people who know their history understand what happened with research on radioactivity. It doesn’t need to be shoehorned into this biopic centered on this one woman’s life.

It would be like if in the “John Adams” miniseries, flashforwards of the Civil War and FDR’s administration were put in. Just because history is related, doesn’t mean it needs to be added.

What does at least help “Radioactive” is Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike. She puts this movie on her back and carries it a lot of the way, putting her all into making Curie a well-rounded character.

During the emotional moments or in scenes where Curie is fighting for her rightful place as a scientist, Pike knocks it out of the park.

Riley is solid here in the main side role, too. While the quick pacing doesn’t allow for a more complete view of the character, Riley’s screen presence is strong here and he has enough chemistry with Pike overall.

“Radioactive” gives an audience insight into historic events and it’s boosted as a whole by its leads. However, its fascinating lead character deserved a more focused, emotionally substantive feature without the added flashforwards. 2.75 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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