Radioactive is a biographical drama directed by Marjane Satrapi and written by Jack Thorne and based on the book by Lauren Redniss. The film follows the period of Marie Curie’s (Rosamund Pike) life surrounding her discovery of radium and polonium and the events and discoveries when science was forever changed.
It glows in the dark. Here is a film that feels as straight and narrow as a biographical film can be. It strides along with its pace, moving the characters and story to the next important beat without much (if any) room for filler. It covers the bases of the main subject: the main life events, the specific details, the notable achievements. It shows the gist of what needs to be shown to get the overall story told. It’s certainly efficient, but it’s also not nearly as interesting as it should be. Radioactive comes across as a SparkNotes adaptation that’s been appropriately romanticized to make it slightly more approachable.
“Your equipment’s not good enough.” It’s not poorly made by any means, and there are some exceptional bite-sized moments of filmmaking littered here and there. The cast all around does a fine enough job, though fans of Pike will notice that while she’s certainly putting in work, she’s not delivering what she’s really capable of —which is likely a hindrance from the provided material but could be a fault of the direction. Those aforementioned bite-sized moments are quite beautiful and clever, elevating the film to something more appropriate of the medium but standing out a bit too much with the tone of everything else.
Moving pictures or turning pages. As strange a critique as this may be Radioactive just feels too much like a movie. There’s more of a feeling of, “let’s make a movie based on the life of Marie Curie,” and less, “let’s tell the fascinating story of Marie Curie through the medium of film.” It’s subtle, and many might not understand the difference, but it’s the driving force behind that feeling of the filmmakers simply checking off moments and events instead of telling a genuinely interesting narrative.
That’s quite a cough you have there. Overall, despite any perceived shortcomings, Radioactive is fine. It’s not rotten by any means, and it’s not a standout either. It tells the story of Marie Curie well enough with a few interesting ideas and adequate performances. Unfortunately, the storytelling falls considerably short of the impeccable achievements of its focus. The nearly two-hour runtime goes quickly, and so too does one’s memory of having seen the film at all.