Radioactive [TIFF19 Review]

Marie Curie is probably the most famous female scientist in the world, she is after all the only woman to have won two Nobel Prize in different categories. Her discoveries have shaped the twentieth and twenty-first century. So the fact that it took so long for her to get a biopic is something that we can wonder about, a woman like her should have had her story told a long time ago. But at last, a biopic about the woman who changed so much of our world is here and while not perfect, Radioactive does do a good job of putting Curie’s life under the spotlight.

Biopic can tend to follow a template. After all most biopics are about extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. They usually follow the same path, an ordinary person’s rise to the top, their eventual fall and ultimately their fall, it’s a pattern we all know now. And while Radioactive doesn’t reimagine that pattern it does try to change it a bit. Marie Curie is never ordinary, she herself would call herself extraordinary. While the film does try to diverge from the known pattern by adding a non-linear aspect to the film with the inclusion of flash-forwards to showcase what her discoveries brought to the world, these additions do more harm than good. These flash-forwards take you out of the film and break it up in a way that doesn’t connect until the very end.

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, A Private War) is one hell of an actress, there’s no doubt about that. Her performances are always nuanced and rich in emotions. But she brings it to another level as Curie. She probably is the saving grace of the film because while the rest of the cast bring nuance and great performances, they can never truly meet with Pike’s terrific performance. The script itself gives her a lot to chew on and that is clear very quickly. Her scenes are rich and full of things for her to grasps on, to sink her teeth in. She never falters and holds strong throughout, giving a remarkable performance for a remarkable woman.

The film does some interesting things when it comes to visuals. It goes in directions that you wouldn’t expect. Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t. But mostly, it does. It’s nice little things that are included to make the science less boring. Instead of listening to the Curie’s talk and talk about science, visuals are inserted to showcase what is being said. It’s interesting because too often movies about science and mathematics never try to capture the audience’s attention when it comes to what is being said, but Radioactive does. It’s probably the one way the flash-forwards work. Because they pull you in what has been said. While sometimes the visuals are used as aids to show the science, others it’s used to showcase what has been explained to us. It’s effective in a certain way, but at the same time, the film makes a point of telling us twice the same thing. The dialogue will explain to us the process of things, then make a point of telling us how that will change the world and then show us. It’s a repetition that is not needed and one should have been chosen. Maybe the flash-forwards would have worked better had we not have had the explanation done two seconds earlier, but that is not the case.

Radioactive doesn’t change the game when it comes to biopic but that’s okay. The strong performance from Rosamund Pike and the story of Curie herself do enough for saving the film from itself. And while tactics are used to make the science more fun, it also creates problems when it comes to the pacing of it.