Review: Marie Curie biopic 'Radioactive' emits dim glow

Rosamund Pike stars as scientific trailblazer in wayward story of her life, contributions

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

"Radioactive" is dull.

This labored biopic of late-19th and early-20th century scientist Marie Curie suffers the same fate as last year's "The Current War": stories of scientific minds and their inner workings are difficult to translate to the screen.

Moreover, "Radioactive's" confused narrative tries to fill too many holes, and the whole thing ends up turning toxic.  

Rosamund Pike in "Radioactive."

Rosamund Pike is Curie, a stubborn, headstrong scientist who immigrated from Warsaw to Paris. Some of the first words we hear her say are, "I'm interested in all science that confronts prevailing attitudes," the kind of eye-rolling character-defining mission statement that indicates a bumpy road ahead.

Curie was no doubt a brilliant mind and a trailblazer in a male-dominated field, but the script by Jack Thorne (based on the book "Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout") doesn't do her any favors; it presents her as authoritative yet weak-willed, and on three different occasions she physically runs away from uncomfortable situations.  

Marie discovered the elements polonium and radium and coined the term radioactivity; she won two Nobel Prizes for her work. But that's not enough for "Radioactive," which weirdly doubles as a biopic of the two elements, showing the role they played in nuclear fallouts throughout the 20th century, long after Curie's death. It's a film torn between celebrating Curie's accomplishments and blaming her for Chernobyl. 

With so much going on — there's also the push-pull between Curie and her scientific partner-turned-husband Pierre Curie (Sam Riley), and later her relationship with her daughter Irene, a Nobel Prize winner in her own right — "Radioactive" is somehow a stifling bore. Keep your distance.



Rated PG-13: for thematic elements, disturbing images, brief nudity and a scene of sensuality

Running time: 113 minutes

On Amazon Prime Video