Rosamund Pike is solid Au as the woman behind radioactive activity.

“Radioactive” is a biopic on the Polish and naturalized French physicist and chemist Marie Curie, who is portrayed fascinatingly by Rosamund Pike. Her emotions, dignity, and dispositions resurrects the historical figure, and I was easily convinced by her notions the moment the movie began.

I was reminded of how well Eddie Redmayne portrayed Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” or Luke Evans as William Moulton Marston in “Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman” or Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn, and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson in “Hidden Figures.” Pike continues this recent trend.

We begin in Paris, 1893, when Marie Sklodowska gets evicted from her lab by Professor Lippman (Simon Russell Beale), and ends up in the hands of Pierre Curie (Sam Riley), who offers her a place to continue her research. The two decide to be parters as they both discover the chemicals polonium and radium, and they become husband and wife. That’s why we now call her Marie Curie. And their discovery in radioactive activity lands them a nomination for the Nobel Prize.

The marriage between Marie and Pierre is how any modern day marriage would endure. Marie has to take care of their two daughters (Anya Taylor-Joy portraying her eldest Irene later in the film), while Pierre is working. The husband coughs up blood. And two argue about how their discovery threatens their teamwork and chemistry. It’s more or less obligatory, but Pike and Riley both ignites some flames in their acting.

His illness ends up having him being trampled to death by horses, which leads Marie in a sad state. She worries if the chemical they discovered was the cause of his illness, but her colleague and lover Paul Langevin (Aneurin Barnard) tries to persuade her otherwise. And she also has to deal with the discriminations and insults of being a Polish immigrant in France (“Polish Scum! or “Go Home!” or “Paris is for the French!,” etc.).

But does she succumb to that? Oh, Hell, No! She’s more concerned about the effects of radiation, that’s all.

The movie sneaks in some examples of how the chemical can have its ups and downs in the future, during and after World War II, that is. On one hand, it can be used to treat cancer, and on the other, if placed in the wrong hands, it can be a deadly weapon. You obviously know what happened in Hiroshima in 1945.

And I was also dazzled by its delicate use of visual effects, particularly aimed at the radium. It lights up green in both the vials and dream sequences, which has Marie being surrounded by dancing women and the chemical being spilled. I’m not too thrilled with how these particular period dramas have to appear all murky, like you’re looking at it through a dirty window or something, but the green lights manage to shake things up.

Pike is the star of this picture because of her abilities to age and use her words wisely, but she isn’t all self-congratulatory about it. She also has helpful support from Riley, who provides passion and I.Q. in the first half as her husband. And director Marjane Satrapi (“The Voices,” “Persepolis”) guides her with riveting intentions. Matter of fact, she makes “Radioactive” a biopic that allows Marie to be smart and versatile. She was already smart to begin with, but still, it’s the way she handles her that shines.


On Amazon Prime This Friday

Categories: Biography, Drama

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