Reviewed by Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Screenwriter: Lauren Redniss, Jack Thorne
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Anya Taylor-Joy
Release Date: July 24, 2020
During a brief winter vacation in New Mexico we stopped at a military museum in Albuquerque and saw a short propaganda film: Ten Seconds that Shook the World (1963). The black and white feature, with yellowing torn edges dealt with the official reasons behind the United States’ decision to detonate two nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 1945. The results of such “endeavor” were 225,000 deaths and 185,000 injuries of Japanese civilians.
The creation of such bombs would not have been possible without a pioneering intervention by Marie Curie (1867-1934), a French physicist/chemist who conducted research on radioactivity and was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) and in Chemistry (1911). Curie isolated radioactive isotopes and discovered polonium and radium, which eventually caused her death due to a long-term exposure.
Though titled Radioactive this film is a standard biopic, with a touch of critical-futuristic note. After meeting Pierre Curie (Sam Riley) Marie (Rosamund Pike) fell in love and they got married. They had two daughters, one of which followed in her mother’s professional footsteps.
Radioactive tells Marie’s story in a circular way beginning with her final days, while suffering from anemia. It then shows her meeting-cute with Pierre, their professional and familial collaboration, his death in Paris during a street accident, and her life and scientific contributions afterwards, while working in military hospitals during WWI and saving soldiers from unnecessary amputations. Parts of the film deal with the consequences of Marie’s discoveries that led to the improvement in x-rays production, the usage of radiation in cancer treatments, and the dropping of the first Atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.
Director Marjane Satrapi presents all these events in a tightly woven style, during the one-hundred-and-nine minutes duration, backed by an excellent cast headed by Rosamund Pike as Marie Curie. Pike appears on set in every frame, driving the plot forward with her nervous energy. Her delivery coming in a fast staccato, unheard of for women during the 1890’s. Sam Riley plays Pierre Curie, astonished by his strong-willed partner, who refused take NO for an answer, caused by denial of her scientific work’s requirements, especially when it came from a bunch of fat, cigar-smoking men in the halls of the French academia.
Radioactive was shot by Anthony Dod Mantle in Budapest and Esztergom, Hungary, standing in for late nineteenth-century Paris. Costumes were designed by Consolata Boyle, reflecting the changes in professional women’s attire from 1890’s to 1930’s. Hair and Make-up were done by Denise Kum, showing the transformation of Marie from a young lass to a mature woman of sixty-six.
You can view Ten Seconds that Shook the World. at: https://www.YouTube.com/Watch?v=iv5JNAuGcJU).
109 minutes Rated PG-13 © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer