24 February 2008 | jzappa
Silkwood Meets Eastern Promises
PU-239 is one of those movies where you find yourself without much to say about it. Paddy Considine, Oscar Isaac, Stephen Berkoff, and Radha Mitchell give decent performances and the film is not badly directed, but what cinema should do that PU-239 does not is leave you with a passionate reaction. I found that after having watched it, it was more like it was something on a list that I could check off and move on rather than an experience or an entertainment. It isn't even boring. It just doesn't reach. That's the reason why one feels so indifferent towards it. The plot is interesting:
Considine plays a family man who works at a top-secret, worryingly shabby plutonium plant in a Russian town after the fall of the Soviet Union, and he's exposed to radiation while trying to stop a malfunction. The facility's managers try to convince Considine and also themselves that his exposure was a survivable 100 REMs, while accusing him of sabotage and suspending him without pay, but his colleagues help him discover the truth, which is that he was exposed to ten times the amount of radiation that the managers maintained he had. It's stated by one character in the movie that people in Hiroshima were exposed to less.
So, with only days to live, and not letting his wife, played by Mitchell, know of his fate, Considine goes to Moscow. He hooks up with a small-time gangster, played by Isaac, who is in a great predicament himself, in hopes of finding someone to whom he can sell a vial of weapons-grade plutonium he has stolen from his plant so that he can send money back to his family to secure their future, though he states various times that his town is not on the map, which makes it unfeasible to send his letter home, much less any money. What's interesting about the dynamic between Considine and Isaac is that they never really form a bond, one being earnestly cooperative in his final days of life and one being frantic for his own interests to survive an almost as likely fate. Yet, they both have the interests of a wife and child in mind and have the same drive under those circumstances.
But the Russian mobsters are too cinematic for a story as real and historical as this one. They do things only Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and David Mamet characters do, especially Isaac's boss, who delivers a silly, unrealistic monologue when he first appears that in reality would have his listeners lost.
This is not a bad film. It just minimizes the effect it could've had.