Director: Scott Z. Burns
“I need to know my rems!” Russian nuclear plant worker Timofey (Paddy Considine) pleads after he accidentally becomes the victim of radiation poisoning when he intervenes in a near catastrophe. Told he was only exposed to one hundred rems of radiation which isn’t fatal, he discovers on his own that his dosage was lethal before realizing that the company of the top secret town of Skotoprigonyevsk where he resides, is busily covering their tracks as they try to force him to sign documentation taking responsibility for the event before he is placed on indefinite leave.
Angry, scared and heartsick for his young son and wife Marina (Radha Mitchell), a former nuclear facility worker herself who had also had a close scare, Timofey decides to make a bold and aggressive decision to provide for his family and get revenge by smuggling out one hundred grams of plutonium to sell on Moscow’s black market in this made for HBO film that was optioned by Section Eight producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh to help launch its DVD premiere.
Journeying from his community to Moscow, Timofey finds that securing a buyer is far more difficult than he realized and with time running out as he’s getting increasingly sicker, he reluctantly pairs up with scheming crook Shiv (Oscar Isaac) who, trying to provide for his own son and Ukranian prostitute wife tries to fast talk Timofey into handling the sale in order to pay back far more dangerous mobsters to whom he owes money. Shiv’s incompetence and associations with various double-crossing villains make up a large percentage of the film which unsuccessfully evolves from Timofey’s touching drama and impulsive, dangerous scheme to a bizarre mix of pathos, dark comedy and outrageous plot setups as it careens to its inevitable fatal conclusion.
Considine’s Tomofey and Isaac’s Shiv benefit from the impressive turns by the character actors who disappear in their roles as well as a pulse pounding script by writer/director Scott Z. Burns who penned The Bourne Ultimatum, although ultimately, while we understand that the character of Shiv would never have been as compelling as Timofey, PU-239 would have benefited from a sharper rewrite and a worthier subplot and character than the version of Shiv that is presented in the completed production.