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Gloomy but soulful, PU-239 is the story of a Russian nuclear plant worker, Timofey (Paddy Considine), who is exposed to a lethal level of radiation due to general incompetence at the facility. When a cover-up ensues, Timofey is forced to go on unpaid leave with little time left to care for his wife (Radha Mitchell) and son. Stealing a portion of weapons-grade plutonium from the plant, he smuggles it to Moscow and meets up with a black marketeer, Shiv (Oscar Isaac), who hopes to sell the material and pay off a debt to a powerful gangster. The simplicity of the idea, however, is undercut by a series of misunderstandings and bad intentions, leaving both Timofey and Shiv dangling and increasingly endangered. The moody feature is helped a great deal by colorful performances from Jason Flemyng as a loose-cannon associate of Shiv's, and Nikolaj Lie Kaas as a criminal baron who has to suffer the foolish likes of Shiv until he's quite had enough. Mitchell is very good as the spouse who gradually figures out how bad off Timofey is, watching helplessly as anonymous authorities dismantle her life to obscure evidence of their nuclear irresponsibility. Writer-director Scott Z. Burns gracefully captures the tragic cycle of events and manages to inject a trace of humor here and there (especially around Flemyng's character). He also catches some extraordinary, nighttime images of Moscow's busy streets, a look that perhaps hasn't been seen quite this way in a movie before. --Tom Keogh
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