Countdown To Zero Review
By Rich Cline
This riveting documentary about nuclear weapons becomes deeply worrying as it outlines a seriously unstable global situation, carefully exposing how easy it would be for a terrorist to set off a nuclear bomb.
The hypothesis comes from John F Kennedy: "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness." And gifted filmmaker Walker kicks off with images of horrific terrorist attacks all over the world, noting that if terrorists get hold of nuclear weapons they won't hesitate to use them. Especially since al-Qaeda's stated goal is to kill 4 million people, as many as they say the West has killed in the Arab world.
Walker also shows us how easy it is to make a nuclear bomb. Getting highly enriched uranium is the hardest part. And that's not actually so difficult since several countries (especially Russia) have nuclear material sitting around, and it isn't well guarded. Footage of sting operations to catch smugglers is shocking, as it shows how easy it is for a non-professional to get hold of this material, transport it and put it on the black market. Remember how easy it is to smuggle drugs into America and Europe.
The film includes a chronology of unseen accidents involving American nuclear material. These happen all the time apparently, and the material is rarely recovered. Among a list of potential Armageddons, there's an alarming account of an event in 1995 when nuclear annihilation almost took place, prevented only because Boris Yeltsin failed to follow protocol. And vox pops show just how ignorant average Americans are about this subject.
The film is skilfully shot and edited, with a forceful sense of urgency augmented by Peter Golub's ticking time-bomb score as interviewees speak with gravity and authority, causing out minds to spin with the implications of all of this. And the scariest thing is that this gloomy film almost makes us wish that, if humanity comes to this, we're caught in the first blast. Because the filmmakers' final call for a banning of all nuclear weapons seems more than a little idealistic.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 24th June 2011
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Production compaines: Participant Productions, Lawrence Bender Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 69 Rotten: 16
Cast & Crew
Screenwriter: Lucy Walker
Starring: Graham Allison as Himself, James Baker III as Himself, Bruce Blair as Himself, Tony Blair as Himself, Zbigniew Brzezinski as Himself, Matthew Bunn as Himself, Richard Burt as Himself, Jimmy Carter as Himself, Mike Chinoy as Himself, Joseph Cirincione as Himself, Richard Cizik as Himself, Thomas D'Agostino as Himself, F.W. de Klerk as Himself, Pascal Fias as Himself, Alexander Glaser as Himself