Countdown to Zero (2010)
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Critic Reviews for Countdown to Zero
Comes loaded with a relatively big budget and a line-up of talking heads more powerful than a meeting of the Bilderberg Group.
Lucy Walker's chilling documentary serves as a reminder that the threat of a nuclear bomb going off somewhere in the world to devastating effect has not diminished just because it has slipped from the public consciousness.
Audience Reviews for Countdown to Zero
This documentary about the looming threat of all out nuclear war runs about 45 minutes too long, which means it would have made a disturbing, impactful, and very very good hour long TV special. As a feature length film, however, it wears out its welcome.
In a nutshell, the film argues that building a nuclear bomb is relatively easy, although it doesn`t tell us how to do that - for obvious reasons. What is needed is a lot of uranium or plutonium, a substance that is rather difficult to obtain. Investigating further, the film reveals that much uranium has nevertheless fallen into the wrong hands, and several nations have been able to obtain nuclear weapons, either by stealing them, finding missing nuclear warheads (yes, this has happened), or building them with obtained uranium. Frightening scenes emerge in a particular sequence that describes just what would happen if a nuclear bomb were to detonate in a major city. Not only that, several past instances are revealed where all out nuclear war was a minute`s decision away from occurring, many of these instances reminiscent of the Stanley Kubrick war film Dr. Strangelove.
Given the material that Countdown to Zero presents, this would have been a great 45 minute documentary that would have had me worried for the future, and anxious to make a difference. But the film is actually twice that length, and instead left me confused, wondering how much of the movie was made out of sheer concern for the survival of our species, and how much of it was incessant fear mongering.
This documentary on the history and ultimate danger of nuclear arms (not nuc-u-lar, sorry President Bush) is alternating informative and terrifying. Director Lucy Walker utilizes a wealth of interview subjects from high-ranking positions to offer tremendous insight into the shocking ease of acquiring a nuclear weapon and the danger this poses. As a brush-up on history, several talking heads reveal terrifying anecdotes about how close the world came to being one big mushroom cloud. One weapon silo operator reveals that the Pentagon brass bristled at having a safety code imposed by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. So they made the launch code all zeroes, a fact that every person sitting in a silo knew. At any point, somebody could have started nuclear Armageddon at will. Walker lays out a fairly tight case for the reduction of nuclear arms and the need for far better safety protocols to go with a stiff dose of diplomacy. Perhaps enough Congressmen were watching, because during the 2010 lame duck session, Congress passed the START Treaty, which is an agreement with Russia to reduce arms on both sides. Countdown to Zero is an effective little documentary that states a convincing case that occasionally seems more professorial than necessary.
Nate's Grade: B
A horrifying reminder of the dangers of nuclear weapons that remains. Many of us have forgotten since the end of the cold war that all these weapons are still with us and the need to get rid of them not only because of the threats or war but also mistakes, possible accidents or even worse theft by terrorist.
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