Countdown to Zero Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 23, 2011
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.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
January 10, 2011
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
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 8, 2010
the history channel ('s all i watch on teevee, well, that and the nature channel ... no, really!") figures maybe we forgot about the bomb what with the economy, oil spills, will farrell, and dancing with the stars and so herein is a timely reminder that terrorists remember and that we still live in a world of s**t. the advice here is that we, the people, still DO COUNT and can effect a change, if only we ...
er, uh, what was i talkin' about? i hate when i do that. anyway, what's on the nature channel?
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2010
As far as Moviegoer Jeff goes, this movie has everything going for it: a probing documentary about a bleak but socially relevant subject that I'm all for (or against, depending on how you read it), shot with fancy graphics slickly for maximum movie-ness and swallow-ability (think FOOD, INC. for nuclear disarmament). So why am I a little "meh" about the whole thing? I mean, look, I agree that the remaining nuclear weaponry on the planet is bad and should go away. And I like fancy graphics and famous talking heads. I guess I expected a gut punch and what I got was an entertaining "we agree with you" experience. Or "you agree with us", once again, depending on how you read it. It's largely information we know or intuit - some details are surprising, but only mildly so - there are a lot of nuclear weapons left! Some of the materials can be shockingly easy to get ahold of by bad, bad people! It needs to all go away! Come on people now! Meh... I get it. And I agree. And I liked it... But I'm a bit of a documentary masochist - if it's supposed to upset me, I'm all for not being able to finish my popcorn. This time, I ate it all...
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2011
Countdown to Zero might be one of the scariest films I've seen - and it's a factual documentary. Although already a bit dated (the death of Osama Bin Laden for example, a few weeks before the film's theatrical release in the UK, makes moot the point about his hiding in Pakistan), this exhaustive study of "where we are now" with regard to nuclear arms is a fascinating, engrossing and terrifying piece. Though a straightforward structure that examines how a nuclear bomb could go off through error, miscalculation, madness etc., we learn about the history of the nuclear race, the countries that have the technology, the countries that *could* have the technology, how incredibly easy it would be to make a bomb with the procurement of the necessary refined uranium, and the huge number of close calls there have been. Add in to this how lapse the security is around, for example, US's nuclear cache, how easy it is to launch them (the potentially complicated code to unlocking nuclear missiles was, for a very long time, reset to "all zero", one of the number of meanings of the film's title), and the picture painted is not of "if" but "when".
Super Reviewer
½ January 24, 2011
An eye-opening documentary about the history of nuclear weapons, and the current state that the world finds itself in. A lot of time was put into this film and it shows, there is a lot of good information and a lot of history.
Countdown to Zero is a little discouraging to say the least, with all the nuclear weapons that exist and that at any given point and time one could accidentally or purposefully be set off. It is enough to keep you awake at night, but getting the information to the people is the first step in solving a problem, and this is one problem that needs fixed and fast!
Not the best documentary, but certainly one of the most effective.
January 26, 2011
Although you can't spend every waking moment scarred about the end of the world . . . this film reminds us just how close we really are. In a perfect world the ability to move beyond nuclear arsenals hopefully will get here soon and it is truly the people of this world that will have to demand it to be so.
½ September 29, 2015
WOW, this was an eye opener.
January 1, 2014
this movie was more likely to get a response during the cold war. there are a couple country's that might set off nukes but US and Russia aren't them. Now ones gonna take the threat of a nuke going off seriously until it happens.
October 3, 2013
Fast paced, gripping and all too persuasive.
September 29, 2013
t's hard to write a review of a documentary like this without giving political editorial at the same time, something I prefer to refrain from doing. Briefly stated, the thesis of this movie is that although the probability of the use of nuclear weapons is low, low probability events occur all the time, and if the probability is not zero it will eventually happen; thus, the only real preventative solution is to rid the world of all nuclear weapons and then we'll go sing Kumbaya. Sorry, didn't mean to editorialize. Clearly the latter part was not in the film, but it dawned on me only after I was typing out the thesis. The bottom line is the film was well put together. It was an informative documentary, and I don't think it distorted the facts. It didn't feel like propaganda. It was more, here are the facts, here is the conclusion. The movie shows the increasing amount of access to nuclear weaponry around the world. It shows the simplicity of building nuclear arms, and the devastating results of their detonation. It shows how easily uranium can be smuggled into the country--one method included just hiding it among all the smuggled illegal drugs. You do stop and wonder why they would be broadcasting information like this, but then you have to conclude that anyone who is knowledgeable enough on this subject to be a threat already knows anything that is being taught here. While a liberal film, I don't feel it was overly preachy. I think anyone can learn from the information given from this film, and then draw your own conclusion.
January 27, 2013
Well researched and skillfully crafted. An important documentary worth watching.
½ January 15, 2013
Fascinating, eye opening and terrifying. A must see.
September 28, 2012
I think this moive is good and provides a lote of truthful info and I never reilized just how many bomes the world has
September 23, 2012
This movie was very educational and cool. It helped me understand nuclear weapons and how big of a threat they are. It was kind of one sided. They said the only solution given was to get rid of all nuclear weapons. I really liked it.
September 23, 2012
Very nice idea for a movie, also very scary when you think about the threat of a nuclear weapon being detonated. I really like how they went through the process of what would happen if one was detonated, and the effects it would have on people. They also go through how easy it would be to smuggle a nuclear weapon into a city like New York. However! The idea of demanding 0 nuclear weapons world-wide is completely foolish! Do these people really think that EVERY COUNTRY is going to just sign an agreement and get rid of all of their nuclear weapons? Honestly I think that is an impossible thing. Plus, even if all COUNTRIES got rid of their nuclear weapons, that does not mean that terrorists would stop trying to get their hands on them.

Anyway it's a good quality movie. I still think it's stupid to think it's possible to have a world without nuclear weapons.
September 21, 2012
It is scarry to think about how many bombs there are in the world.
And I think the world might be a little safer with out them.
September 18, 2012
I loved it! It was very interesting to watch! Its good to know whats really going on.
October 19, 2011
Tired of being worried of global warming and terrorism? Well, how about a good old-fashioned nuclear scare, then?
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