Countdown to Zero

Critics Consensus

Countdown to Zero is more genuinely frightening than many horror movies -- and more soberly enlightening than the average documentary.



Total Count: 87


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,490
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Movie Info

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs: nine nations possessing nuclear weapons capabilities with others racing to join them, with the world held in a delicate balance that could be shattered by an act of terrorism, failed diplomacy, or a simple accident. Written and directed by acclaimed documentarian Lucy Walker (The Devil's Playground, Blindsight), the film features an array of important international statesmen, including President Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pervez Musharraf and Tony Blair. It makes a compelling case for worldwide nuclear disarmament, an issue more topical than ever with the Obama administration working to revive this goal today. The film was produced by Academy Award (R) winner and current nominee Lawrence Bender (Inglourious Basterds, An Inconvenient Truth) and developed, financed and executive produced by Participant Media, together with World Security Institute. Participant collaborated with Magnolia on last year's Food, Inc., recently nominated for an Academy Award (R), and the upcoming CASINO JACK and the United States of Money. Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Bruce Blair and Matt Brown are the film's executive producers.-- (C) Magnolia

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Critic Reviews for Countdown to Zero

All Critics (87) | Top Critics (30)

Audience Reviews for Countdown to Zero

  • Sep 01, 2011
    Where we are today with nuclear weapons, its security and safety problems from past to present and new threats are many questions brought up here, its put across in intelligent way, debates and questions which may never be answered. we all know about nuclear threats and war, and there isnt anything here that i didnt really know about, but it brings the threat very much back home once more. and a eyeopener if you are young and inocent to all this stuff.
    scott g Super Reviewer
  • Aug 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".
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Apr 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.
    Edward B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 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.
    Jason R Super Reviewer

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