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

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Movie Info

Although the Cold War is behind us, the threat of nuclear disaster remains very real. Director Lucy Walker discusses the invention of the atomic bomb and brings the story into the present day, examining the possibility of nuclear calamity under the categories of "Madness," "Accident" and "Miscalculation." With narration by Gary Oldman, the film includes a hypothetical sequence of a nuclear explosion in New York City's Times Square, timed to coincide with the New Year's Eve countdown.

Cast & Crew

Bruce Blair
Executive Producer
Matt Brown
Executive Producer
Jeff Skoll
Executive Producer
Peter Golub
Original Music
Robert Chappell
Cinematographer
Gary Clarke
Cinematographer
Nick Higgins
Cinematographer
Bryan Donnell
Cinematographer
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News & Interviews for Countdown to Zero

Critic Reviews for Countdown to Zero

All Critics (87) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (69) | Rotten (18)

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
    <i>Countdown to Zero</i> 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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