The China Syndrome (1979) Short Review

I actually watched this about a month or two ago, but it seemed timely so here is my review for The China Syndrome (which was written around the same time)…

This is a really good film about the fears and dangers of having nuclear power. I’ve read several reviewers mention Chernobyl, but this almost same scenario played out just 12 days after this was released on Three Mile Island where there was a partial core meltdown. It’s even more eerie that the faulty gauges (and a stuck valve) are blamed or used to cover up what happened. That actually did have a large role in the actual accident.

The two main actors are adequate, but the actors that give the film weight (for me) are obviously Wilford Brimley and Jack Lemmon, two of my favorites. Brimley does a lot with a little and Lemmon is a one man tour-de-force. When the crisis occurs Lemon delivers on a believable reaction of a man (and crew) in complete panic mode while still trying to do their jobs. And like all negligent big businesses in Hollywood films, when any kind of crisis occurs they immediately have hired killers on call willing to take out a mass of enemies (or the whistleblower) for the company.

I think this film could have achieved true classic status if they had concentrated more on the journalistic elements of getting to the truth instead of resorting to Hollywood chases and hitmen. As it is, its a slightly better than average 70’s disaster flick that tries to unnecessarily drum up some added tension when the subject matter isnt really requiring that. Still it’s more thought provoking than your typical thriller even if a little biased gets in the way of the film being objective.


4 of 5

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