Friday, July 30, 2010

Movie Review: Yipes -- We're on Borrowed Time!

Countdown to Zero

From producer Lawrence Bender, who backed the hit global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, comes Countdown to Zero -- about another threat to the world -- nuclear annihilation. There's no doubt, this film will scare the bejesus out of you. Let's face it, things were scary enough during the Cold War when only a few countries had nuclear weapons. Now, not only do many more countries have nuclear capabilities, but we also have to worry about terrorists obtaining materials to make their own bombs. And on top of that, we learn in the film how lucky we've been to survive all the near nuclear accidents that have plagued the world for decades. You can't help but think our luck will run out sooner rather than later.

The film features interviews with world leaders and experts, including Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert McNamara, Pervez Musharraf and Valerie Plame Wilson. It also contains chilling vintage footage of J. Robert Oppenheimer -- who was instrumental in developing the world's first atomic bomb. Their words will haunt you -- and also frustrate you (stop giving the terrorists more ideas!).

Sure, it's mostly a downer. But when the film closes with Pearl Jam's song, "The Fixer," you're left with at least some hope that the world can work together to undo the madness -- if leaders would only work together to dismantle the current bombs and better secure the plutonium that's already out there. And we can help. The film's closing credits contain a phone number to which a text message may be sent to protest the maintenance of high levels of nuclear arsenals and lax security of nuclear materials. It may not be the most-completely balanced documentary, but it's quite powerful just the same. Directed by Lucy Walker (Blindsight) and narrated by actor Gary Oldman. [Rated PG; opens wider today]

Grade: B+

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