Countdown To Zero
Review by Jack Foley
WHO better to tackle a heavyweight documentary on the continued threat posed by nuclear weapons than Lucy Walker, the Oscar nominated director of Wasteland earlier this year?
Walker, as she has previously shown, is as meticulous as she is considered as a filmmaker. Hence, Countdown To Zero isn’t just an alarmist piece of fright-mongering, it’s a sobering look at why a nuclear catastrophe is damn near a certainty until there are zero weapons on the planet.
How so, you may ask? Either by terrorist hand or human error, comes the firm answer.
Walker lays down her argument in rock-solid fashion. When talking about the threat posed by terrorism, she shows how ‘easy’ it is to smuggle nuclear weapons out of certain countries – and, conversely, how difficult it would be to detect them entering others.
She also delivers examples of past nuclear seizures that have come more by accident than judgement.
The probability of human error, meanwhile, comes from past brushes with disaster… some of which have only been deterred by acts of God or 11th hour intervention. Viewers will be amazed just how close Russia and America came to trading nuclear blows in the year that George Clooney released From Dusk ‘Til Dawn because of human error!
And, as if these examples weren’t enough, Walker backs everything up with heavyweight interviews featuring the leading experts in their field on the subject (both past and present). These include ex-world leaders such as Gorbachev, Carter and Blair, as well as nuclear physicists, CIA risk analysts, real-life nuclear smugglers and qualified historians.
Needless to say, what they have to report doesn’t make for reassuring viewing and the overall impression is one of doom and desperation – unless something is done… and soon.
But in leaving viewers with that feeling of gloom and heightened awareness, Walker has achieved exactly what she set out to in exemplary fashion and could even have laid the groundwork for change.
Related: Read our interview with Lucy Walker
Running time: 89mins
UK DVD Release: August 15, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Lucy Walker interview
- Special London screening and Q&A