Countdown to Zero (PG)
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Time Out says
Tue Jun 21 2011Like 2006’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, which saw Al Gore tackling global warming, this is one of those heavyweight Hollywood ‘issue’ docs that comes loaded with a relatively big budget and a line-up of talking heads more powerful than a meeting of the Bilderberg Group. The issue is nuclear weaponry and the plea is that we reawaken a debate and realise the growing danger of the atomic bomb being detonated by terrorists, governments or accident and act by calling for a total ban on such arms. The zero of the title nods to either abolition or an ominous ticking clock, depending on your optimism.
The director is Lucy Walker, a British filmmaker nominated for an Oscar this year for ‘Wasteland’, a film about a Brazilian artist returning to his roots. Walker is an efficient, intelligent director, so far without a strong signature style, but rigorous and dependable, nonetheless. Here, she brings brio and lucidity to a broad, difficult subject. Her interviews are rock-solid – Gorbachev, Blair, Carter and more – but ‘Countdown to Zero’ has visual nous too, and she turns words into images by deconstructing a JFK speech and using phrases from it as signposts. There’s a hint of scaremongering in some of the early passages on terrorist threats, but mostly that’s allayed by a chilling Cold War section which shows how closely the world flirted with disaster, and in the end Walker’s film does justice to JFK’s plea that ‘weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us’.
Author: Dave Calhoun
Fri Jun 24 2011