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The China Syndrome (1979)

 -  Drama | Thriller  -  16 March 1979 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 18,000 users  
Reviews: 92 user | 61 critic

A reporter finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant.

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Title: The China Syndrome (1979)

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Scott Brady ...
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Peter Donat ...
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Daniel Valdez ...
Stan Bohrman ...
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Michael Alaimo ...
Donald Hotton ...
Khalilah Ali ...
Paul Larson ...
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Storyline

While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant. Wells is determined to publicise the incident but soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret. Written by Dave Jenkins <david.jenkins@smallworld.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Today, only a handful of people know what it means... Soon you will know. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El síndrome de China  »

Box Office

Gross:

SEK 8,390,477 (Sweden)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie's title is based on the theoretical but implausible notion that if a nuclear meltdown were to occur in the United States, the nuclear core would melt all the way through the Earth's core and emerge on the other side of the world. However, China is simply a metaphor for the other side of the world. If such an event could occur it would emerge in the Indian Ocean. See more »

Goofs

Throughout the film, Michael Douglas makes the mistake of pronouncing the word "nuclear" as the incorrect "noo-kyoo-ler". (A mistake he also makes in The Game). See more »

Quotes

Jack Godell: What makes you think they're looking for a scapegoat?
Ted Spindler: Tradition.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Void (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Somewhere in Between
by Stephen Bishop
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Still Relevant After (Nearly) 25 Years
2 September 2003 | by (Georgia, USA) – See all my reviews

This is *not* a great film about nuclear power. It plays too fast and loose with reality for that--especially in a cringe-inducing scene where two scientists describe the consequences of a reactor accident. The catastrophic damage they describe is (even opponents of nuclear power would agree) a worst-case scenario, not the inevitable result of a breakdown in the reactor cooling system. Three-Mile Island suffered such a breakdown, and the surrounding "area the size of Pennsylvania" remained habitable.

That said, this *is* a great (and surprisingly subtle) film about complex technological systems, how they fail, and how the organizations that manage them go awry. Subtle? Well: 1) Jack Godell, the whiste-blowing hero, is a flawed and self-doubting normal human being rather than a crusader in shining armor; 2) His co-workers at the plant (as opposed to the "suits" they work for) are sympathetic working-class guys who gripe (as does everybody now and then) about burdensome government regulations and the clueless public; 3) The flaws in the plant are subtle, not glaring. The film, in other words, plays a lot fairer than you'd expect given its reputation (and pedigree).

Does this film have a definite whiff of late-70s, post-Watergate America about it? Sure. Does it have a political edge? Yes. For all that, though, it's still (sadly) relevant--our technology, and the people who are supposed to make it work, still fail us. See the movie, then skim the recent (August 2003) report on the Columbia disaster; the more things change. . .


46 of 60 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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