7.4/10
21,879
102 user 61 critic

The China Syndrome (1979)

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

Director:

Reviews

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

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

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
Daniel Valdez ...
Stan Bohrman ...
...
Michael Alaimo ...
Donald Hotton ...
Khalilah Ali ...
Paul Larson ...
Edit

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:

People who know the meaning of "The China Syndrome" are scared. Soon _you_ will know. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

An Element Of Risk  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Jane Fonda father Henry Fonda appeared with Michael Douglas's father Kirk Douglas in In Harm's Way (1965). Henry Fonda also appeared with Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts (1955). See more »

Goofs

Michael Douglas's cameraman more than once supposedly films something - including the footage of the reactor control room - without having a battery pack connected to the camera. The camera simply wouldn't work without it. He also frequently uses the light meter incorrectly - the white dome has to be pointed towards the light source you are measuring. See more »

Quotes

Jack Godell: I know the vibration was not normal.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits run in total silence. See more »

Connections

Featured in The China Syndrome: Creating a Controversy (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Somewhere In Between
by Stephen Bishop
See more »

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. . .


51 of 68 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page