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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 17,555 users  
Reviews: 89 user | 58 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:

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:

 »
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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
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Producer Michael Douglas creatively demanded a harsh realism for the film by not having any music score on the soundtrack except for the Stephen Bishop's theme song "Somewhere in Between". See more »

Goofs

In the United States, there are two main types of commercial power reactors: PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) and BWR (Boiling Water Reactor). In the scene where Gibson is explaining the basic workings of the plant to Kimberly Wells, the diagram on the board shows the former type, PWR. This is shown by the two loop system in which the water is pumped through the reactor under high pressure to prevent boiling, and then through a steam generator, or boiler, to create steam for the turbine using clean secondary water. In subsequent scenes, the dialog of the characters in the control room seems to suggest that they are dealing with a BWR system, where water is allowed to boil in the reactor vessel and steam is directly piped to the turbine, with no steam generator. Godell is concerned by the high water level in the reactor reaching the steam lines, of which there are none on a PWR reactor vessel. As well, in the action hearing later, the investigator talks about how the operators began cutting off feedwater and releasing steam in order to lower the reactor water level, which would only happen on a BWR. See more »

Quotes

Evan Mc Cormack: Scram the son of a bitch.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in A Decade Under the Influence (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Somewhere in Between
by Stephen Bishop
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
What can really be said?
21 January 2003 | by (Waco, Texas) – See all my reviews

I normally don't comment on movies on IMDB, but in this case I feel like I should. I love movies, and I want to make them, and this movie is a perfect example of fine filmmaking.

This is one of the few movies that I have seen on the small screen (originally seeing it air on AMC, I believe, and then on the DVD I just watched) that made me get that feeling in the pit of my stomach. That little gnawing sensation that the director would hope you feel while watching his thriller.

Jack Lemmon's performance is a fine one, and Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas follow. I felt so much empathy of Lemmon, who's character Jack Godell, only wanted people to listen to his warning.

But what impresses me most about this film is the lack of a score, and this is also what makes it beautiful to me. Apart from the opening titles there are no background music to increase the tension, because none is needed. And while the credits run, white on black, in silence it drives the point home.

I use the movie as an example to anyone who says music makes the movie. I think the movie should make the movie and the music should only amplify that. But for The China Syndrome music is not necessary to get across the realism and the urgency depicted here. The characters portray all of this far better than the music ever could.

I highly recommend this movie, it is one of my favorites. If you like movies, you won't be disappointed. If you like movie soundtracks more, you might not want to give this one a go.


62 of 69 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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