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The China Syndrome (1979)

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

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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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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

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Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El síndrome de China  »

Company Credits

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,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first script for the film was written in the mid-1970 Michael Douglas initially wanted to produce this film immediately after One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). Jack Lemmon agreed to play his role as early as 1976. Douglas was enormously grateful to Lemmon as he remained ready to start work at very short notice for over a year before production started and in the process cost himself a lot of other work. To return the favor, Douglas amended the shooting schedule to allow Lemmon to attend rehearsals for the Broadway stage play of Tribute (1980) which Lemmon would later star in the film version. See more »

Goofs

During the initial plant tour, when the group gets into the elevator to the control room, the elevator buttons are clearly labeled various numbers between 1 and 120. It's unlikely that there are 120 floors in a nuclear power plant and more likely that the panel was just a recycled prop. See more »

Quotes

Bill Gibson: Mr. Mc Cormack I can't take responsibility for this.
Evan Mc Cormack: What's your alternative? Let this maniac wash out a billion dollar investment? At least this buys time, it will take the press an hour to get here.
Bill Gibson: I wouldn't count on it.
Evan Mc Cormack: I'm counting on you to take care of the goddamn press. Now you do your job and I'll do mine.
Bill Gibson: Yes sir.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits run in total silence. See more »

Connections

Referenced in FantastiCozzi (2016) 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. . .


49 of 66 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Jack's testimony at the first hearing mdgross50
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