This movie was a real torture fest to sit through. Its first mistake is treating nuclear power as so self-evidently a 'bad thing' that it barely needs to convince the audience of it. When it does stoop to putting in its argument, it has the participants breathlessly deliver barely substantiated facts ; all that's missing is someone crying "when is someone going to think of the children!". While watching this movie, I kept thinking "where'd you hear that?" or "that can't possibly be true" - yet little of the info was backed up by any reliable sources. And bless 'em, the 'regular folks' in the movie came across more like Luddites than people with any understanding of the pros and cons of nuclear power; to be fair, that might be the fault of the film-makers, but equally fairly, it's a condition shared by the movie's rock stars.
As for the performers........... Now some of these people are highly respected musicians whose music I've enjoyed, and I'm sure a few of them really did believe in this cause. But they all come across as wheezing old hippies desperately searching for something to get worked up over, now that the 60s have passed them by. Particularly embarrassing are Graham Nash and James Taylor. Nash seems to be trying too hard - he looks like he can't possibly believe the things he's being told (not that I blame him), but desperate to feel noticed and included. James Taylor performs what has to be the wimpiest protest "anthem" ever, "Stand and Fight", in the most sickeningly cheerful way you can imagine. In fact, most of the performances are pretty bland when they're not being patronizing. Nobody seems worked up by this event, as if it really doesn't mean much to them at all. It's worth noting that the driving force behind this whole event seems to be John Hall, of the band Orleans, and responsible for some of the wimpiest MOR pop of the 70s. (Remember, if you dare, "Dance With Me" and "Still the One".) It's worth noting because that's symbolic of how the cause here fails to inspire any real passion in the music. The cause is supposedly life-or-death, but everybody sleepwalks through their numbers like they're playing the Catskills. Except maybe Gil-Scott Heron - his protest number "We Almost Lost Detroit" is on topic at least, but delivered with all the smugness of a high-schooler impressed with how 'controversial' he's being.
Only Bruce Springsteen's performance raises a pulse; I've never been a big fan of the Boss, but he absolutely smokes, no question. Part of me thinks he was taped separately, at another event, and edited into this movie to give wake the audience. Compared to the general blandness and air of self-satisfaction here, it's no wonder Bruce was hailed as the savior of rock'n'roll.
But even his performance is hobbled by the lifeless concert shooting. I don't expect a lot of flashy camera movement from a '70s film, but the shots are unnecessarily static, broken up only by split-second cutaways to a back-up singer's tonsils. Now, some of this may be because the performers are lifeless to start with; and *maybe* the film-makers are more skilled at shooting documentaries than concert footage - but all you have to do is watch "Rust Never Sleeps" or "The Last Waltz" to see a movie like this done with more skill. And with more exciting musicians.
So really, there's only two things to watch this movie for: Springsteen's stellar performance, and as a sad snapshot about a counter-culture in decline.
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