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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Solid direction, acting, and editing make for a strong TV script

Author: Mister_Anderson from King of Prussia, PA
7 June 2004

*some information on the film but no spoilers*

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of TV movies. Namely, because often the story lines are ridiculous and the characters (and dialogue) are clichéd. I gave up on watching TV movies from start to finish years ago simply because it wasn't worth the time spent. Occasionally, though, I would sneak a peek at a segment (i.e. I saw a piece from "10.5") which would cause me to shudder and change the station.

That being said, it was an unusual occurrence when I sat down specifically to watch "Meltdown." I had seen the previews and it looked like an interesting topic (but that can be deceptive). The primary reason for me watching it was that it was on FX. ("The Shield" has reborn my interest in TV series.)

In any event, I still was not anticipating too much from "Meltdown." I expected the requisite lame plot-points, acting, and effects common on most TV movies. Needless to say, I am happy to report that "Meltdown" was a pleasant surprise.

Probably the strongest factor in the movie's favor is its smart directing and editing. The editing is quick enough to keep the pace moving. The movie never lags. Once a scene is established, it fades to black and the next scene begins. Sometimes these scenes are very short, giving us the gist of what's going on, and then moving on. In this effective way, the director alerts the audience to the main events in the plot without laboring over the needless details. (For example, in an early scene, an officer drags an injured person from one area to another. Instead of wasting time showing the entire length of the drag, we see her begin the drag, then the scene fades and reappears with them in a new area.) This technique is consistently used to good effect.

In short, the plot concerns a group of terrorists who take over the San Juan nuclear power plant. The FBI, national guard, and police arrive and fear a potential meltdown, which would devastate the area and kill hundreds of thousands.

The characters are written well, and there's no cheesy romance or sideplots.

Bruce Greenwood plays the main character, a senior agent in the FBI. Thankfully, he doesn't spout off any lame one-liners or pull any Bruce Willis action stunts.

The entire scenario of a potential nuclear meltdown is played realistically and in today's climate. The setting is the modern world: 9/11 has happened, there's a Department of Homeland Security, etc. There are no insane heroics. It's almost as if watching a documentary. There are even constant national news broadcasts.

I'm happy to report that while some may be able to predict the general outcome of the movie, many plot-points leading up to the end throw twists into the system. For instance, about 3/4 of the way through the movie an unexpected event occurs which actually made me spurt "OH ****." aloud; I don't think I've ever done that before to something on TV.

This film does not follow any established formula for action movies. Indeed, it's not even an action film. If you're expecting special effects, look elsewhere. "Meltdown" is a case study as to how the government could realistically respond in a moment of crisis. It has some flaws that go along with a modest budget, but thankfully this is minimal (since it doesn't blow its money on effects). "Meltdown" keeps you interested and thinking throughout, which is as much as you can ask from a TV movie.


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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A real sleeper

Author: Dave Locke from Pownal, Vermont
21 June 2004

Greenwood is a good actor with excellent screen presence, and this role gives him a chance to shine. Although the movie has some crudities and unlikely minor plot devices it also has numerous strengths, best of which is displaying the government being capable of saying and doing most anything not just in a crisis but as a way of life. A 2004 movie based on what's happened since 9/11, the numerous government responses and actions and general thinking-out-loud deliberations are all too believable. This is not just background to a story of terrorists taking over a nuclear power plant, but actually becomes the story. Recommended, but this is definitely not a feel-good action movie. It takes you places you really don't want to go, but it leaves you with a lot to think about.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Compelling and Relevant

Author: bertieclem from Santa Monica, CA
8 March 2005

I was told by a friend and fellow 24 fan, that there was a fantastic movie made on the same subject as this years series storyline. I rented the movie and was completely blown away. I have to say, some of the comments above are harsh. As a television movie, this is hands above 95% of what's made. No one has mentioned that Chechik seemed inspired by Paul Greengrass' work on Bloody Sunday, rather than 24. Interestingly enough, I would say the writers of 24 actually saw this movie and went so far as to use its premise and if you can believe it, even cast the same actor as the lead terrorist, Arnold Vosloo. That said, the movie is pretty relentless. Chechik places you inside moments without editorializing. Although I might question some of the motivation of the terrorists, once I got the big twist, I found myself being less interested in the why and more interested in the how. Which I suppose is the reason FX made the movie. More importantly, the ending leaves you breathless in its callousness and in the position the US government takes regarding their actions. Actions characterized as being for the "good of the country." It's amazing to me how bad for the country that posit is. Really well done.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Decent film, irritating camera work

Author: James_T_Kirk from Glendale Heights, IL
8 June 2004

This film was not all that bad as the story went but the camera work is what makes it difficult to watch. I just don't like that so-called "realistic" camera work that is being done nowadays; you know the type- jumping off center, panning around, etc. What got me particularly irritated about this film though was the new thing that they threw into the mix by shooting a few frames in black and white in each scene. I believe that the film would have been much better if the camera work was shot in the much more conventional way because as it was I couldn't concentrate on it and found myself analyzing the camera work instead. Maybe if more people express dissatisfaction with camera work like this the filmmakers will finally get the hint.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Government Incompetence

Author: fooser77 from Austin, TX
10 June 2004

I try to watch as little TV as possible. One of my very few favorite series is "24". I agree the comparisons to "24" are quite apt here. I watched this because cable 'made for TV' movies are proving to be some of the best product available today. Far better than spending $7+ USD to go see the latest feature films.

I did not realize until researching afterwards that the lead terrorist character was the same playing Imhotep in "The Mummy". He is clearly an under-rated actor. The rest of the acting was not extraordinary, however sufficient. I thought I recognized the female 'chip' also played Teri Bauer in "24". The Muslim engineer portrayed illustrates just how much "American" muslims have in fact been Christianized. He did not recognize that the lead terrorist was quoting directly from the Quran.

What is significant about this feature is that it illustrates quite clearly just how f***** up the leadership of our federal govt. really is. It portrays to what lengths ("extreme prejudice") our incompetent leadership will go to cover up, disguise, and deceive the masses. You come to understand why some 'patriots' would resort to extreme measures to wake up a nation and especially it's leadership to the malaise we are currently under spell. Lucretius has stated (paraphrase) that "extremes on either side are bad". However, Goldwater also stated "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

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Exciting thriller with only the essentials

Author: vchimpanzee
18 July 2016

Just before 6 P.M. halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, terrorists arrive by parachute at the San Juan Nuclear Plant. Security is not quite up to standard--one guy has to look at the manual. Several people die, including at least one cop who happens to be outside. His partner survives and will soon play a critical role in stopping this incident. It's not long before the terrorists arrive in the control room, and then anything is possible. The man in charge of the control room tries to persuade the terrorists not to do what he thinks they will do, and of course they need him, so he will be around.

A Fox news anchor appears on TV and explains what has happened, and soon an evacuation is ordered within a 5-mile radius. It's not enough, but you try getting 25 million people away from the next Chernobyl. The freeways end up as parking lots as it is, and people are already panicking, even as people on TV try to assure the public everything is going to be all right. Well, everything is not going to be all right. Depending on what the terrorists decide to do, the death toll could be equal to Hiroshima, or worse. That's not counting maybe a million people who will die later. But we can't tell the public this. Homeland Chief Utley lies like a politician making sure the public feels reassured, when they have no reason to be.

The President is on his way back to the U.S., while the VP is in a bunker. Officials at the White House seem to know what they are doing, but do they really? Homeland Security declares a red threat level for the first time in its existence. The world soon takes notice of this incident, and there is panic and looting, though we don't really see that, or the traffic jams. There is what appears to be stock footage (not made for the movie, in other words) on the newscast, representing what is really happening out there. Experts give their opinions.

The terrorists have accents and the head guy known as Khalid quotes the Qu'ran. But they don't really seem to do anything. What if it is all just a warning? And what is it a warning about? Maybe all they are doing is showing how lax security is at a nuclear plant even after 9-11.

Investigators on the outside have to find out details, and if you know something, you'd better tell them. They're not kidding around. Meanwhile, nuclear attacks on the Middle East are being considered.

This is not just your ordinary action/thriller. We are kept guessing constantly about what might happen. We mainly see what is essential, and details of the lives of those affected are pretty much left out. There are no background stories unless we need to hear them. Editing is rapid fire and if we have seen all we need to see, the action quickly switches to something else. For example, Mika is the reporter on the scene. In her first report, we spend more time watching her put on makeup than seeing what she actually has to say. We pretty much know, so that's not essential.

Camera work is quite unusual. Different angles in the same scene might be black and white while others are color. At first I thought the black and white was security footage, but most of the time the cameras are moving--mostly shaking. It may be somewhat unsettling but it's effective. And of course I mentioned the editing.

There is lots of good acting here. Bruce Greenwood is Tom Shea, the man in charge, who's not supposed to be but his superior is elsewhere and it will take time for him to get back. Shea was not happy with the results of the U.S.S. Cole attack and got himself demoted. But he knows what he's doing. Arnold Vosloo is the terrorist in charge. I'm going to guess that Manoj Sood is in charge of the control room, the man who desperately tries to keep the terrorists from doing anything harmful.

And the standout performer is Leslie Hope, the cop who is nervous and in pain after being shot while wearing a vest (this saves your life but doesn't prevent pain). She tries really hard and finds some valuable information.

Robert Kovacik, the dedicated news anchor, must cope with whatever comes his way. Live television has its problems, but he deals with them. He's so professional I figured he might be real, and the credits say he plays himself. Dagmar Midcap as the reporter on the scene lacks personality and doesn't seem much like a real journalist, but that's just because of the current state of journalism, where cute babes seem to matter more than hard news. She's attractive and gets the information across.

Two experts are listed in the credits as themselves. Dr. Jim Walsh seems quite nervous, which doesn't inspire confidence, but I guess there is realism there. David Rapoport comes across as calmer and more professional.

One thing bothered me about the news coverage. At times the entire screen is filled, with the anchor in the middle, graphics, and a crawl at the bottom, as if we are seeing what people actually see on TV. When people are being interviewed, a lot of that information goes away. That's not a big deal, I guess, because we're not actually watching the newscast, but it would have been more effective to show the TV screen exactly as others might have seen it.

It's a worthy effort with some important lessons about what this country's most vulnerable sites ought to be doing.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Surprising turn of events (SPOILER)

Author: sweetlusciousangel from Los Angeles, CA
7 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was anticipating the premiere of Meltdown after I saw billboards for its release two weeks prior and I must say that it did not disappoint. In the beginning it appeared to be a typical terrorist flick depicting Arab speaking people or fundamentalist Muslims as those invoking the terror-as if others do not commit heinous acts in the name of religion.

However, the movie took an interesting turn when it was revealed that terrorists that had taken over and were currently occupying the San Juan Nuclear Power Facility were not in fact Muslims or even Arabs for that matter. They were very much American, highly decorated American commandos to be exact. What follows is a series of events proving that those enshrined with our security are often the first sent off to be slaughtered.

It was also interesting that every point of the movie which could be related in real life (news anchors, the name of the power plant) were intentionally fictionalized, whereas in other situations actual news anchors from various stations are used. Too close to home? Too real? Perhaps, only time will tell.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Terrorist and Nuclear reactor is a bad mix

Author: ebiros2 from United States
26 August 2011

Terrorist takes over a nuclear power plant in Southern California, and state department tries to control the situation.

Fencing match between the US government, and the terrorists ensues when terrorists take over a nuclear power plant. Not much happens except that both sides are edgy, and news cast reports the developing situations. Surprising true motive of the terrorist becomes clear, but situation is different from the intended motive. It's up to the terrorist and the federal agent to rectify the situation.

Good drama, with slow burn type plot that was popular in the early 2000's. I'm not a fan of slow burn, so this didn't become my favorite. If you're looking for strait action, look for other movies. If you're looking for a good situation drama, this one might be for you.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

amateurish and banal Die Hard ripoff (SPOILERS)

Author: philip-106 from Toronto, Canada
20 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Director Jeremiah Checheck who brought us big budget debacles like "The Avengers" and the remake of "Diabolique" has directed this ripoff of the Die Hard concept, done on - what looks like - a Blair Witch budget.

A California nuclear reactor is overtaken by Arab terrorists. But - are you ready? - the terrorists aren't Arab; they're really disgruntled American soldiers masquerading as Arabs! We find out that they don't really intend to blow up the reactor just make a statement. We're not sure what the statement is but never mind. So there's really no threat. But then one of the terrorists decides to go it alone and actually blow up the plant because he's kind of crazy. So maybe there is a threat after all. But the army goes in and all the bad guys are killed. So there was no threat. Oh, and a good guy is killed too. Let that be a lesson to everybody.

If all of this sounds muddled and kinda of a waste of time then you got the idea of what watching Meltdown is all about.

The script never bothers to introduce the characters or to even give any personal details that might flesh them out or emotionally involve the audience. So we're left with one dimensional characters: the-expert-that-nobody-will-listen-to; the-trigger-happy-sergeant; the-slimy-politicians; the-dweeby-Engineers. The story skips from one cliché incident to the next in a formula composite of practically every action movie you've ever seen. But at nearly every turn, just when we think something may be at stake the script flinches and we find out there's actually nothing to worry about.

Like Die Hard, there's an police officer who's on the inside, unbenownst to the bad guys. The big twist is that the cop here is....A WOMAN! Oh and she's injured too. But not that bad, just enough to make her wince a couple times. Oh and instead of the walkie talkie that Bruce Willis had this cop has a magic cell phone that works everywhere...even underground! When he's not yelling at everybody else Bruce Greenwood - his jaw made out of granite - tries to soothe her over the walkie talkie. He even makes a joke once but we're afraid his face might crack. After all, this is serious business.

But mostly it's scene after scene of people arguing: the Military expert is arguing to wait it out (his reasoning doesn't seem particularly sound but he's supposed to be the smart guy in this movie so okaaaay); the people at the White House argue with him; the army sergeant argues with him too; the nice Pakistani Nuclear Engineer argues with the main terrorist. The dialogue is absolutely B Movie all the way and lines like, "stop the broadcast! STOP THE BROADCAST!!!" may have you in rolling off your sofa as you wonder if the characters are actually referring to this silliness.

Maybe to compensate for the lack of production quality the camera-work is kept jittery in that faux documentary 21 Grams style that's supposed to lend immediacy and energy to the scenes but the way it's indiscriminately and amateurishly applied here it's downright annoying; even pretentious. Further attempts to ratchet up the tempo are made with the inclusion of nonsensical black and white footage that's randomly intercut with the main action. But this, too, is pretentious and annoying in that Blair Witch kinda way. In short, the stylistic attempts look very amateurish.

The music lives up to the visuals - it's synthy and cheap sounding. Sort of like a porn movie but with less melody and lots more heart beat sounds. The graphic treatment is howlingly bad too: cheesy graphics in huge red font scream out to us "9:28 pm" as though the timeclock actually makes some kind of difference.

Meltdown may work as a marketing concept but it's clear that the script was a second thought. FX - part of Fox - put this cheesy production together and dropped several million dollars on it. Now THAT'S what I call a meltdown!

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

More accurate than some, but still inaccurate

Author: pvt1863 from State College, PA
16 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While not as bad as some movies (like the horrible "Atomic Twister"), "Meltdown" still relies upon common misconceptions and inaccuracies about the nuclear power industry to advance its plot. I am currently studying Nuclear Engineering in the pursuit of a Masters Degree, and it was easy to point out flaws that would be obvious to anyone involved with the industry.

Riding the false fear that a Chernobyl style meltdown could happen in an American plant, the movie states that any meltdown (even partial, according to one of the guest commentators in the movie) would mean disaster for the area. In fact, a partial meltdown in an American plant, while destroying the core, would not pose any risk to the surrounding area. Three Mile Island experienced a partial meltdown and no radioactive material was released into the environment at all, thanks to the natural stability of the fuel and core design used in this country paired with substantial containment.

The security steps shown in the movie were perhaps the part of the movie furthest from the truth. At any important strategic location -- be it power plant, chemical plant, military base, anything -- you will never see personnel responding to an alarm by milling around talking as if it were an unannounced drill. This is especially true at a nuclear plant, where, upon the sounding of the alarm, the reactors would be SCRAMed immediately, shutting them off. SCRAMing can be done with the push of a button in the control room (you do not need to put the core in "shutdown mode" like depicted in the movie), and the chemistry of nuclear fission prevents a core from being brought back up to power within about 9 hours of a SCRAM. So if this scenario played out in real life, the assailants would not be able to cause a significant meltdown. In theory, they could still cause a partial one due to residual heat if they exposed the core immediately, but that would be almost impossible given the numerous backup systems present in a plant -- there are many more than the single backup pumps they speak of in the movie.

As for the spent fuel pools, it may be possible to turn the pools into a dirty bomb by blowing them up, but this is far more difficult than simply parking a truck full of explosives near the pools. The fuel is under (approximately) 18 feet of highly purified water. The water cannot become radioactive (no radioactive steam like they speak of in the movie). Particles dissolved in water can, but the water itself cannot; thus the reason for very thorough purification. So the only way to turn a fuel pool into a dirty bomb is to get the fuel out of the water. This is no easy task as water is very heavy, and the pools are below ground with very thick concrete walls. The explosives would have to be in the pool below the fuel (which is securely fastened). And there would have to be a heck of a lot of explosives, as water is *very* hard to move through an explosion. Even if this were to occur, spent fuel is not extremely radioactive, and the explosion would not cause nearly as high a death toll as mentioned in the movie, especially given the small amount of radioactive material that would be spread.

From a basic movie standpoint, I grew somewhat tired of the style used. The constant fading in and out, use of gritty black and white, and fast tracking and panning looked amateurish. The characters were one-dimensional, especially those in the US government. I have some problems with the twist thrown in the movie, but will not discuss it as it would be a major spoiler.

Overall, 3/10

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