The story of Samantha Smith, the 10-year-old American girl who wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, urging him not to start a war against the U.S.




Credited cast:
Herself - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ted Bliss ...
Maxim Devetyarov ...
Himself (as Col. Maxim Devetyarov)
Ben Fischer ...
Himself (as Robert M. Gates)
Oleg Gordievsky ...
Werner Grossmann ...
John Hughes-Wilson ...
Himself (as Col. John Hughes-Wilson)
Oleg Kalugin ...
Igor Kondriatev ...
Himself (as Gen. Igor Kondriatev)
Vladimir Kryuchkov ...
Sergei Lokot ...
Robert McFarlane ...
Himself (as Robert 'Bud' McFarlane)


The story of Samantha Smith, the 10-year-old American girl who wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, urging him not to start a war against the U.S.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Unknown Cold War incident



Official Sites:



Release Date:

19 September 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

1983 - Am atomaren Abgrund  »

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Technical Specs


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Did You Know?


Russian General: Five times you switched off the missile attack warning. You breached military rules and air defence regulations. Why?
Colonel Stanislav Petrov: Because no one starts a nuclear war with five rockets.
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User Reviews

Gripping and accessible documentary that is good apart from a stupid use of music throughout
11 April 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In 1983 a series of events and misunderstandings raised the tension in the cold war to the point where it almost became a hot war. A Korean airliner was shot down, Reagan labelled the Soviet Union the evil empire, an early warning satellite mistakenly showed that the US had launched five missiles at Russia and spies on the ground tried to identify signs of an imminent strike from the West. In the middle of this paranoia and tension, NATO conducted one of regular exercises – "Able Archer" – from a bunker in Belgium. The exercise simulates the build up to nuclear war and only involves testing the communication process over many days, however to the Russia's listening to these signals, it only served to up the ante even more, pushing the world to the brink of full nuclear war.

This is not a perfect documentary but it is a very good one thanks to the material it covers. With some subjects the material is so compelling so that all the documentary makers need to do is make sure they don't drop the ball and just ensure that they make it clear and concise. It will not surprise you to learn that the subject of a near-miss nuclear war is one that is compelling and I do believe that if they had just had a man on the screen telling me about these events that I still would have been gripped.

As it is the film does a good job of making the events, unfortunate coincidences and misunderstandings accessible and understandable. It jumps around in time a little bit but the structure just about holds it all together and presents a terrifying view of how close we came. I remember in Fog of War, the documentary about the Cuban Missile Crisis how it appeared that little things could have pushed the world over the edge. So it is here and the film gets lots of relevant and import contributions from both sides to tell this story. At its best it is interesting but also terrifying.

However it is not perfect and there are a few things that equate to "ball-fumbling". First is the use of music. The "choice" of music is not a big problem because it is all from 1983 but apart from using it as setting the period at the start of the film what is the point of it. There are countless examples but the worst is a scene that should have been unbearably tense as we see all parts of the Russian military sitting by red phones in readiness – it is near the end of the film and shows how close it was, so why deliver it with the Eurhythmics "Sweet Dreams" playing all over the top of it? This flaw is not a deal breaker but it is like the makers were trying hard to spoil things – it is only the strength of the material that saves it. Another weakness is that it is delivered around the advert breaks and these engineered "coming up next" style moments break up the flow, although I understand why.

Overall then an engaging and quite chilling documentary about a piece of very recent history. The film structure and use of relevant contributions makes the subject easy to follow and understand – just a shame that they have to have the constantly misjudged soundtrack damaging the good work as often as it does.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The Narrator... Oh, my... Lucy-007
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