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Slight fearmongering, but a must-watch for anyone interested in modern history
"Every man woman and child, lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment, by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness." John F. Kennedy
This quote taken from a speech by the former US president, forms the basis for the thesis of this bleak, and sometimes alarming documentary on nuclear weaponry. Outlining a history, from the splitting of the atom, to the creation of the a-bomb by Robert Oppenheimer, the film shows the growth of nuclear armament through many countries, many of whom still have today. The film displays the devastation that such a catastrophe could have on world cities (we have seen the images of Hiroshima before). We are told of near-misses due to "mishaps" and calculations that have gone awry, even by the US military throughout the weapons history.
To the general public today, there seems to be no concept of a nuclear threat. A number of people are interviewed on the streets, asking if they feel threatened by an attack of this nature; the majority simply do not feel this threat. Since the cold wars of the 1950's, '60's and 1980's, the concept of nuclear threat has dissipated in the public view. It is no longer a focus of media attention. And yet, whilst the material (Uranium, plutonium) necessary to complete a nuclear weapon is difficult to attain, it is certainly acknowledged that middle-eastern terrorists have absolutely attempted to purchase such raw materials.
Lucy Walker's film uses some fantastic archival footage to paint a picture of the threat to our world that still exists. She managed to employ some highly notable talking heads to maintain integrity in her argument (Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, Robert McNamara). She manages to highlight how easy it is to smuggle such devastating materials into countries. This is a powerful documentary, however, the threat of such an attack is so limited, that the film seems just too late to create such intrinsic paranoia (I mean, does a scared person, or country - i.e. the backwaters of the USA - really need more to worry about?) The threat just isn't as urgent as, say, in the 1980's when such films posing the question, what if...? where broadcast on television, such as the frightening Threads (1983), made and broadcast by the BBC. It is still a good documentary, with some interesting 'facts', and should certainly be watched by anyone interested in modern history.
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