Critic Reviews



Based on 12 critic reviews provided by
The movie is, above all, entertainment: well-acted, well-crafted, scary as hell.
James Bridges's smashingly effective, very stylish suspense melodrama.
Washington Post
A terrific film, the triumphant culmination of many elements that have been attempted in previous ambitious films. This has a wealth of true movie ingredients: two or three meaty subjects handled with naturalistic ambiguity, suspense, a variety of interestingly developing characters finely acted, excitement and authenticity laced with restrained satire. [16 March 1979, p.19]
Ultimately, Lemmon's performance is what makes The China Syndrome work: The script contains its share of technical jargon and clunky exposition, but his subtle transformation from complacency to anger to panic tells the story in raw emotional terms. The China Syndrome is ultimately a story about how the potential for human error can trump science and reason, and few actors have ever been as unmistakably human as Lemmon.
Technology, as ever, is examined through a pessimistic prism, but the script is equipped with enough jargon and detail to expose the work and responsibility of the filmmakers.
Time Out
All a bit too earnest, despite the seriousness of the subject, with Fonda setting her jaw and stepping into father's footsteps as Tinseltown's very own protector of humanity; but it's tightly scripted and directed, and genuinely tense in places.
For director James Bridges, the film looks like a hack job, particularly after the personal anguish of 9/30/55, but it's a very good hack job: strong, simple, and perfectly paced, until the last reel flounders in a bit of overkill.
The sometimes self-conscious and too-earnest Fonda and the occasionally hammy Lemmon both rise beautifully to the occasion, delivering performances that are among their best.
A moderately compelling thriller about the potential perils of nuclear energy, whose major fault is an overweening sense of its own self-importance.
Washington Post
It becomes apparent during the stuttering course of the movie itself that exploiting a nuclear power plant as an effective deathtrap in a doomsday thriller requires more than melodramatic wishful thinking. [16 March 1979, p.B1]

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