MFR Rating: ★
I have to admit, I went into Countdown to Zero expecting something nauseatingly preachy. I received exactly that. It feels like a badly thought through, bearded liberal’s idea of making the most sincere of differences, and it does so in the dullest and most irritating manner.
For a documentary about the world’s most terrifying weapons, it couldn’t be more sleep inducing. Vox pops of people answering questions such as “how many nuclear weapons do you think is the perfect amount ?” receive the earth shatteringly illuminating answer of “zero”. And then ten more people offer the same, profound, deeply human response of simply “zero”. Really? Wow. I would have never thought of that. Thanks for letting me know. At one point the narrator informs us of the most terrifying thing that occurred during the Cold War: when Russia achieved the nuclear weapon in response to the USA. The words ‘balance of power’ are not uttered once. There’s nothing more stimulating or analytical than “nuclear weapons are very, very bad”. Luckily my cinema sofa had a pillow.
Pretty much everything feels dumbed down. There’s nothing to make you think beyond scaremongering, to genuinely shock and some of the facts splattered around just seem so ridiculous you can smell the hyperbole. When the aftermath of a nuclear attack on a major city are vividly described it almost feels like a Fox News broadcast. We’ll all be burning alive, all the nurses will be dead, those who survive outside the perimeter will be begging for a draconian state. But it gets worse: the Bill of Rights will be thrown out the window. Please God! Take my home, take my family, take my city, but please, spare me my constitution! Now I’m not saying such a description is impossible, but the scripting is embarrassing.
It’s idealist and idiotic. At the end of the film we’re informed that if just the USA and Russia dismantled all of their nuclear weapons that would count for 96% of the world. Oh, just a shame there’s no realistic method of dis-invention and you’ve decided to completely ignore the bulk of the film which explained the real threat of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists. If by some major miracle the USA and Russia could negotiate complete proliferation then we can indeed all rejoice, apart from the fact we would be ignoring the bulk of the film’s intended fear inducement. But don’t worry.
Countdown to Zero is out now on 24 June in the UK and out now in the US . Running time: 89 mins. Certificate PG (UK).
Review by David Rank