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Sherlock’s Classics: Film Review – The China Syndrome (1979)

Article image for Sherlock’s Classics: Film Review – The China Syndrome (1979)

Oscar winners Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas are right at the top of their game in this chillingly prescient edge-of-your-seat thriller of a TV news reporter and crew who witness an accident at a nuclear power plant while doing a story.

They are determined to expose the incident with the aid of a high level employee, but they soon finds themselves entangled in a wide ranging conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident and possible catastrophic nuclear disaster from the public.

Superbly constructed and executed as a taut thriller and social commentary this went from a standard studio release, heavily criticised by nuclear power executives, to frightening blockbuster status when, 12 days after its release, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on March 16, 1979.

Directed with great care and legitimacy by James Bridges from a heart-pounding yet sensitive and respectful screenplay by Bridges, Mike Gray and T.S. Cook, and along with standout set direction and production design, and outstanding supporting cast, including veterans Scott Brady and Wilford Brimley, they all hit a bullseye!

Exemplary storytelling and intensely provocative experience on every level.

Nominated for four Academy awards including Jack Lemmon for Best Actor, Jane Fonda for Best Actress, Best Writing: Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

This also marks the second turn as producer for Michael Douglas after his critically acclaimed multi Oscar winning hit ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ in 1975.

As relevant, if not more so, today than on its first release, this is a highly atmospheric, nail-biting, thought provoking and genuinely heartfelt accomplishment that stands alone and remains the benchmark of all imitations that followed.

‘The China Syndrome’ is now available on DVD in a pristine transfer from Shock Entertainment through JB HI-FI and all DVD retailers.

STARS: ****