Dir: Mick Jackson
Star: Karen Meagher, Reece Dinsdale, Harry Beety, Victoria O'Keefe

Damn, what is this: depressing movie week? After The Snowtown Murders, we get this docudrama depicting the potential effects of a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom, and in particular, Sheffield. The central character is Ruth (Meagher), who recently found out she was pregnant, and is preparing to move into a house with her fiance, Jimmy (Dinsdale), against the backdrop of increasing tensions in the Middle East. There, the Soviet Union are moving in to Iran to secure their oil interests, and America follows suit, issuing an ultimatum for the Russians to withdraw or face the consequences. Council executive Clive Sutton (Beety) is ordered to start preparations, and sets up a bunker under City Hall. An exchange of battlefield nukes gets things going, and after a brief pause, Armageddon comes down in full effect, with a massive volley launched at the UK [by implication, also at the United States, and likely a retaliatory strike on Russia, but there's basically no mention of anywhere outside of Yorkshire]. Sutton's plans prove hopelessly inadequate, and over the 15 years that follow, Ruth endures the collapse of civilization into a medieval state, having to bring up her daughter (O'Keefe) in a world very different from anything she's known. This plays out behind a series of narrations and captions, bleakly stating the facts as they unfold.

It's entirely bleak, with the second half, depicting war and its aftermath, a series of grim scenes, one after another, each packing a wallop, and combining to brutal effect. However, to me, it wasn't the anti-nuclear propaganda often claimed. Indeed, I see it as the opposite: a strong argument for retaining our capabilities, since the best protection against such a holocaust, is knowing that any such attack would result in full repayment [if the Japanese had the ability to retaliate, I doubt America would have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki]. That said, there's no denying this packs some wallop, though it's a bit like Schindler's List, in that any half-informed person should already know that nuclear war would suck. And my honours project at university involved simulating the effects of atomic weapons, so I'm a bit more than half-informed; any specific details this brings, don't really add much. Of course, it's also a very different world, almost thirty years on, with the whole concept of World War 3 now dated, like worrying about the Black Death. Kinda remarkable it got made at the height of Thatcherism though.

[October 2013]

The nuclear option
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