Sunday, June 28, 2009
The China Syndrome (1979)
By Eric Jessen 6/27/09
Silent credits, the perfect exhale for one of the most thrilling movies I've ever seen. I was reeling, shaking, and actually sweating (I don't even sweat at the gym). My head was racing with questions. Do these power plants still exist, are these accidents still happening, do cover ups still occur? Is this movie still relevant?
After I had a chance to cool down I started thinking about this movie. It's so thrilling, but Why? Is it because of all that nuclear testing stuff? Was I just afraid that human error causing a nuclear disaster might happen today? No, I said to my self, because I don't think that stuff goes on anymore, and if it does I certainly know nothing about it. I realized it's not the fear of a nuclear explosion, it's thrilling because of a more basic fear. The fear of not being heard, or in this case more specifically the fear of an elaborate cover up. It's like being trapped, and unable to get out the information you know everyone else needs. So many times during the exciting conclusion I wanted to grab a camera and tell all of this movie's world what Jack Lemmon's character knew.
For all you people who haven't seen this movie here's a little synopsis. China Syndrome stars Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda, and Micheal Douglas. It's a great cast and they all do a spectacular job. Lemmon plays a nuclear power plant supervisor, and on one fateful day something terrible happens. We don't know what until later, and I won't tell you what. But what gets this movie rolling is that Jane Fonda as TV personality/journalist Kimberly Wells and her scruffy bearded anti-establishment cameraman Richard (Micheal Douglas) happen to witness, and Douglas secretly films, to their bemusement, the entire event. They have no idea what they saw but they know it was big, and if it's out of curiosity or if it's to capture a great story, they have to investigate. And because I've already mentioned cover up I'll tell you, the more they sense the cover up getting thick the more they try to uncover the secret and reveal it to the public.
If you have yet to see this movie and you want your experience to be as purely exhilarating as mine, don't read on.... Good, now that they're gone we can talk about that broken needle or nob thing, and when the sound guy got run off a cliff (he should have sped away, not try to stop). And I want to talk about the perfect way my thrilling frustration was heightened in the final sequence.
So, lets talk. This movie is so effective in getting me all riled up. By the end I wanted to be a journalist, cameraman, and nuclear power plant supervisor. This movie makes those jobs look so exciting. This movie was thrilling, exciting, and frustrating in a good way. Everything bad happens to Lemmon's character. The guy with the crucial pictures is nearly killed, he get chased, his friends start to bail on him, but then something truly unexpected and ironic happens. When he get a chance to be herd on national television he's unable to speak. He can't convey his message. You can see Micheal Douglas's character bitting his nails and pleading, “don't be so technical.” Lemmon cries “I'm not makin' any sense” as if he knows he's missing his one chance. It's the perfect cherry on his unbearable frustration sundae. It was the perfect thrilling conclusion to Lemmon's character's arduous plight. It actually cleared my mind for second, because I felt secure in my opinion of this movie. So now all I have to say is...
I loved, loved, loved this movie. It will always be fun, always be thrilling. Watch it again and again, alone or with those loud and obnoxious friends that you usually avoid when watching a movie. Watch for the reason that you should always watch movies. They're fun.