The China Syndrome (1979)

Aka: An Element Of Risk

74%

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Drama - Thriller | 122 minutes
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While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant. Wells is determined to publicise the incident but soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret.

A modern nightmare nearly becomes reality in this timely, tension-filled story about an "incident" at a nuclear power plant. Jane Fonda stars as Kimberly Wells, an ambitious TV reporter covering a story on energy sources who is present at a nuclear plant when a startling accident occurs that nearly causes the meltdown of the reactor. A newsreel cameraman accompanying Wells, played by a determined Michael Douglas, captures the incident on film--but the television station won't air the footage. Though the plant's corporate heads are quick to deny the possibility of any real danger, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon), the pl...
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ant's veteran engineer, discovers faulty equipment at the plant. Attempting to tell others about his findings, Jack soon realizes that someone is trying to kill him to keep him quiet, leading him to an act of utter desperation. The film is a marvel to behold--at turns gripping, stirring, exhilarating, and maddening, with fabulous performances, especially by Lemmon, who is simply marvelous. In a bizarre bit of synchronicity, the film was produced just before the March 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.
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This gripping 1979 drama about the dangers of nuclear power carried an extra jolt when a real-life accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania occurred just weeks after the film opened. Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) is a TV reporter trying to advance from fluff pieces to harder news. Wells and cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas, who also produced) are doing a story on energy when they happen to witness a near-meltdown at a local nuclear plant, averted only by quick-thinking engineer Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon). While Wells and Adams fruitlessly attempt to get the story on their station, Gode...
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ll begins his own investigation and discovers that corporate greed and cost-trimming have led to potentially deadly faults in the plant's construction. He provides evidence of the faulty equipment, which could lead to another meltdown (the "China syndrome" of the title), to the station's soundman to deliver to Wells and Adams at a hearing on nuclear power. However, on the way to the hearing, the soundman is run off the road by evil henchmen, leading Godell to realize that his own life is threatened, possibly by his bosses at the plant. Driven to the edge of a breakdown, Godell takes over the plant's control room at gunpoint and demands to reveal his findings on TV. The plant's management, however, has other plans, and the facility itself is becoming dangerously unstable. Whether or not you agree with the film's clear anti-nuclear bias, its sobering message and riveting, realistic story and performances are still difficult to ignore.
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Terwijl ze bezig is een serie reportages te maken over alternatieve energiebronnen, is de verslaggeefster Kimberly Wells toevallig getuige van een bijna-ongeluk in een kerncentrale. Wells is vastbesloten om het incident in de openbaarheid te brengen, maar al snel krijgt ze te maken met een samenzwering die tot doel heeft het incident geheim te houden.

A true nailbiter, The China Syndrome is a potent harbinger of the potential devastation that can be wrought when humans attempt to harness an energy source they don't fully understand, an energy that can leave no leeway for such human foibles as avarice and sloth. Most of the story is set at a small nuclear reactor in California and centers on a free-wheeling cameraman, the chief engineer at the reactor, a man who truly believes that nuclear energy is a safe and efficient form of power, and a female reporter who is trying to prove that she is better suited to hard news than the never-ending stream of fluff pieces...
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she is handed. The trouble begins when the reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman Richard Adams go to the reactor to film a story. While speaking with engineer Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) in the plant something goes horribly wrong. During the ensuing panic, Adams continues filming and captures some potentially damning information on his camera. When it is safe to leave, the newspeople quickly leave and race back to their station. Unfortunately, the station managers will not show the story, for fear of generating wide-spread panic. They take the film, but later, the cameraman steals it back to show to nuclear experts. Meanwhile, Godell becomes increasingly frustrated when his superiors refuse to listen to him. He knows that something is terribly wrong at the plant, but they are more interested in finances and public relations, and cover the entire matter up. Against orders, Godell continues investigating and learns that cost-cutting in the plant's construction has compromised its safety. If something isn't done soon, the plant could cause an unprecedented catastrophe. In desperation, he breaks into the reactor's main control room and threatens to kill his co-workers unless the populace is warned and the reactor shut down. The only ones he allows in with him are the newspeople Wells and Adams so they can broadcast his statement. From here, the drama becomes psychological as Godell begins to break down before Wells and Adams arrive. At the same time, the reactor administrators try to portray Godell as crazy. Adding to the tension is the fact that the reactor is very close to a breakdown and could go at any moment. Though not all viewers appreciated the film's unwavering anti-nuclear sentiments, it proved to be chillingly prophetic; only a short time after its release the nearly catastrophic nuclear reactor accident at Three Mile Island occurred.
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