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The China Syndrome
Short plot summary

Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and hired wildfire cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas), are filming in a Ventana nuclear power plant when an accident occurs. They are in the public gallery at the time and secretly film the event. On showing their film to experts they find they are lucky to be alive...

What our panel of critics thought

"Jack Lemmon is superb as a nuclear expert even though he accidentally almost blows up much of Southern California."

"This movie is a triumph of big black plastic dials and flashing boards!"

"OK, so contractors falsified a few photographs for a nuclear power plant. What's the big deal? We've all been there, just imagine the expense of having got it done properly?"

"Does everyone in this movie wear brown? You know, I think they do. A triumph of 1970's fashions, but thankfully without the larva lamp."

Please tell me the ending

An expert tells our heroes that they had almost witnessed 'the China Syndrome' (Definition: During the accident, the workers almost uncovered the nuclear processor core, which is normally covered with water to stop it overheating. Had they done this it would have melted downwards, theoretically to China, but if it hit water it would explode upwards and into the air, possibly contaminating an area the size of Pennsylvania (screams in the gallery due to the Three Mile Island disaster at this time).)

But the power company is trying to get another station opened and manages to thwart our heroes from telling a safety inquiry about the defective testing carried out by a contractor, Mr Royce... Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) is a concerned employee (who has already made contact with Wells and Adams) who locks himself into the control room of the power plant to make his point on TV. Management break in, he is shot and is then portrayed as a crank.

Kimberely sets the record straight in an emotional report to camera. The screen soon after jumps to a blank broadcast signal.

Dr Bravisimo-Encore II Movie Review

Now, let me firstly declare that once I was a member of CND, the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament; indeed, I once had myself strapped to a fence by those lovely ladies of Greenham Common.

I feel certain that this movie added soundly to our cause, highlighting the dangers of nuclear power in the public eye. That the Three Mile Island disaster occurred only a short few days after this movie's release was a dream arrival to our cause. Bravisimo!

This movie is a wonderful conspiracy with a point of view of the working man... A tale of honest people being caught up in the dishonesty of modern corporatism!

I have been reliably informed that Richard Dreyfus was originally lined up to star in this movie but he had to drop out, thus the Jane Fonda character was written in.

Quotable quotes (real)
[It was all] "a faulty relay in the generator circuit."
Other comments

This movie is brilliantly paced, the fashions have dated disastrously, but Jack Lemmon and Jane Fonda are both well cast. Michael Douglas could do with a shave.

Date of Review

March 7, 2003

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