Movie Review: The China Syndrome (1979)

The China Syndrome ___ 10/10
Precautionary, thrilling Hollywood tale

[Originally reviewed on the Coffee Coaster: 5/11/2007]

Written by Mike Gray and T.S. Cook
Directed by James Bridges

Jane Fonda … Kimberly Wells
Jack Lemmon … Jack Godell
Michael Douglas … Richard Adams
Wilford Brimley … Ted Spindler

Trying to stay with sort of a weekly theme, I cast about for environmental movies outside of Al Gore’s documentary.  During my read of the book for this week, The Weather Makers, I discovered a few notable scientists—chiefly James Lovelock (author of the Gaia concept)—argue for nuclear energy as a the only realistic means for escaping the global warming conundrum.

Needless to say, Lovelock has many critics.  Certainly his nuke hypothesis is reasonable, especially with the advent of fail-safe pebble-bed reactors.  But I think most environmentalists see renewables (solar, wind) and other methods (biomass) as fully capable of replacing carbon-intensive sources.

At any rate, one movie that offers a warning, at least on the current “fail-deadly” technology of nuclear power, while at the same time providing top-notch entertainment value is The China Syndrome.  In a profound case of life imitating art, the Three Mile Island partial core meltdown occurred 12 days after the US release date (March 16, 1979).[1]

The plot centers around Kimberly Wells (a very young, and hot Jane Fonda) an LA TV news reporter, who feels stuck doing ridiculous human-interest fare.  In her features capacity, she gets a chance to travel to the (fictional) Ventana Nuclear Power Plant to perform what amounts to a puff piece on local atomic energy. Continue reading