Published Jul 29, 2010Considering the veritable onslaught of politically minded leftist docs with an agenda flooding the marketplace post-Inconvenient Truth, it's hard to fault documentarian Lucy Walker for her Empirically minded testimony for the disarmament of nuclear arms, Countdown to Zero. Surely, the dichotomy of paranoia and idealism in the title presumes the proclamations that unfold in this desultory, if surprisingly compelling, call to activism.
With an array of speakers, from Tony Blair to Mikhail Gorbachev to Valeria Plume Wilson, the doc interweaves historical accounts with potential disaster scenarios, pivoting on Iran's secret efforts to obtain nuclear arms and Bin Laden's goal of killing four million Americans. Throughout, familiar archival footage and a mishmash of nuclear testing and fallout exposition, animations of projected Uranium smuggling tactics and trigger finger possibilities drive home the likelihood of future horrors if additional nations obtain this technology.
Of note are the rationales and motivations behind North Korea and Pakistan placing political significance on arms capabilities, along with the many faults in Russian security around Uranium manufacturing. A man details his gradual thievery of over a kilogram of the metallic chemical element from his place of employment with intent to sell.
Dividing the many presumptions and examples of failures and security breaches with animations of explosion radiuses over urban areas and exaggerated fallacies, the purveying reminder is that of mortal plausibility and human error. It's not a bout of rage-induced fear mongering by any means, instead juxtaposing information and global ideologues to reveal corrosion, but the film subtly exploits self-preservation anxieties to sway, or activate, an audience already in agreement with such an accessible and culturally obvious viewpoint.
Perhaps if this frequently fascinating and urgent relaying of information were assembled with slightly more cohesion and logical structure, it would be easier to overlook the lame listing of potential solutions and website links in the finale. As it stands, Zero is an interesting, if not particularly shocking, example of emotional filmmaking without appropriate discipline. (Alliance)