Countdown to Zero (2010)
This documentary on the history and ultimate danger of nuclear arms (not nuc-u-lar, sorry President Bush) is alternating informative and terrifying. Director Lucy Walker utilizes a wealth of interview subjects from high-ranking positions to offer tremendous insight into the shocking ease of acquiring a nuclear weapon and the danger this poses. As a brush-up on history, several talking heads reveal terrifying anecdotes about how close the world came to being one big mushroom cloud. One weapon silo operator reveals that the Pentagon brass bristled at having a safety code imposed by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. So they made the launch code all zeroes, a fact that every person sitting in a silo knew. At any point, somebody could have started nuclear Armageddon at will. Walker lays out a fairly tight case for the reduction of nuclear arms and the need for far better safety protocols to go with a stiff dose of diplomacy. Perhaps enough Congressmen were watching, because during the 2010 lame duck session, Congress passed the START Treaty, which is an agreement with Russia to reduce arms on both sides. Countdown to Zero is an effective little documentary that states a convincing case that occasionally seems more professorial than necessary.
Nate’s Grade: B