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Countdown To Zero
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Reviewed on 2010-08-13
Received[3]  out of 4 stars
The producers of the Oscar winning “An Inconvenient Truth” and box office favorite “Food, Inc.” have another important issue on their minds. They want to mobilize public opinion through a campaign to permanently denuclearize the globe. The title comes from demanding that world leaders reduce the stockpile of nukes to zero.

The galvanizing principle that guides this journalistic advocacy documentary from writer-director Lucy Walker (“Blindsight” and “Devil’s Playground”) comes from a 1961 speech given to the United Nations by President John F. Kennedy: “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished, before they abolish us.”

Kennedy’s prophetic message becomes even scarier today when former CIA covert operations officer Valerie Plame Wilson relates that just prior to the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden and his trusted right-hand man sat down with Pakistani scientists to discuss nuclear weapons.

A real threat to human existence is posed by this convincing documentary since al-Qaida is determined to acquire devastating atomic bombs and use them to carry out their objective of killing 4 million Americans to match an estimate of Islamic followers who have died.

The movie could be used as a how-to guide for terrorists. They could steal, buy or build a nuclear device. Their focus seems to be on the third alternative. The key to carrying out their doomsday scenario is getting their hands on highly enriched uranium or plutonium. A black market currently exists within the former territories of the Soviet Union where ammunition dumps are poorly guarded. Once the fissionable material is purchased, it must be smuggled out of the country and then shipped to Middle Eastern or Mediterranean ports. Lead pipes shield from detection the highly enriched minerals entering the USA.

People-on-the-street interviews inserted throughout the film show a high level of ignorance toward this topic. Most individuals are not worried about nuclear weapons and find the notion ridiculous that terrorists would ever resort to using them.

Besides the deliberate threat posed by terrorists, this engaging film worries about the freak accidents, near misses and other unintentional detonations. Although low on the probability scale, our military is not perfect and there can always be a first time for everything.

The movie points out that nine nations currently have nuclear weapons. The last two to acquire them – Pakistan and North Korea – pose the greatest danger to the world. The unstable regimes of Libya and Iran are on the doorstep and represent the tip of the spear for acquiring nuclear capability.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, often referred to as “the father of the A-bomb,” appears in archival footage and answers in the affirmative the following question posed to him in 1947: Is it possible to kill 40 million Americans residing in the 20 largest cities in one single night?

Many experts in the field indicate that building a nuclear bomb is just an engineering challenge and not rocket science. The price tag is under $7 million, of which $5 million is for the fissile material. This horror story should make us very afraid and aware that World War III could be well under way within 15 minutes.

The cogent arguments made are buttressed with comments from respected governmental diplomats, including Jimmy Carter, Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert McNamara and former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

This important 91-minute documentary premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

A petition to sign and more information on how you can get involved can be found at

Opening exclusively for a limited engagement at the Tivoli in Westport.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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