The China Syndrome (1979) 3.61/5 (4)


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Rating: The Good – 76.8
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 122 mins
Director: James Bridges
Stars: Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas

One of the great 70’s thrillers, The China Syndrome tells the story of a female reporter Kimberley Wells (Jane Fonda) struggling to gain the credit she deserves in a male dominated profession and who comes to believe that a local nuclear power plant is unsafe. Jack Lemmon (in an excellent performance) plays the nuclear engineer who himself is struggling to convince the bean-counters upstairs to shut the plant down until a costly inspection can be completed. Michael Douglas (who also produced the film) completes an impressive roster of actors and puts in a strong and charismatic supporting turn as Wells’ cameraman. However, The China Syndrome has much more than just a great cast going for it. With its “lone fighter against the shady superiors” theme, it has all the paranoid intrigue of the great thrillers from its era and combined with a taut script, it remains to this day a fascinating and compelling watch – especially so when one considers that the film was released three weeks before the real-life nuclear disaster at Three-Mile Island! And as if all this wasn’t enough, director James Bridges and writers Mike Gray and T.S. Cook round off this little gem by using the proceedings to make some clever observations about the then gender divide in the television industry – which may still have some relevance to this day.

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