A new documentary goes nuclear

By Owen Gleiberman
Updated August 04, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT
NUCLEAR FAMILY Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a scene from Countdown to Zero

Countdown to Zero makes old terrors radioactively new again. Lucy Walker, the director of this documentary about the still clear-and-present danger of nuclear weapons, has her finger on the ultimate hot-button topic, and she doesn’t let go. The film features spine-tingling descriptions of the moments when we risked toppling into a nuclear conflagration—like in, say, 1995, when a wayward U.S. missile caused the Russian nuclear football to be opened in front of Boris Yeltsin. (Fortunately, he wasn’t drunk.)

The film also illustrates how easy it is to buy enriched uranium on the black market. At times Countdown to Zero comes close to being nuclear-anxiety porn, yet it’s the rare film that could trigger and unite the reflexes of the left and the right. It makes getting rid of nukes seem less like a “cause” than an imperative. A-