Chernobyl 1986 [6/10]

Chernobyl 1986” holds amazing promise: a highly atmospheric, right-there-at-the-scene depiction of the nuclear catastrophe from the point of view of Ukrainians. And there is much to admire in the fantastically realistic (and to my Western eyes, distinctly foreign) settings and down-to-earth citizens of Pripyat and nuclear “liquidators.” Danila Kozlovsky dominates the movie as both director and lead actor, and he ends up being both an asset and, I think, a liability. His portrayal of firefighter Alexey is understated and truthful but lacks drama in key scenes, and his direction, while fiery and tight in the action sections, feels slow and naive away from the reactor itself. The core scene of the nuclear explosion itself is magnificent; the underground repair scenes, despite their surreal nature, drag a bit. The overall narrative holds without gripping, and at the end of Chernobyl 1986, my overwhelming imprint was one of regret that the cinematic experience did not match the expectation. Nonetheless, I commend this as a fascinating perspective on a defining event in our recent history.

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