On April 26, 1986, a safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Facility indicated something was very wrong. Valery Legasov, an important Soviet nuclear physicist and Deputy Director realizes the core has exploded when he sees graphite outside the facility. His warnings to the officials go unheeded. Gorbachev, head of the Communist Party at the time, acknowledges the trouble but is determined to cover it up from the world. The episodes that follow depict the heroic efforts by the technicians and workers to contain the disaster and to evacuate the area. Meanwhile, Legasov, with the assistance of Minsk nuclear physicist Ulana Khomyuk, struggle to convince Boris Shcherbina, a Deputy Chairman, that this is more than merely a little accident. Massive resources, manpower and materials are needed to contain the explosion. The last episode is a riveting trial of the people responsible for the disaster. Legasov gives convincing testimony about how the disaster started and the people responsible. However, it was revealed that in his previous testimony in Vienna, Legasov lied in order to cover up the incident. His entire testimony at the current trial is deleted. He is arrested by the KGB and warned never to talk about Chernobyl to anyone. It has been reported that Russian NTV Television will be producing its own version of Chernobyl placing much of the blame on the CIA.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 96%
- Metacritic Score: 83
- 35th TCA Awards: Nominated for Program of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials
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Brilliantly structured and anchored by great performances, “CHERNOBYL” is relentlessly bleak, but it has a remarkable cumulative power. I found each hour more impressive than the one before it, as director Johan Renck’s complex, layered vision of an entire nation altered by a nuclear event becomes more and more devastating.The final episode, which intercuts between the court hearing about what happened that fateful day and the incident itself, feels like a rewarding end to a remarkable TV journey. You should take it.
HBO’s extraordinary docudrama is a beautifully written and sensitively directed treatment of the horrifying events in the Ukraine spring of 1986. The triumphal impact of the HBO project is the haunting rendering of Chernobyl as way scarier today than it was 33 years ago because then the Soviet Union, typically, told no one outside the country. It wasn’t until sensors in Sweden, some 900 miles away, started squawking about radiation that the outside world got wise to it.
“CHERNOBYL” is a thorough historical analysis, a gruesome disaster epic replete with oozing blisters and the ominous rattle of Geiger counters, and a mostly riveting drama. But it’s also a warning—one that straddles the line between prescience and portentousness. Whether you apply its message to climate change or anti-vaccine screeds on Facebook, writer Mazin’s moral stands: The truth will eventually come out.
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