Countdown To Zero (PG)

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The Independent Culture

Lucy Walker's history of the atomic bomb isn't half so potent as her previous documentary, the Academy Award-nominated Waste Land, about the chaotic rubbish dump in Rio.

This takes its cue from JFK's 1961 address to the United Nations on the perilous proliferation of nuclear weapons, capable of destroying us "by accident or miscalculation or madness". It marshalls an interesting gallery of interviewees, including Gorbachev and Jimmy Carter, and recounts some terrifying near-misses, such as the US rocket-test in January 1995 that was misconstrued as warheads targeted on Moscow – "Fortunately, Yeltsin wasn't drunk," says a US aide, and a counter-attack was avoided. The bad news is that roughly 23,000 nuclear missiles are in working order. The good news is that there were once over 600,000. Walker forewarns about nukes in the wrong hands – rogue states, terrorists – but devotes the last part of her film to a galumphing restatement of the bleedin' obvious. "There shouldn't be any at all," says the canvassed vox pop in an incontrovertible call to arms – or rather dis-arms. I think we got that some time ago.