Countdown to Zero

Countdown to Zero
Countdown to Zero

Film poster
Directed by Lucy Walker[1][2]
Produced by Lawrence Bender[1][2]
Narrated by Gary Oldman[2] (prologue)
Music by Peter Golub[2]
Cinematography Robert Chappell
Gary Clarke
Bryan Donnell
Nick Higgins[2]
Editing by Brad Fuller and Brian Johnson[2]
Distributed by Magnolia Pictures
Release date(s) January 25, 2010 (2010-01-25) (Sundance)
July 23, 2010 (2010-07-23) (United States)
Running time 90 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English

Countdown to Zero is a documentary film released in 2010 which argues that the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons has increased since the end of the Cold War due to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, theft of nuclear materials and weapons, and other factors.[1][3]

The documentary film was set for a July 9, 2010 theatrical release in the United States[4][5][6] but was changed to July 23.[7]



The film features interviews with leading statesmen and experts, including Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert McNamara, Pervez Musharraf, and Valerie Plame Wilson.[1][2] The film prologue was narrated by Gary Oldman.[2] The musical score was composed by Peter Golub, and the rock band Pearl Jam contributed the song "The Fixer."[2]

It was developed, financed and executive produced by Participant Media[1][2] together with World Security Institute.[8] The idea for the film first occurred to the producers when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore after the success of his documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.[5] Diane Weyermann of Participant Media asked Walker if she was interested in directing a film about nuclear weapons, and Walker said yes.[9] More than 84 people were interviewed for the film.[9] Global Zero, an international organization promoting the elimination of nuclear weapons, provided production assistance for the film.[10]

The film's closing credits contain a phone number to which a text message may be sent to protest the maintenance of high levels of nuclear arsenals and lax security regarding nuclear weapons and materials.[11]

The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, where it screened out of competition.[1][12] At that time, Magnolia Pictures secured the North American theatrical distribution rights.[1] The film was screened privately for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a portion of the film shown for the press at the National Press Club.[6][13]

The film was accepted at the Cannes Film Festival, where it screened out of competition.[14][15]

Tad Daley, writer of the book Apocalypse Never was invited to speak at the film's debut in Washington, DC about the dangers of nuclear weapons. In an interview he said that it was a coincidence that the book and the movie came out virtually exactly at the same time and that Countdown To Zero and Apocalypse Never had the same ambition and that ambition is twofold: 1) to talk to ordinary folks about the nuclear peril and 2) that abolition should be the solution".[16] A video promoting the movie was created with the assistance of Ploughshares, an award-winning literary magazine at Emerson College. The premiere screening took place at the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC and the shows have been sold out. These screenings brought in large crowds.[17]

Critical reception

A review in Daily Variety called the film "highly creative documentary-making" and concluded that the film makes "a convincing argument that the human race is on borrowed time: Given the number of nuclear weapons in existence, the ease with which they can be made, the eagerness of terrorists to possess them and a worldwide cluelessness about nuclear security, it's only a matter of time before something terribly ugly happens. A politically urgent picture, it will also literally scare the breath out of what will certainly be a worldwide audience."[2] The trade journal also highly praised the special effects and cinematography for creating "immaculate images".[2] A review for Reuters said the film was "Convincingly argued and extremely polished" and said portions were "absolutely chilling."[11]

The Wall Street Journal called the film "hair-raising" and noted that it was one of the rare documentaries to screen at Cannes.[18] Jason Solomons, writing for The Observer in the United Kingdom, said the film was one of "five films to watch" at Cannes.[15] The Guardian described the documentary as "unmissable" and "the best horror film of all time".[19]

The Washington Times was highly critical of the film. Its reviewer said the documentary appeared to be produced by "the peacenik movement" and concluded, "The pacifist message of the former is loud and clear: 'Our only option is to eradicate every last nuclear missile'..."[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kilday, Gregg. "Magnolia Picks Up 'Countdown to Zero'." The Hollywood Reporter. February 12, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Anderson, John. "Review: Countdown to Zero." Daily Variety. January 29, 2010.
  3. ^ Higgins, Charlotte. "British Female Film-Makers Aren't Laughing at Cannes." The Guardian. 11 May 2010.
  4. ^ Kehr, Dave. "July Release Schedule." New York Times. April 30, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Marquand, Robert. "Nuclear Weapons: A Political Strike on the Big Screen." Christian Science Monitor. April 6, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Harper, Jennifer. "Nuke-Apalooza." The Washington Times. April 12, 2010.
  7. ^ "Countdown to Zero". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Turan, Kenneth. "Lucy Walker Brings Two Documentaries on Wildly Different Subjects to Sundance." Los Angeles Times. January 26, 2010.
  10. ^ Hanley, Charles J. "A Royal Widow Takes on the 'Realists' Over Nukes." Associated Press. April 17, 2010.
  11. ^ a b DeFore, John. "Docu Paints Convincing Nuclear Doomsday Scenario." Reuters. February 2, 1010.
  12. ^ Cieply, Michael. "Filmmaker Seeks to Temper the Message of 'An Inconvenient Truth'." New York Times. January 22, 2010.
  13. ^ "This Just In: Hillary Clinton Screens 'Countdown to Zero'." Washington Post. March 30, 2010; Allen, Mike. "Geithner to Beijing." Politico. April 7, 2010; Mullins, Anne Schroeder. "Thumbs Up For Bender Doc." Politico. April 6, 2010.
  14. ^ Turan, Kenneth. "The Films Scheduled for Cannes Don't Inspire As Much Excitement As Nature Does." Los Angeles Times. May 12, 2010.
  15. ^ a b Solomons, Jason. "Cannes: Five to Watch." The Observer. 9 May 2010.
  16. ^ Tad Daley: "to talk to ordinary folks about the nuclear peril.". YouTube.
  17. ^ Videos: Countdown To Zero Premiere Screening in Washington, DC. Edward Vinatea.
  18. ^ Kaufman, Anthony. "Cannes Film Festival 2010: Seven Films to Watch." Wall Street Journal. May 10, 2010.
  19. ^ Bradshaw, Peter. "Countdown to Zero – review" The Guardian. June 23, 2011.

External links

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