COUNTDOWN TO ZERO [***]
(Lucy Walker, US, 2010, 92 mins.)
"How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear the Bomb."
-- Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
With a rigorous eye, Blindsight's Lucy Walker examines the arms race from the inception of the atomic bomb to the present, building her three-part structure around a speech from President Kennedy, in which he warned of "accident, miscalculation, and madness."
If Kennedy serves as the film's conscience, physicist Robert Oppenheimer, who over-
saw the Manhattan Project--only to regret the death and destruction it would engen-
der--serves as its heart (ghostly images of the pale-eyed scientist are almost as eer-
ie as his prophetic words). Even Oppenheimer, though, couldn't have predicted the ready availability of highly enriched uranium in the years after the Cold War, one of Walker's more chilling revelations. Aside from the deadly explosions in Oklahoma City, Madrid, and other urban centers, she looks at several near misses. As Kennedy concluded, "The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us," and she ends on a note of guarded optimism by speaking with F.W. de Klerk, who dismantl-
ed South Africa's nuclear infrastructure during his administration. Most of her oth-
er speakers agree: it's the right thing to do. Like Dr. Strangelove and Fog of War, Countdown to Zero marks an essential addition to the ranks of atomic cinema.
Click here for full-length review.
Show times: 6/2, 7pm, at Pacific Place; and 6/3,
9:15pm, at SIFF Cinema. Director in attendance.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
THE TILLMAN STORY [****]
(Amir Bar-Lev, US, 2010, 94 mins.)
"A lot of politics is theatrical wrestling."
-- Stan Goff, retired special-ops expert
In My Kid Could Paint That, director Amir Bar-Lev took on an art world mystery. With The Tillman Story, one of the year's best documentaries, he takes on a military mystery. When NFL player Pat Tillman and his brother, Kevin, signed up to serve
in Afghanistan, no one knew exactly why, but the move made national headlines
and, against the deeply private young man's wishes, he became a symbol of pa-
triotism in action. Then, on his second tour of duty, a bullet took Tillman's life. President Bush stated that 9/11 had galvanized the 27-year-old, though Tillman never said any such thing, while the Army claimed he died defending his fellow Rangers (they also acted against his wishes by staging a military funeral). Devas-
tated, his parents knew the story didn't add up, so they pushed for the truth, despite massive resistance, and the Army finally admitted that their son had been the vic-
tim of friendly fire or "fratricide," but resisted all attempts to find out exactly what
happened. Consequently, it's a mystery that Bar-Lev, who edits his material togeth-
er like a maestro, can't completely solve, but he sheds light on a shameful episode
in American history while simultaneously paying tribute to a remarkable family.
Show times: 6/4, 4pm, at SIFF Cinema; and 6/6, 7pm, at SIFF Cinema.
Also recommended: Neil Jordan's flawed, but beautifully shot supernatural ro-
mance Ondine (with a very good Colin Farrell): 6/4, 7pm, at the Kirkland Perfor-
mance Center; 6/6, 9pm, at the Uptown; and 6/3, 11:30pm, at Pacific Place.
Also, in case you missed the SIFF screenings, Seven Gables theaters will be showing the following well regarded films after the fest: Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work (6/18); Holy Rollers, I Am Love, and Winter's Bone (6/25); Cyrus (7/2); and Farewell (8/6).
Endnote: As always, dates and times are subject to change. Please visit the
official website for more information. Images from MUBI.com and indieWIRE.