Countdown to Zero 2009 PG CC

Amazon Instant Video

(31) IMDb 6.9/10

Countdown to Zero traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs: nine nations possessing nuclear weapons capabilities with others racing to join them, leaving the world held in a delicate balance that could be shattered by an act of terrorism, failed diplomacy, or a simple accident. The film makes a compelling case for worldwide nuclear disarmament, an issue more topical than ever.

Starring:
Graham Allison, James Baker III
Runtime:
1 hour 29 minutes

Countdown to Zero

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Lucy Walker
Starring Graham Allison, James Baker III
Supporting actors Bruce Blair, Tony Blair, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Matthew Bunn, Richard Burt, Jimmy Carter, Mike Chinoy, Joseph Cirincione, Richard Cizik, Thomas D'Agostino, F.W. de Klerk, Pascal Fias, Alexander Glaser, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ira Helfand, Pervez Hoodbhoy, R. Scott Kemp, John F. Kennedy
Studio Magnolia
MPAA rating PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 48 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

They apparently were no more aware of the nuclear threat than most of us.
Timothy P. Scanlon
I'm not sure that my students missed out on much by not seeing the film, since it didn't really cover anything that we hadn't already covered in more detail in class.
Gregory J. Casteel
With all these nuclear weapons set to a hair trigger that can be fired within one minute of receiving the order, we live in a dangerous reality indeed.
Haunted Flower

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
From the people who brought you "An Inconvenient Truth" comes "Countdown to Zero," written and directed by Lucy Walker and produced by Lawrence Bender. After the Cold War, nuclear arms were scaled back and the public naively felt the danger had passed. Although only nine nations developed and continue to possess nuclear weapons, forty others have the knowledge to do it and it is only a matter of time before human error or terrorist pursuits could make a huge lasting impact on this planet.

"Countdown to Zero" does a fantastic job of setting up the situation first with the history of the bomb, the Manhatten project, and the horrors they caused. It reveals many shocking instances where due to human or machine error, we or other countries were mere minutes or even seconds away from firing the first missile. With all these nuclear weapons set to a hair trigger that can be fired within one minute of receiving the order, we live in a dangerous reality indeed.

The film also explores the ways to obtain highly refined uranium and how surprisingly easy it is if you know the right people. We assume that even with the materials, it would still be difficult to construct a usable bomb but that also proves false. A large team might be needed but bomb construction can be as easy as pie and the beauty of it is that it does not need to be perfect, it just needs to go boom! and the end result will be the same. It is far too easy to smuggle the uranium into the United States should anyone want to and even the best detection equipment makes mistakes. So basically there are three ways to get bombs: make them, steal them, or buy them and it is almost impossible to keep up with preventing all these ways so it would be much easier to eliminate them altogether.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Timothy P. Scanlon on August 1, 2010
Format: DVD
Upon the demise of the Soviet Union, many of us thought the nuclear threat is all but gone. After all, the weapons' manufacture is diabolically complex, there is no "evil empire," no arch rival to keep us occupied. So the issue no longer exists, right?

WRONG!

I ran across a short piece in Everything You Know Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Secrets and Lies which indicated that those whom we have labled as "terrorists" may not put a lot of value on life, and/or many not really comprehend the degree of damage they may inflict should they use such weapons. (Those are my words, not those of the article's author, or those of the volume's editor, Russ Kick.) It certainly gave me something to think about. Then I talked with an old friend who has for decades been a rival of nuclear energy. He suggested the waste from nuke plants could, if taken by an adversary, be used for acts we cannot yet imagine. That too gave me something to think about.

So I was compelled to see this film.

The film begins with a Kennedy speech, with President Kennedy at the UN on September 25, 1961 warning us of "the nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness." That speech was used as a visual technique throughout the film guiding us through the words, their applicability, even in some ways their irony. (Back in the Kennedy era, I don't know that we anticipated accident or madness, probably to our near demise!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By MARTIN HELLMAN on November 11, 2010
Format: DVD
Countdown to Zero treats a subject that everyone needs to know more about, but almost no one wants to face. Hopefully, this professionally produced film will help overcome that. I found it riveting. And don't let "but zero is dangerous" scare you off. The film is not advocating immediate, much less unilateral, nuclear disarmament. Colin Powell and other military leaders wouldn't be involved if that were the case! Rather, what's proposed is a step-by-step process to take us back from the nuclear abyss in a way that enhances our security. Too many people jump to the wrong conclusion that posing the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons requires rash action. It's a vision and a goal, not a call for impossible and dangerous action.

The review here that says nuclear deterrence works, so there's nothing to worry about, is just dead wrong -- as is the societal belief it reflects. One of the most frequent such "What me worry?" arguments points to the last 65 years without a world war and says "It ain't broke, so don't fix it!" Given that a child born today has an expected lifetime of 78 years and we have had a number of near misses in the last 65 years, that is weak evidence at best.

While the Cuban Missile Crisis is the best known near miss (and, for many people, the only one they know of), there have been many, many more. 1961 Berlin, 1983 Able Archer, the 1991 Soviet coup attempt, the 1993 Russian coup attempt, the 1995 Norwegian rocket false alarm (the one time the Russian nuclear launch codes were opened in front of a leader -- thank God Yeltsin was sober enough to make the right decision), and the 2008 Georgian war are just the ones that come to my mind as I write this. And, then there's the specter of nuclear terrorism.
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