“China Syndrome” 45th Anniversary Review

Nick Pallotto, Staff Writer

“China Syndrome” is reactive after 41 years

China Syndrome is one of those movies that you just have to watch, excellent actors and actresses, the film is very suspenseful at times and always raises the thought of just how safe nuclear plants really are, the film does seem to have a political aspect to it at times, but is recognized as a fun thriller that is sure to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. What is so excellent about this movie is it shows the audience the perspective of the workers of the power plant and of the journalists who are inside. The main character is Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) a reporter for Channel 3 News Los Angeles, and her Cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) expose a coverup at the Ventana nuclear plant just outside of LA.
The bond of Kimberly Wells and Richard Adams is such an important element to the film because the friendship that they share ultimately helps them work together to expose a potential cover up at the plant, and this bond between them is what makes the film worth watching.
The film opens with Kimberly Wells and Richard Adams touring the nuclear plant and showing the people of Los Angeles where all the power and nuclear energy they need daily is produced.
While their tour guide Bill Gibson (James Hampton) is speaking with them, an alarm goes off and the camera crew is told it’s just a routine incident with the water levels.
As the incident is taking place Adams is secretly filming the control room. He records the supervisor of the plant Jack Goddell (Jack Lemmon) frantically waving his arms and yelling at his employees, within minutes the water levels turn back to normal and every employee breathes a sigh of relief.
The secret tape of the incident is soon turned over Well’s editor Don Jacovich (Peter Donat), who takes the film to avoid legal action and prosecution if released to the public.
Later in the film Adams steals the film back from the film vault where all the films at Channel 3 are stored, and then Wells is then put in a tough spot. She either works with Richard to expose this incident at Ventana or risk her career as a reporter. The film was inspired by the well- know nuclear meltdown nuclear scenario “ China Syndrome” which is a nuclear meltdown so powerful that nothing can stop it, and radiation tunnels its way to the other side of the world, more specially all the way to China.
“China Syndrome” is an excellent example of exposing the truth even when it can land a journalist in serious trouble, but some journalists will go through great lengths to tell the truth and the film “China Syndrome” is an accurate portrayal of this journalistic action.

As a result of his groundbreaking efforts in the production of the film “China Syndrome,” the director James Bridges won the Writers Guild of America Award for best original drama in 1980. Jack Lemmon won the Cannes best actor award in 1979 for his excellent performance in the film. Jane Fonda won the BAFTA award in 1980 for best actress in a leading role, as well as Jack Lemmon who won the BAFTA award for best actor in a leading role.
The film was released in 1979 the same year as the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster which was a nuclear meltdown in Dauphin County Pennsylvania, and it was the most significant accident in U.S commercial power plant history.

“China Syndrome” is a film that is a must watch for anyone interested in nuclear power plants or anyone who wants to be a journalist. It is a very intense film that puts the viewer in the power plant and has a wonderful lesson to it which is that one should always tell the truth, even if telling the truth can hurt others or endanger certain people but everyone has the right to know.