Trailer Talk: ‘Countdown to Zero’


What are the most powerful forces on Earth and where are they?

The sit-you-right-up, on-edge trailer for this intimidating documentary will give you an anxious yet grateful-for-the-info feeling about the content and tone of this film that opens today in New York City and Washington D.C. Featured are notables like Jimmy Carter, JFK, Obama, Ronald Reagan, Pervez Musharraf, Gorbachev and Tony Blair, so you know something cataclysmic is up. Added to this is the lovely narrator, who is no friend of the past U.S. administration.

One speaker announces that “the objective of al-Qaeda is to kill four million people. You’re not going to kill four million people by hijacking airplanes and crashing them into buildings.”

The focus of this documentary, from the makers of “An Inconvenient Truth,” is on nuclear proliferation. There are approximately 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Where are they? Who wants them and how are they trying to get them?

By intimation it is inferred that with so many nuclear bombs at-the-ready, it may be just a matter of time before an unconscionable terrorist organization has control over at least one.

Reviewers throughout the broadcast industry, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post have unanimously exclaimed that this movie is “a must-see.”

Joe Neumaier of the NY Daily News has called it a “can’t-look-away documentary.” Andrew O’Hehir of writes, “All I can tell you is that you should absolutely see this movie.”

The film’s narrator is Valerie Plame, who in 2003 was outed as a CIA agent by columnist Bob Novak through a purposeful prior administration leak. As O’Hehir has written, “She was collateral damage; Novak’s real target was her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who had written both a confidential CIA report and a New York Times Op-Ed undermining the Bush administration’s case for war with Iraq.”

Background research shows that the reason given for using Plame as the voice for this exposé is that in her CIA position her mission involved safeguarding nuclear arsenals around the world from terrorist organizations. O’Hehir, who had access to a personal interview with Plame, wrote: “…she warns that those efforts [to safeguard nuclear devices and construction know-how from terrorists] are not likely to be indefinitely successful, and that the only sure course of action is to eliminate such weapons altogether.”

Like film reviewers madly waving their hands for audience attention to this important film despite its serious import, I will also address the assumption that this film may not be the way audiences want to relax over the weekend. So this is my advice. Make a calculated point to sprinkle in at least 25 percent of your total film viewing with meaningful, well-done intellectually illuminating films. The pleasure will come from enrichment, awareness and the after-film thoughtful conversation and thought.

Production Credits

Director: Lucy Walker
Cast: Valerie Plame Wilson, Graham Allison, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Matthew Bunn
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Writer: Lucy Walker

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