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The China Syndrome

Year: 1979
Production Co: IPC Films
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: James Bridges
Producer: Michael Douglas
Writer: James Bridges
Cast: Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas, Jack Lemmon, Wilfred Brimley, James Hampton
One of the best paranoid political thrillers of the 1970s, this time with another eeevil corporation in the hot seat.

America was just getting paranoid about the perils of nuclear power when this film came out, and they must have thought someone was telling them something when the Three Mile Island incident happened barely weeks after release. Nowadays you'd ask yourself if the studio had something to do with it...

Jane Fonda is reporter Kimberley trying to climb the corporate ladder but given nothing but frustrating puff pieces by her superiors. When she's sent to do a slightly more interesting piece on the local nuclear power plant, fate strikes, and there's a near-fatal accident that her irreverent cameraman Richard (Douglas) manages to catch on tape.

The publicity guy assures them it was a minor incident but the floor manager in the control room jack (Lemmon, in one of his strongest roles) thinks otherwise, and tries to convince the higher-ups something's wrong when all they hear is expensive investigations and shutdowns.

Meanwhile, Kimberley and Richard team up with Jack to try to get to the bottom of what's really going on at the plant and it all comes to a head with a bloody confrontation as Jack locks himself in the control room in protest and demands Kimberley be his spokesperson for the real dangers.

A soundtrack completely devoid of music gives the film a real sense of menace and it's just one of the surprisingly effective filmmaking techniques that make this a taut thriller as well as a great story.

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