April 10, 2021

FUKUSHIMA 50 and the Folly of Arrogance

FUKUSHIMA 50 (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 122 min


Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

You’d think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and, most recently, Fukushima would be all the evidence we need to quit fucking with the atom. Yet even today, over 400 nuclear plants worldwide keep plugging away, despite having rendered parts of Russia and Japan uninhabitable for years. Such is the folly of human arrogance.

That arrogance - coupled with considerable short sightedness - is one of the underlying themes of Fukushima 50, based on the true story of attempts to stave off a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a massive earthquake and tsunami. The disaster knocks out all power, which means superintendent Masao Yoshida (Ken Wantanabe) and his crew are forced to try and manually cool the fuel rods to keep the reactors from exploding. 


Despite selfless efforts by his dedicated staff - which includes volunteers forming ‘suicide squads’ and entering contaminated units to open release valves - Yoshida is often hampered by the impatience and ineptitude of clueless government officials, who are watching the crisis unfold from a safe distance (and giving some pretty reckless orders). Meanwhile, nearby towns are being evacuated before the inevitable.

Ken belts out a showtune.
If you’ve ever seen HBO’s Chernobyl, you might recall the first couple of episodes focused on the crisis as it unfolded. Fukushima 50 is similar to those two episodes and plays more like a traditional disaster movie, including the subplots and histrionic performances typical of the genre. However, the disaster itself is generally pretty gripping. The quake and tsunami hit within the first few minutes, rendered with excellent special effects (mainly because they never look like special effects), while the subsequent race against time - and the ominous implications of failure - create a lot of tension.

Most of us probably remember the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, but I doubt many were aware of how close the country came to being an radioactive wasteland. Fukushima 50 tells that story pretty well, mostly in layman’s terms so we can grasp what the hell’s going on. Though not as shocking or incendiary as Chernobyl, the film offers another strong argument that maybe we’d be better off sticking up more windmills.



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