From the director of Food Inc. and Merchants of Doubt comes yet another documentary that will make you question humanity’s survival.
In 1980, at a military base in Damascus, Arkansas, a missile carrying the single most powerful nuclear warhead in the country exploded. Obviously the worst was avoided when the warhead survived, or this country would probably still be recovering from the disaster. Details of the event were either classified or pushed under the rug as much as possible at the time and I doubt most people today are even aware how close we were to blowing ourselves up that day. But that’s not all.
As this film discusses, there have been far more accidents involving nuclear weapons on US soil than you would guess or care to know about. It’s in no small part due to luck that none of them have been serious. Like the time a plane malfunctioned and nuked North Carolina, with only one safety switch preventing detonation. All that is in the background, however, as director Robert Kenner focuses on the Titan II incident in 1980.
Using a combination of interviews, declassified footage, and reenactments, Command and Control is a mostly linear recollection of the events before, during, and after, the Titan II disaster. It’s certainly a chillingly disturbing tale as you realize just how easy it was to bring us the brink of annihilation simply due to a minor accident. The movie is missing something though, a certain oompf that is lacking perhaps because we already know how things are going to turn out. It also relies heavily on reenactments that feel just a bit cheesy like something out of an episode of Rescue 911. It’s like Kenner desperately wanted to make a feature film out of this amazing and harrowing bit of history, but stuck with the documentary instead. At times it minimizes the horrific impact the accident had on those who were there that night, just because it borders on being overly dramatic, which is a shame because this is a truly heart-wrenching story if you let it really sink in.
While perhaps not as watchable and entertaining as some of his other films, it’s still quite effective at conveying just how naive we have been not to worry about the fact that for years, we have been playing around with thousands upon thousands of some of the most dangerous weapons ever created. “Eventually luck runs out.”
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
Mrs. Hamster says: “It was very interesting, but now I’m going to try to never think about it again.”
My rating: Three out of five hats
Command and control launches into the DC area, September 23