Countdown to Zero

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Countdown to Zero
Countdown to zero poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byLucy Walker[1][2]
Produced byLawrence Bender[1][2]
Narrated byGary Oldman[2] (prologue)
CinematographyRobert Chappell
Gary Clarke
Bryan Donnell
Nick Higgins[2]
Edited byBrad Fuller and Brian Johnson[2]
Music byPeter Golub[2]
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures
Release dates
  • January 25, 2010 (2010-01-25) (Sundance)
  • July 23, 2010 (2010-07-23) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Box office$288,000[3]

Countdown to Zero is a 2010 documentary film by British filmmaker Lucy Walker. The film argues that the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons has increased since the end of the Cold War due to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, theft of nuclear materials and weapons, and other factors.[1][4]

The film was set for theatrical release in the United States on July 9, 2010,[5][6][7] but this was changed to July 23.[3]


The film features interviews with leading statesmen and experts, including Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert McNamara, Pervez Musharraf, and Valerie Plame.[1][2] The film prologue was narrated by Gary Oldman.[2] The musical score was composed by Peter Golub, and the rock band Pearl Jam contributed the song "The Fixer."[2]

It was developed, financed and executive produced by Participant Media[1][2] together with the World Security Institute.[8] The idea for the film first occurred to the producers when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore after the success of his documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.[6] Diane Weyermann of Participant Media asked Walker if she was interested in directing a film about nuclear weapons, and Walker said yes.[9] More than 84 people were interviewed for the film.[9] Global Zero, an international organization promoting the elimination of nuclear weapons, provided production assistance for the film.[10]

The film's closing credits contain a phone number to which a text message may be sent to protest the maintenance of high levels of nuclear arsenals and lax security regarding nuclear weapons and materials.[11]

The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, where it screened at the Palais des Festivals out of competition.[1][12] At that time, Magnolia Pictures secured the North American theatrical distribution rights.[1] The film was screened privately for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a portion of the film shown for the press at the National Press Club.[7][13]

The film was accepted at the Cannes Film Festival, where it screened out of competition.[14][15]

On July 19, 2010, REACT to FILM screened the film at the SoHo House in Manhattan, NY and moderated a Q&A with director Lucy Walker, former CIA agent Valerie Plame and producer Lawrence Bender.[16]

Tad Daley, writer of the book Apocalypse Never was invited to speak at the film's debut in Washington, DC about the dangers of nuclear weapons. In an interview he said that it was a coincidence that the book and the movie came out virtually exactly at the same time and that Countdown To Zero and Apocalypse Never had the same ambition and that ambition is twofold: 1) to talk to ordinary folks about the nuclear peril and 2) that abolition should be the solution.[17] A video promoting the movie was created with the assistance of Ploughshares, an award-winning literary magazine at Emerson College. The premiere screening took place at the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC and the shows have been sold out. These screenings brought in large crowds.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

A review in Daily Variety called the film "highly creative documentary-making" and concluded that the film makes "a convincing argument that the human race is on borrowed time: Given the number of nuclear weapons in existence, the ease with which they can be made, the eagerness of terrorists to possess them and a worldwide cluelessness about nuclear security, it's only a matter of time before something terribly ugly happens. A politically urgent picture, it will also literally scare the breath out of what will certainly be a worldwide audience."[2] The trade journal also highly praised the special effects and cinematography for creating "immaculate images".[2] A review for Reuters said the film was "convincingly argued and extremely polished" and described portions as "absolutely chilling."[11]

The Wall Street Journal called the film "hair-raising" and noted that it was one of the rare documentaries to screen at Cannes.[19] Jason Solomons, writing for The Observer, said the film was one of "five films to watch" at Cannes.[15] The Guardian described the documentary as "unmissable" and "the best horror film of all time".[20]

The Washington Times was highly critical of the film. Its reviewer said the documentary appeared to be produced by "the peacenik movement" and concluded, "The pacifist message of the former is loud and clear: 'Our only option is to eradicate every last nuclear missile'..."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kilday, Gregg (12 February 2010). "Magnolia picks up 'Countdown to Zero'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Anderson, John (29 January 2010). "Review: Countdown to Zero". Daily Variety.
  3. ^ a b "Countdown to Zero". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  4. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (11 May 2010). "British female film-makers aren't laughing at Cannes". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  5. ^ Kehr, Dave (30 April 2010). "July Release Schedule". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  6. ^ a b Marquand, Robert (6 April 2010). "Nuclear weapons: a political strike on the big screen". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Harper, Jennifer (12 April 2010). "Inside the Beltway". The Washington Times. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  8. ^ "Countdown to Zero | TakePart - Inspiration to Action". Archived from the original on 2011-01-07. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  9. ^ a b Turan, Kenneth (26 January 2010). "Documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker has two films in the festival". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  10. ^ "A royal widow takes on the 'realists' over nukes". McLean, Virginia: Fox News Channel. Associated Press. 17 April 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  11. ^ a b DeFore, John. "Docu Paints Convincing Nuclear Doomsday Scenario." Reuters. February 2, 1010.
  12. ^ Cieply, Michael (22 January 2010). "Filmmaker Seeks to Temper the Message of 'An Inconvenient Truth'". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  13. ^ "This Just In: Hillary Clinton Screens 'Countdown to Zero'." Washington Post. March 30, 2010; Allen, Mike. "Geithner to Beijing." Archived 2012-02-27 at the Wayback Machine Politico. April 7, 2010; Mullins, Anne Schroeder. "Thumbs Up For Bender Doc." Politico. April 6, 2010.
  14. ^ Turan, Kenneth (12 May 2010). "The films scheduled for Cannes don't inspire as much excitement as nature does". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  15. ^ a b Solomons, Jason (9 May 2010). "Cannes: five to watch". The Observer. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  16. ^ "Nukes new target of producer Bender". New York Post. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  17. ^ Tad Daley: "to talk to ordinary folks about the nuclear peril." on YouTube.
  18. ^ Videos: Countdown To Zero Premiere Screening in Washington, DC Archived 2011-07-14 at the Wayback Machine. Edward Vinatea.
  19. ^ Kaufman, Anthony. "Cannes Film Festival 2010: Seven Films to Watch." The Wall Street Journal. May 10, 2010.
  20. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (23 June 2011). "Countdown to Zero – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

External links[edit]