With nuclear power re-emerging as a potential sustainable power source, James Bridges's 1979 Oscar-nominated and Bafta-winning thriller is a timely warning of the potential dangers of such a fuel source.
Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) is a TV news reporter, Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) her cameraman. While they are shooting a routine piece at a nuclear power plant with manager Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon), there's an emergency. A faulty gauge has resulted in cooling water being drained from the core. Seconds from disaster, Godell manages to avert "The China Syndome" (in theory, the core melts, falls through the Earth and comes out in China). In reality, a massive explosion would contaminate most of California and kill thousands.
Adams (who has secretly shot the emergency) and Wells fight to get their footage on air, but the bosses at the TV station and at the nuclear plant stop them at every turn. That is until Godell, realising that other safety issues have been compromised, takes over the control room at gunpoint and demands that Wells and Adams come in to broadcast a live report.
As well as the three lead performances, often deliberately underplayed to increase the tension, the film had the extra, unwelcome fillip of publicity: just weeks after its US release, the Three Mile Island reactor was just hours away from meltdown...