Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Two apocalyptic movie reviews: The War Game, It's A Disaster

The War Game, 48 minutes. So shocking to the BBC, who commissioned it, the film was banned for over 20 years.

IMDB synopsis:
The War Game is a fictional, worst-case-scenario docu-drama about nuclear war and its aftermath in and around a typical English city. Although it won an Oscar for Best Documentary, it is fiction. It was intended as an hour-long program to air on BBC 1, but it was deemed too intense and violent to broadcast. It went to theatrical distribution as a feature film instead. Low-budget and shot on location, it strives for and achieves convincing and unflinching realism.
IMDB user quotes:

'Threads' is good, but 'The War Game' is still the best portrayal of a nuclear attack on Britain ever made. It should be shown more often.

I reviewed Threads here, titling the essay, "The most unrelentingly horrific and unsettling apocalyptic movie you will ever watch that comes the closest to what the Tribulation will be like". And it is unrelenting and horrific. Threads follows a pregnant woman for 13 years during and after the bombs fell. In that circumstance, a generation. The War Game shows the bombs falling and follows the survivors about ten months. The War Game unstintingly shows the effects of nuclear bombs on flesh. It harshly reveals the immediate truth. It shows unpreparedness physically and mentally and depicts societal collapse. Threads is slightly less graphic at the outset but the effects of nuclear war build in the mind as the years pass. It shows civilization's collapse, and how humans are reduced in body and mind because of it. Both movies are unrelenting, but from different vantage points. I'd say that both are the most horrific for different reasons. Back to The War Game imdb.com user quotes:

Although this film clocks in at a mere 48 minutes, not a scene, second or frame is put to waste. A level-headed and all too analytical examination of civil preparedness versus the yield of nuclear weapons

This film is too important to ignore, and too powerful to dismiss.

Even though the subject matter is dark and bitter, The War Game is a compelling watch and I highly recommended it for everyone.

Close to forty fifty years after it was made, it's still one of the most powerful and disturbing documentaries you'll ever see.

It's a brilliant film made by the BBC which was banned for many years because of the fact it was too real... In most cases it's re-released because films from the 60's tend to date somewhat compared to modern cinema standards. But the War Game is still as hard hitting as it was the day the BBC decided they couldn't put it on television.

My reaction:
It shows in unvarnished truth the realistic picture of what those left behind will face. And as realistic as it was, the horrors of the upcoming wars will be worse. The population on earth now has doubled since 1965. Then, it was 3.3 billion. Today it is 7.2 billion. We have hydrogen bombs now, chemical means of tortuous deaths, and the supernatural prophecies of demons afoot and satan furious coming to earth.

Even without all that, the show was almost unwatchable. This was partly due to the juxtaposition of the realistic effects of a thermonuclear bomb upon a population with the recounting of the emotionless narrator's data and facts. It was jarring and horrific. A British movie site says,
Shot on location, the wholly harrowing depiction of what could happen immediately before, during and after a nuclear attack on rural Kent; The War Game is filmed in pseudo-documentary style and is disturbing in its verbal realism.
So why put ourselves through such movies, such tension and torture? A few times a year, I watch one of these types of movies for specific purposes. At least four reasons I can think of:

1. This understanding of a post-nuclear world overlaid with our knowledge of the additional atrocities of the coming antichrist not shown in the movies should give us more urgency in witnessing about the glory of Jesus as Savior.

2. The movie showed how utterly we cannot rely on anything of this world. Man made protections, sandbags, guns, shelters, self-sufficiency, grit & determination, governments, they all fail, and right away, too. For Christians watching this movie, it should give us courage and power knowing we have all-power in us and He will never fail.

3. Though it is a movie showing complete hopelessness, that is its redeeming quality. Stripping away all of the above; self-sufficiency, infrastructure, government, pride, etc., the movie shows us how completely without hope we are without Jesus. We are craven, sinful rebellious children who will always come to a bad end. Without Him, nuclear war and extinction are the only futures for mankind. The starkness of the movie highlights the eternal hope we have in Jesus!

4. Whatever I'm going through is nothing compared to the horror of nuclear war. It puts my troubles in perspective. And even though there is no nuclear war gong on right now, there are rockets in the Middle East, atrocities and coups and beheadings of the brethren. There is starvation and disease and strife. I look around me and I'm grateful.

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Now on a different vein, I also watched an apocalyptic movie called "It's a Disaster." Usually, apocalyptic movies feature bombs or aliens and explosions. I wish very much they would make a movie out of William Forstchen's book One Second After, a book I discussed here, about the devastating effects of a detonated EMP over the central US. There are some apocalyptic events that occur that are not visible and less explosive and are more like carbon monoxide- colorless, odorless, and undetectable. Life seems to go on, and yet the reality is, life has ended.

It's A Disaster is a movie about the latter. Several couples gather for Sunday brunch at one of their suburban homes. They chat, argue, passively-aggressively jab each other, all the while dim sirens in the background go unnoticed. Apparently a series of chemical bombs were detonated on their city 12 miles away and in many other cities too. The dirty bomb contained VX gas, the most deadly weaponized nerve gas known to man. Life outside looks exactly the same, yet within hours, all will be dead.

It is that which is hardest to comprehend. When a nuke falls, one knows a nuke fell. The mind can't comprehend the effects, but it knows it happened. With a dirty bomb or other near-extinction event like EMP, the first problem is getting the mind to accept the new reality. In one moment the couples were arguing over a divorce, and the next a neighbor in a hazmat suit arrives to tell them the news and advises them to tape the windows shut. Is life the same?? Will we really die? Is it really over? The champagne in the mimosas is still bubbling and the quiche is still on the stove...how can it be that we are already dead?

The opening credits in black and white are brilliant and shall I say it again, brilliant. The director used the backdrop to illustrate in graphic visual juxtaposition the mundanity of extinction.

The opening scene where two of the characters, on their third date, discuss the 1812 overture as it plays in the car continues this theme. As the famous overture nears its climactic moment, the man pulls up to the curb and turns off the ignition. The woman, who is listening, asks why it didn't bother him to turn off the music in the middle of the crescendo. The abrupt ending of the music was jarring. Why not finish the crescendo out? How can you just turn it off like that? It is a metaphor for the suddenness of end of life. It's over, but it's not finished.


This reviewer sums it up:
What’s funny is that, apart from acknowledging the whole impending death thing, they do exactly what most people do all the time: They lapse into denial and retreat into the familiar patterns of behavior they’ve become accustomed to, as if stubbornly determined to act just like themselves even under the most extreme of circumstances. It’s easier to get outraged over some newly discovered relationship betrayal than it is to wrap your head around a possible alien invasion or nerve gas attack, which you can’t really do a whole lot about with a single roll of duct tape, anyway.
As they scoured the basement ot find duct tape, they have an argument about whether it is really duck tape or duct tape. They need the duct tape to make a likely vain attempt to ward off death in the form of VX nerve gas, but as humans, they still argue about inconsequential things. That was the kind of humor.

Now, the movie is not for everyone. Though The War Game was so gripping, I do recommend everyone see it. It's A Disaster has two things that will likely turn off a great many. First, it is a sly, witty, dialogue driven, black comedy. It is hilarious. The end is perfect, no matter how many complaints about it you read on forums and websites. But the comedy isn't for everyone. Many people hated the end. The director utterly pierced the selfish thirty-somethings by highlighting their lack of commitment. Lots of people wanted a more demonstrable ending. And not everyone liked the black humor.

Several scenes in the middle drag a bit, but the wonderful thing about Hulu is that you can fast forward.

Secondly, there are swears. The f-word us used about ten times as well as sh-- and a few others. References to sex and adultery.

For a disaster film, it is offbeat and thought-provoking.


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For Further reading:

Wikipedia entry on The War Game

Director Peter Watkins essay on how The War Game came about 

1 comment :

  1. You might really enjoy reading Victoria Sutton's book The Things That Keep Us Up At Night. She writes about post apocalyptic movies that may be more realistic than we think and how the world may likely look after. Her site is reelbiohorror.com. She really touches on some great points and it's scary when you look at it closer!

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