The Day After
Drama / Sci-Fi
The Day After
Drama / Sci-Fi
The frightening story of the weeks leading up to and following a nuclear strike on the United States. The bulk of the activity centers around the town of Lawrence, Kansas.
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August 09, 2018 at 04:06 PM
A lesson with images
I was a naval aviator deployed aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61) when I first saw this film. The show had aired back in the States some time before the film reels (this was before video tape decks were commonplace) were flown out to our Battle Group, so we knew that the telecast had had a big impact on the American public before we had the chance to view it.
That didn't matter. The film had as great, and possibly even more of, an impact on those of us out on the "tip of the spear" as it did on those back home. The military characters seen in the film were not actors -- they were contemporaries of ours, some even familiar faces -- so we felt a true connection to the story. The tension between the US and the Soviet Union was real and nobody knew better than we how nasty things could get in a short period of time. Even as we watched the film over the ship's closed circuit television system, Soviet military units were intent on locating and targeting our Battle Group. Our job, our daily routine, was part of the story, which emphasised the point that we were responsible for keeping the peace and to not allow events to escalate as we all feared could happen.
The reaction I remember most from this film was worry for family back home. -SPOILER- The one airman who left the silo area to reach his family before the missiles arrived displayed a sentiment that we all felt. No one aboard our ship would shirk his duty, but we all understood the sentiment that once duty is done, family is foremost in mind.
The argument could be made that the film was rife with error, but I maintain that it ultimately succeeded in what it was designed to do...make people seriously consider the consequences of nuclear war. That point was not lost on those of us aboard the Ranger at the time. While I watched the film again just recently (21 years after the first viewing), the lesson was still not lost. We may or may not be vulnerable to such a massive strike as what was feared back in the 1980s, but nuclear terror is still a very real possibility. It is as imperative now, as it was then, that we ensure that this type of calamity is never visited upon anyone, especially those about whom we love and care.
Yes, better special effects would make from some jaw-dropping images, but would that improve upon the film's message? In my opinion, no.
I, like many of my age, saw this when it originally aired as a class assignment. It had a great impact on me, as the cold war was still going strong and the threat of a nuclear war was something that people still thought about. The movie may not be the greatest ever made, but the acting is more than adequate, especially from Jason Robards, and the script was far better than any other movies made for television at that time. I recommend it to anyone, even those with a low tolerance for grossness (radiation sickness is shown in progressive stages, and it is not pretty). It's dark, depressing, and if you get into it you will definitely need to follow it up with a musical or cartoons just to lift your spirits again. Still, the subject matter is not something that can be portrayed positively even at a tv-movie level of realism.
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A very controversial, but excellent film
This film originally aired as a TV movie back in 1983 in the United States. It depicts the effects of nuclear war on the citizens of the Kansas City area. In the film, during the actual attacks, a lot of raw footage of nuclear blasts and explosions is used, but no computer enhanced special effects were needed in this film to get the point across. The point, being of course, that nuclear war is horrible. The movie was aired to show leaders of nations in the world what would happen if nuclear war was ever waged. When this film was first aired, Cold War tensions were high and the fear of nuclear war was very imminent. Though the events in the film are very powerful, a disclaimer at the end of the movie even tells the viewers that the events depicted in the film are far less worse then what would actually take place in a real nuclear war.
I feel that the plot was created well. The film shows what happens before the attacks, the actual attacks and then what happens after the attacks. The attacks were not shown too soon after the movie began but well into the movie and built up enough to show a lot of drama. The acting is very good, in my opinion. The late Jason Robards plays the lead role and a few other familiar faces take part as well (Steve Guttenburg, John Lithgow). The writing is fair, but not bad for a made-for-TV movie.
Overall, the movie is very excellent and places itself very positively in my book. It was a very controversial film for its time and it did scare the hell out of many people (truthfully, it did shake me up a little the first time I saw it). It's really not for the kids, even though it was a TV movie, because the scenes of the nuclear blasts and radiation sickness aren't very light.