Chernobyl 1986 covers one of the most frightening disasters of the twentieth century. The film looks back on the Russian nuclear disaster. But was it released too closely to the HBO miniseries or is it effective? The movie is a romance story with elements of action. The reactor explosion is more of a backdrop than the actual focus of Chernobyl 1986. In its place is a tale about people instead of events.
This takes away much of the story’s emotional draw. A love story set against a possible global disaster is not a bad idea. It is actually a good way to look at the how major catastrophes affected people. The issue here is not about the setting being one of the most well known in history. What is strange is why a potentially world changing disaster is borderline inconsequential to the entire plot. For the most part, the film could have been in any dangerous situation.
Many stories have taken a major moment in history and shined a light on the people involved. In order for this to work, the characters have to appeal to those watching. The introduction to the protagonist of Chernobyl 1986 is not a flattering one. Alexy is a firefighter involved with a woman named Olga. He also drinks too much and will disappear if things are not to his liking.
Chernoby 1986 spends its first half hour presenting this version of Alexy. It is easy to not care for him. In turn, it makes it harder to get invested in the movie. For what it is worth, it seems as if the plot is going for a redemption arc and to its credit, there are some moving scenes. They are of the melodramatic variety that are to be expected from this type of tale, but they tend to work very well.
Things move at an odd pace that seem rushed but still overly long. This is due to the plot all but ignoring the explosion in place of Alexy’s heroic moments and attempts at fixing his relationship with Olga. While it is true that Chernobyl 1986 is not about the actual events of April 26, 1986, they are rarely referred to aside from the occasional throwaway line or scene. What ends up happening is it feels like the importance of the disaster is underplayed. Meanwhile, too much time is spent with underdeveloped characters.
Overall, Chernobyl 1986 is a good watch for anyone who has not seen the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries. It lightly touches on what happened and the Soviet response to the situation. Others may have more difficulty with it. It adds nothing new to the actual events and the romantic elements do not quite as well as intended. It is never offensively bad, but always seems to be lacking.
Chernobyl 1986 comes to theaters and digital September 24
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