Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The FALLOUT 3 Reviews: Threads (1984)

It's funny how the baggage of our respective zeitgeists dictates our reactions to certain world events. I, myself, am a child of the Cold War and to be honest, when anything remotely psychotic happens in the former Soviet Union in conjunction with the word "missiles," it scares the living crap out of me.

Playing the game, Fallout 3, was a very visceral experience from me because it literally brought one of the biggest demons from my childhood straight to my game console: the aftermath of a global thermonuclear war. The threat of an atomic apocalypse doesn't have the same bite with current generations as it did with mine but when I was coming up, few things were more frightening than mutually assured destruction.

In early 1983, a British writer by the name of Barry Hines asked the dreaded question, "What if?" The end product of his effort was the screenplay for one of the most terrifying pieces of film I can remember sitting through as a young adult.


Threads follows the day-to-day drama of two families living in Sheffield, England (the Becketts and the Kemps) against the backdrop of the Global Recession of the mid 80's.

Shortly thereafter and for reasons unexplained, an incident in the Middle East between US and Soviet forces escalates into World War III.

What follows next is a heartbreaking chain of events covering the gambit from nuclear winter, martial law, and radiation sickness to the deterioration of the very fabric of society and even the death of spoken language.

It is the bitter lesson of Lamentations 4:9. Those who die at Ground Zero will be the fortunate ones because they will be spared the horror of the holocaust to come.

Threads is by far the bigger punch to the stomach of the two nuclear war docudramas of the mid 80's (the other being ABC's made for television offering, The Day After). I know this sounds odd, but the injection of the element of hope into The Day After always made it seem like the lesser of the two films in my estimations.

The Day After didn't push the buttons that Threads did. Threads's bleak and hopeless view of the shape of things to come validated the moral of my other favorite brinksmanship movie of the 80's, John Badham's 1983 classic, WarGames.

World War III is a game where the only winning move is not to play.

I will always be grateful to Ted Turner for having the courage to bring Threads to American telvision and spending his own money to do so.

To this day, there is still quite a bit of debate concerning Threads and its place in media history as a tool of caution or blatant piece of propaganda. Either way, I was happy to see that Threads has not only survived on YouTube, but actually made it to re-release on DVD sometime in 2005.

If I learned anything from "growing up Reagan," it was that some paths are best not ventured and some mistakes are best learned from by not making them.

Such is the legacy of the Cold War.


Ash said...

I've never even heard of this film. Sounds like it's worth tracking down. The description sounds quite similar to Peter Watkins' THE WAR GAME from about 20 years previous.

Steve Finch said...

I saw this film as part of a class at Western Washington University in 1984. To this day, I still feel the impact of this film in my life. I remember the sunny day we watched it in a dark room. At the end of the film I was so grateful to walk out into a real, whole world; I was unable to talk about the film until the next day. This was a fabulous film, maybe not in terms of the acting, but in terms of its message.