A Button That Killed Thousands At Chernobyl : Review


You may have read in a textbook or answered in a test regarding the worst nuclear human error disaster on the earth. This  HBO’s excellent five-hour mini-series “Chernobyl” ends with the words, “In memory of all who suffered and sacrificed.” It’s a fitting final note for a series that ably pays homage to just those people, from the workers who died in the explosion to those who fought to keep it contained to the scientists who spoke up to make sure it didn't happen again.

At first, “Chernobyl” feels incredibly episodic. We are going to meet various characters in the sphere of what happened on April 26, 1986, when a safety test went very, very wrong. There are the workers directly involved in the test, most of them inexperienced and uninformed about exactly what they’re doing, and led by an abusive jerk who pushes them to make mistakes.

There are the local emergency responders, like the firefighters who run in to stop the flames, unaware that they’re running to their deaths. And then there are the government officials, some of whom immediately swoop in to devise cover stories to maintain the Russian image around the world, claiming that nothing too horrible really happened even as they know otherwise.

The great Harris, so underrated for years in everything from “The Terror” to “The Crown,” plays Valery Legasov, a key Soviet nuclear physicist who is the first to realize what has happened at Chernobyl, and what it means is going to happen now. What “Chernobyl” captures most of all is the events that happened after the incident to contain what could have been a much worse international disaster.

Legasov sees a report of graphite outside the building and knows that the core has exploded, and, after much opposition from officials trying to claim nothing is wrong—including a version of Gorbachev played by David Dencik—is given the freedom to try to contain the disaster.


After the meltdown, there were several ticking time bombs related to Chernobyl, including the likelihood of a massive explosion, the containment of the nuclear radiation leaking across Russia, and the fact that it was headed down into the water supply for most of the country.

If you’re wondering how some of these more disastrous fates were avoided, the answer is often human sacrifice. Men were forced into situations so full of radiation that the machines designed to read levels simply broke.

Some of the most fascinating parts of “Chernobyl” are almost procedural in the way they detail the hurdles placed in front of Legasov and in his team, including Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard) and Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson).

Skarsgard gives one of his career-best performances as a man who has been a mouthpiece for his government for years, but realizes that party lines won’t get the job done here, and Watson finds a human core in a character who’s really an amalgam of real people who worked not only to contain Chernobyl but to figure out what happened there.

Don't Miss the Last Part of episode 5

Chernobyl (2019) on IMDb


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