The War Game (1966)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - War Drama  |   Run Time - 47 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mark Deming

Assigned by the BBC to make a documentary about the possible effects of nuclear war on Great Britain, Peter Watkins came back with this powerful and unnerving polemic about the deadly stakes of the arms race and the dangerously absurd notion that a nation could "survive" a nuclear attack. Watkins' film clearly and repeatedly makes the point that the same leadership that brought in the bomb has done almost nothing to protect citizens from its effects. In The War Game, the blast of a hydrogen bomb is almost the least of the horrors that would await England after a nuclear attack; the slow, decaying effect of radiation poisoning, the breakdown of social order and rise of martial law, and the grim faces of survivors who envy the dead are images as disturbing as the firestorms and destruction left by thermonuclear attack. The BBC initially refused to show The War Game on the grounds that it did not present an objective view of its subject; it finally broadcast the film in 1985, 19 years after it won an Academy Award in the United States as Best Documentary Feature.