Chernobyl - Chernobyl(DVD) [Acorn Media - 2019]Here on Acorn Media is the double DVD release of Chernobyl- the 2019 five part drama based on the meltdown of Chernobyl's nuclear reactor no 4- it’s impact, it’s cover-up, and the lives lost/changed by the event. Since this series first aired, there has been much praise/ hype around it- and me been both cynical and not-really a TV drama fan, I’d put off seeing the series-as I was expecting to be disappointed, so it’s great to say I was wholeheartedly held, disturbed, and saddened by the series….so for once the praise/ hype is very much deserved.
The five and a half-hour series was jointly produced by HBO & UK Sky, and it features a largely British cast- this initially did feel like an issue at the beginning of the first episode- as everyone was talking in largely regional-though not strong regional UK accent- with no attempt at even trying to do a Russian accent. So I thought it’s Valkyrie all over again, the very Hollywood re-telling of the assignation of Hitler, with lead Tom Cruise & all the other actors making no effort to sound remotely German. But thankful this is a long way from a dumbed-down/ light Hollywood take on the disaster- as it’s often grim, gruelling & at times downright up-setting…the decision for the actors to speak in their own accents was the right one, as it brings out more depth, emotion & honesty in their performances- which for the large part are wholly splendid, so after the initial doubt/ shock my worries disappeared as I got locked into the story.
The five-part drama cleverly managers to show various points of view of the disaster- we have the men inside the reactor control room & key decision makers shown. We see the government men trying to cover it up, the scientists & faithful party men who were sent to resolve it. The normal people living into the nearby city Pripyat, and the emergency service staff/service people/ miners that helped clear-up the mess.
One has to be impressed by both the recreation of the city Pripyat before the disaster, & key areas that have now become known by their haunting pictures post-melt-down. As well as the power plant it’s self, the explosion, and its aftermath are handled in very believable & real manner too. As the series progresses we are shown the impact of radioactive exposure on the human body- and these are deeply devastation & shocking. And the science of the whole thing is well described in lay-man terms. So this along with the top class acting, tight & twisting script, and the wonderful low-key, and an often eerier soundtrack by Icelandic cellist and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir- really sells the whole thing, and will leave you both troubled & thoughtful after it’s all over. So if like me you were a little cautious about a TV series based on this most troubling of man-made disaster- there is nothing soapy, Hollywood, or easy about the series.
This double DVD presentation of the series has no real extra/ bonus stuff- but really that’s better instead of a quick on the set or behind the scenes featurettes, that could possibly have cheapened/ lessened the impact of the whole thing.
In finishing, whether you have deep & long term interest in the incident, or just passing curiosity I’d say you need to see this five-part series- as it most certainly one of the most powerful, harrowing and important TV dramas in recent memory- and I think it’ll be a very long time before this changes…simply put unmissable stuff.Roger Batty