Based on the real life events which took place in 1986, Chernobyl recreates what happened on that faithful day 33 years ago and the cover up which followed.
A disaster such as Chernobyl is an astonishing event to take in, no matter if that had happened today or years ago. Since the 1986 disaster which has killed countless people, there have been multiple cover ups about the true life events. However the creator has managed to put together the series of events which lead up to the incident. He has explained how it happened in a simplified and dramatic way without dumbing it down.
Craig Mazin, writer of the show, has a CV which includes the likes of two Hangover sequels, Scary Movies 3 and 4. An interesting change from those to this as he has the ability to tell the story of Chernobyl as a groundbreaking series which lets you in on what we’ve never seen. The control room, the lives of those within the community, those trying to cover it up and those desperately trying to tell the truth.
Deciding to keep the story telling grounded by beginning with a modest flat and Jared Harris who plays Valery Legasov listening to a tape of himself talking about the disaster. The date is April 26 1988, exactly two years after the explosion, at which point the scene jumps back moments before to show the residents of the nearby block of flats. It starts with a couple in their home when it happens, it’s a small VFX shot from a distance which draws you into the chaos of the control room. The denial of what happened comes early on when the man in charge Anatoly Dyatlov (Paul Ritter) immediately dismisses a worker who claims the reactor has exploded. It’s a thread which runs throughout the five episode limited series and has become seeded in the real history of what happened. From here, we see the story slowly unravel over the five episode period. Aspects such as the issue of the appearance of graphite, the brutal and shocking effects of exposure and putting out the fire become key immediately. Exploring these issues whilst using specific scientific terms would understandably come across as frustrating to the majority, however, whilst the language has clearly been simplified, it never feels as if the show is talking down to you. You’re very quick to understand the dangers all of these issues possess thanks to the sharp writing which wraps it in a neat, smart and approachable bow.
Whilst it may be relatively easy to understand it’s a difficult watch thanks to the spectacular makeup, effect and styling of those going through the pain of exposure. The effects of which are explored as it shows the slow decline the human body goes through, you can almost feel their pain as they deteriorate. This in turn creates painful emotional beats for their loved ones such as Jessie Buckley’s Lyudmilla Ignatenko who has to watch as her husband Vasily Ignatenko’s (Adam Nagaitis) body is being destroyed. Her actions and emotions are that of someone who is already in grief, but not quite at acceptance. Jessie’s performance is an outstandingly heartbreaking one which carries the burden of expressing what so many people would have felt at the time. At times she has a quiet and subtle way of conveying so much with a stunningly expressive face. In a similar vein, Jared Harris effortlessly embodies the doubts and fears his character has during this crisis with a few gestures here and there, and perfectly subtle facial expressions.
These two are the true stand outs of the mini series full of incredible performances from the likes of Stellan Skarsgård’s Boris Shcherbina who hides behind a wall of anger to conceal his terror as he learns of the severity of the situation; Ulana Khomyuk played perfectly by Emily Watson as she portrays someone powerful and knowledgeable; Paul Ritter who plays Anatoly Dyatlov with such brilliance you almost believe the actor is in utter denial too. Barry Keoghan makes a brief appearance in what can o ly be described as a fish out of water. The bleakness of this situation is further conveyed with the colours used as it shows the mood and tone of the nuclear power planet, its surrounding town, the people and even the buildings. All of which are draped in greys, whites, muted colours and black which helps to portray its tone in a different way.
Chernobyl is a unique part of history that no one will ever forget especially now. Using mostly simple techniques, outstanding cinematography, accurate writing, bleak tones and incredible performances, Chernobyl is one of the great modern mini series which, unlike the events it’s based on will go down in history not as as a disaster, but a triumph.
5 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.