- Gareth Crook
Mick Jackson follows wonderfully in the footsteps of Peter Watkins’ The War Game. A dramatic documentary style take on an imagined nuclear attack on Sheffield. What is it that’s so fascinating about this style of filmmaking? Well for starters, this feels remarkably real, despite clearly not being. It’s a different take on Watkins’ approach. Using the documentary framework, but building a dramatic narrative on top. 1980s Sheffield is a interesting place to look back on and the lives of the characters are easily relatable. It’s part public information film, part newsreel, part drama. Maybe it’s the no nonsense northern kitchen sink tone that makes it feel so accessible, but it’s gripping right from the start. We know what’s coming, but it’s not in a rush. Snippets of news audio and glimpses of the papers herald the impending doom, all the while we’re getting attached to a young couple, soon to married and have a baby. Things quietly escalate and calm preparations are made. Our focus is on three families. Two with children, one an older couple, with the bloke destined to be part of the survival and rebuilding team. There’s someone that everyone can identify with. Whilst these characters are set up. The US are not getting on with Iran and Russia and the threat of war looms. No change there. It’s the familiar details that make this tick. CND rallies, panic buying, politicians screwing things up, NF agitators, trade union unrest. It does make you think, what if? I mean war is a real threat. We don’t think about that much in this country I don’t think. Most of us have never lived through it in England. It doesn’t seem like a concern does it. What’s starts as mild concern here is only ever going to go one way and our young couple soon find themselves in a world coming apart at the seams. It’s troubling to watch how quickly society falls apart. Then the air raid sirens sound and bloody hell my blood runs cold! What happens next is magnificent filmmaking. I don’t know what the budget is, but there’s no CGI. It doesn’t need it. Smoke, loose hand held cameras, dust, fire, sound, silence and spell binding cast of extras. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. The fallout is terrifying and graphic. No punches are pulled. It really hits home how helpless we’d all be in such a situation. Masses of twisted rubble. Charred bodies. Freezing temperatures as the nuclear winter drawers in. Looting. No food. No power. No help. A staggering piece of filmmaking and an indisputable argument for nuclear disarmament.