“A modern nightmare nearly becomes reality in this tension-filled story about an “incident” at a nuclear power plant. Jane Fonda stars as Kimberly Wells, an ambitious TV reporter covering a story on energy sources, who is present at the nuclear plant when a startling accident occurs that nearly causes the meltdown of the reactor. A newsreel cameraman accompanying Wells (Michael Douglas) captures the incident on film but the television station won’t air the footage. Though the plant’s corporate heads are quick to deny the possibility of any real danger, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon), the plant’s veteran engineer, discovers faulty equipment at the plant. Attempting to tell others about his findings, an attempt is made on his life. In desperation, he forcibly takes control of the power plant and invites the media to hear his ceremony. But the corporation is determined to stop him in a taut and shocking climax! (Original Title – The China Syndrome) © 1979 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. ”
From Columbia Pictures
If you are familiar with Three Mile Island and then you see The China Syndrome, I think you would leave the movie thinking: “wow that could actually happen”. Because the Three Mile explosion which happened at a nuclear power plant outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in March of 1979 happened about two months after The China Syndrome came out in January or February of 1979. China Syndrome is not about a nuclear power plant explosion, but about what could potentially happen at a plant like that if it is not run properly, let’s say.
There is a bad vibration at a nuclear power plant in Southern California just outside of Los Angeles and the plant knows about it and decides to if not cover it up, play it down so they don’t get any bad publicity or have to deal with regulators about it. A news anchor and cameraman at a local TV knows something is going on and believes the power plant is not giving the whole story. But their boss’s don’t want to go any further in the story and risk a big lawsuit. Kimberly Wells played by Jane Fonda and Richard Adams played by Michael Douglas decided to look into the story anyway. And that is how this story gets going.
Jack Godell played by Jack Lemmon is a shift supervisor at the power plant and knows something seriously went wrong at the power plant. And he also knows his company is not giving the whole story, but is reluctant at first to say what he knows and believes to the media. Jane Wells finds Jack at the bar and they get to know each other and she gets to open up a little bit about what he knows about what happened at the power plant.
So this is what this movie is about where a nuclear power plant had it been any worst would’ve caused serious destruction of Southern California, at least like getting hit by a nuclear missile. A company knowing that if this story breaks, they would not only lose millions and probably a let more, but get sanctioned by the U.S. Government and other authorities. Two somewhat inexperienced media people looking for a big break and a big story all coming together in one story.
Jane Wells is at best a soft news personal story reporter who covers personalities and the goings ons at supermarkets and amusement parks and other things. Who doesn’t want to do that forever and wants to become a hard news reporter and anchor. This is the story that if she gets it and does a good job will get her off of soft news. And she and Jack are the main two characters who break this story and shed light on what really happened at the power plant. And this is a great movie about how deadly nuclear power plant leaks and explosions can be. And very realistic especially if you are familiar with Three Mile Island.