Chernobyl Series Review (2019)

So I just finished watching the HBO miniseries Chernobyl…

This series recounts the events preceding, during, and after the horrific reactor explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Following the actions of whistleblowing scientist Valery Legasov, we see the process of preventing further catastrophe, as well as the political fallout of the disaster. This includes the Soviet government’s cover up of the scope of the damage and death toll.

Craig Mazin wrote The Hangover sequels and Identity Thief…he also wrote this. Some people’s filmographies and project history are just weird. But regardless, this show is very good. A very startiling look at one of worst disasters in human history.

Good scripts, decent characters and performances (Jared Harris was very good as Legasov), good cinematography and editing, amazing sound design, amazing score (I’m a sucker for those droning scores, and this one droned hard, and created such unease and made each moment hit hard), great set design, etc.

The sound design and score was probably my favourite aspect of the show. I loved the way this show used certain noises to build tension and create these visceral emotions. The sound of the decimiter going off started freaking me out every time it was used. It was a brilliant device used to make you feel the danger of what these herioc workers were doing to clean the site and prevent it from becoming a bigger catastrophe.

The show is just so tight and has many memorable and tragic scenes. The buses rolling in to evacuate people, the scene of the firefighter’s wife lying about what she sees out of the window…it is a very stark and real look all those involved, whether they be the heroes that saved lives, or the politicians who covered everything up. Maybe this is because he’s on the brain, but it reminded me of Haneke a bit. Not as good of course, but it still has that ethos of brutal honesty.

However, there was a VERY BIG ISSUE that I had with this show that kind of ruined the show for me. And that’s that…everyone in the Soviet Union was British. I understand that the showrunner tried to have the actors do proper accents and that it didn’t pan out.

However, that doesn’t excuse how they shouldn’t be British, and it is so distracting that it breaks immersion, and is really odd considering the serious subject matter (Death of Stalin did it as a joke, and that was more forgivable.) Had it been done with the accents, bad or not, or with an all Russian cast speaking their native language, I would have respected it more. It would have shown that they were trying a bit more.

Overall, despite my gripes, I really liked this miniseries. It showed the horrors of Chernobyl in startiling fashion. Fuck communism, fuck the Soviet Union, and god speed to all those heroes that saved lives in Chernobyl and prevented untold horrors from happening all over Europe and Asia. Worth a watch.

7.5 out of 10 (maybe an 8 because it could coast on its writing strengths)

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