Pandora's Promise* Review

Film Still
  • Pandora's Promise film still


Robert Stone's fascinating documentary makes a convincing case for a nuclear future.

Bored by the tranche of lefty-liberal journalistic documentaries which attempt to uncover the manifold ills of the modern world and bring sickening tyrants to justice? If so, Robert Stone's Pandora's Promise could be the documentary you. It's not a film which tells us something we already know from reading the newspapers in an emotive and informative way, it's a film which dares to challenge ingrained perceptions and offers radical new perspectives on a taboo subject.

Following the 2011 tsunami off the coast of Japan and the subsequent nuclear woes which followed at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the world media once again had reason to place this controversial energy source in its editorial crosshairs. Could the worst happen and the fallout make its way across the Pacific Ocean and taint the waters of muscle beach?!! Will there be a global cancer epidemic? Will the sky be filled with mushroom clouds? And what about the children?

Shore's film works due to its thoughtful, meticulous and non-combative take on this subject. As much as it is a film which aims to debunk myths and scare stories related to the horrors of a nuclear future, it also looks at what happens when we gently unpick alarmist rhetoric and closely scrutinise shocking statistics that have been manipulated for purely political ends.

The film follows affable environmental journalist and author Mark Lynas around the globe as he measures the background radiation in such places as Fukushima, Chernobyl, Paris, Oxfordshire, in the restrooms of a commercial aeroplane and on a volcanic beach in Brazil. The results are startling. Elsewhere, the arguments are more common sense-based, such as comparing the number of cases of cancer as a result of nuclear fallout versus cases directly linked to the burning of coal. The film argues that those who opt for a future without nuclear power are opting for a future of burning fossil fuels which, in the long-run, is going to be far, far worse for the planet at large.

The film's credentials (in terms of its purported political objectivity) aren't exactly squeaky clean, as the experts it calls upon for testimony are all "reformed" environmentalists who have seen the nuclear light. One prominent anti-nuclear activist is allowed to speak, but only in the context of a flustered doorstepping at a rally. But the film is interesting in the sense that it is testing how far it can convincingly defend the apparently indefensible while remaining politically unpartisan at all points. The result is pretty far.

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