Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review - Threads (1984 - Dir. Mick Jackson)

After seeing Cockneys vs Zombies recently, I need a shot of Northern goodness. Now, here's a little TV movie that was set and shot in Sheffield. Ooh, that should be nice. Threads, probably about a sewing club or some other heart warming activity. I'll make a nice cup of tea, prepare the ginger nuts and settle down for an evening of feel good entertainment. Right. Press play... oh, this is all rather unpleasant.

Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale from Home to Roost) and Ruth (Karen Meagher) are a young couple listening to the football results in a car, overlooking the beautiful city of Sheffield. They are so happy that Man Utd have been beaten that they partake in a bit of nookie. As often happens, this leads to a severe case of pregnancy. But Jimmy sticks by Ruth and they decide to get married. Everything is looking rosy. Radio and television broadcasts paint a different picture, one of an impending nuclear war. Things escalate until war breaks out and the first bomb hits Sheffield. 

This is one of the bleakest and realistic films that I've had the pleasure of watching. Normally when there's a nuclear explosion in a film it's fairly impressive, but nothing compared to the impact the bomb blast has in Threads. Seeing the mushroom cloud appear over the tops of the buildings in Sheffield city centre is scary to say the least. Maybe it's worse because I know the area. It feels more relevant, personal and realistic than seeing London or the White House destroyed. (Plus, when the bomb explodes, a woman in the street has a little bit of a wee - and lets it dribble down her leg Great Escape style - so it must be pretty terrifying.)

What makes it even more realistic (and scary) is its structure. It's part drama and part documentary. The drama follows Jimmy and Ruth through the attack. The documentary comes in the form of title cards that appear detailing how many bombs have been dropped, how much damage has been done and how many survivors are left amongst other cheery details. It feels like one of the old public service announcements that were designed to make you brick yourself into doing what your told. (I still veer away from dark and lonely water to this day.)

I never need much of an excuse to post this, but here it is again.

I can't see anything this powerful being made by the BBC now, with its preoccupation with making the blandest, glossy, politically correct and most average products designed to keep everyone pleasantly happy. Threads probably didn't make anyone happy. In fact, it probably made everyone think that all this nuclear warfare malarkey is a tad overrated. It is a smidgen too long with a drop in pace towards the end, but it has to be one of the best pieces of television ever made.

If you like this you could also try:
The War Game, The Day After, When the Wind Blows.

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