On April 26, 1986, the nuclear power plant Chernobyl explodes in the Ukraine. It is one of the worst man-made disasters in history.
Director: Johan Renck
Cast: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Ritter
TV Rating: TV-MA for language, some nudity, adult situations
Fun Fact: Daniel Day-Lewis was originally intended to play Valery Legasov. Day-Lewis retired from acting shortly before production.
Chernobyl is a historical fiction miniseries from HBO that was released in 2019. I know I’m behind in getting a review with this one as I always tend to be behind in television series. I had intended to review this in 2019, but I had some health issues that I had to attend to, so I had gone on a hiatus of sorts. I hadn’t really heard about the incident at Chernobyl before the miniseries was released. It had happened a couple of years before I was born and my history classes in school never really mentioned it when we were talking about the Cold War. I had asked my Mom recently what she remembered about it and she told me it was a big deal and something like that never had happened like that until then.
The series does have a blend of history and fiction as some parts of it are fiction to heighten the drama. There are lots of conversations behind closed doors that had happened that we don’t really know what exactly happened in those conversations. Series creator Craig Mazin who is known for his works in comedic works based his writing on people that had lived through the incident. We get to know various characters stories and some characters are fictional. There’s a character that is based on all the scientists that had worked on the investigation, so it was a fitting tribute to have them all represented in one character. I believe that was a good decision on Mazin’s part due to the fact that series would be overcrowded with too many people. There are quite a few people to follow in this series so having a fictional character represent a good majority was a good way to go. The major part of the plot is how the accident happened and the cover up that the government and certain people tried to do to save their own skin. Mazin’s writing is well done to the point it will make you mad at these people because something like this shouldn’t have happened or never should happen again. Director Johan Renck takes the material and does an amazing job at creating tension between the characters. There are some decisions that some of the characters do that make you scratch your head and wonder why they would do something like that.
Technically Chernobyl is beautifully made as ever aspect of it is unique in its own way. The color tone is darker that fits the mood. The series has a darker tone in content and the darker colors reflect that. The location of filming is also fantastic, and it felt like being back in USSR controlled Ukraine. It had the feel of being back in the 1980’s and even the costumes reflect that. The musical score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is haunting and also reflects the uncomfortableness of the series. Some of my favorite bits of sound was the static. I hope she gets even more work as her music is fantastic. The make up effects on the people with radiation burns is phenomenal. It’s disturbing to look at as it should be and more important realistic.
The cast brings its A-game with great performances. Jared Harris leads the cast as the scientist Valery Legasov. He’s determined to uncover the truth and will stop at nothing at getting there. Stellan Skarsgard delivers in my opinion his best performance as Boris Shcherbina, who is one of the people in charge of the case. Skarsgard won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor for the series and deservedly so. Emily Watson plays a fictional character and when she is on screen it’s enjoyable. In fact, when all three of these performers are on screen it’s some of the best parts of the series due to the chemistry between them.
Overall. Chernobyl is a fantastic miniseries and if you have HBO you need to see it now. It has a nice blend of history and fiction to heighten up the tension of the subject matter. The show is very dark in its themes and the technical achievements match that from the look of it, music, and the make up effects. The team of Mazin and Renck bring this incident to life through the writing, directing and acting. All of the performances are engaging to watch, and I couldn’t get enough of them. This show isn’t for the faint of heart as well and it really shows in episode four, as that one is the hardest one to watch. While watching the show it brought to my attention that this is relatable to what is going on today with Covid-19. There are people out there covering it up and there are people also searching for answers. Maybe we can learn about what happened at Chernobyl to say never again.