Craig Mazin’s miniseries-long re-enactment of the catastrophic events that led to one of the worst man-made disasters in world history is more intense and frightening than most horror movies. It’s not only that the show’s camera lingers on the grotesque after-effects of intense nuclear radiation on the human body, it’s also the propulsive, ever-intensening narrative that drives home the severity of the situation at every opportunity until the tension is downright nerve-wracking. What’s even more upsetting however, is the petty, childish egotism that led to so many delays in the development of a solution that no one will ever know how many lives could have been saved had it not been for irresponsible, “the buck stops anywhere else” bureaucratic foot-dragging. Jared Harris continues his streak as one of the most dependable limited series leading men around here (following his extraordinary turn on “The Terror”), able to communicate his character’s growing panic through agitated body language and ever-strained facial expressions that mark each of his scenes a vivid, lived-in electricity. It’s truly shocking that the Chernobyl catastrophe even happened in the first place, let alone that it was so avoidable were it not for incompetence and state-dictated propaganda, and this HBO miniseries manages to craft an urgent and horrifying narrative that surely ranks as one of the most forceful condemnations of governmental chicanery imaginable.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)