Testament

What Jesse said:

I got another “must watch” for you. It’s called Testament (1983). Great little movie about what happens to regular people after the “flash” of a nuclear attack.

The movie was originally made for TV but was so good that they decided to release it theatrically. The leading actress, Jane Alexander, even got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress!

Mike’s verdict:

If Testament happens to be on TV (where it belongs), and there isn’t something more interesting to watch (like curling), and there’s some reason why you can’t just go do something else (like clean the garage), then it’s better than watching an informercial for a “guaranteed” real estate system. Maybe.

It’s not that Testament is bad exactly; it’s just boring. Nothing happens. It’s a nuclear apocalypse and nothing happens. Jesse thinks the movie is about how ‘regular’ people live through an attack. And in a sense that’s true; in this case the attack is close enough to cut off power and communications but not close enough for the initial blast to incinerate everyone – leaving lots of regular people sitting around wondering what to do next. The problem is that these so-called regular people don’t act the way that regular people would act after a nuclear attack.

The intention is clearly to explore emotional fall-out through the metaphor of actual nuclear fall-out. But the writers missed the mark. Yes, regular people will need to try to continue living their lives. We can’t all suddenly become heroes that fight the invaders. But people should be upset. Really upset. Smashing things upset. In Testament there are maybe three scenes where anyone displays an emotion stronger than mild aggravation.

The film presents an extremely rosy outlook for an apocalypse. Instead of people switching to survival-mode and doing whatever is necessary to protect themselves, Testament pretends that communities would actually remain as communities. Even as bodies start piling up, most of the living go on being good neighbours. Not only is this a fantasy, it’s also a very dull one.

Does Alexander act well? Sure. But that doesn’t make the story any more interesting. It was neat to see very young Rebecca De Mornay and Kevin Costner though. 4/10

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